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Top 20 Archivist Interview Questions
Question 1 of 24
How do you stay focused while completing tedious tasks?
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List of Archivist Interview Questions
  1. How do you stay focused while completing tedious tasks?
  2. What about being an Archivist excites you, and what originally attracted you to this career?
  3. How well are you able to write descriptions on records? Do you enjoy doing this, and if so why?
  4. Walk me through your typical research style.
  5. Tell me about your organizational skills in a work environment.
  6. Have you ever misplaced documents? If so, what did you do?
  7. What types of record management are you most familiar with?
  8. Tell me about the most challenging work you have done in the past.
  9. What type of archival work are you most familiar with?
  10. Why is this profession important for society?
  11. If you could not be an Archivist, what other career path would you choose?
  12. As part of your duties, you may be required to lift heavy objects. Do you have any physical restrictions?
  13. Tell me about your post-secondary education and how you feel it prepared you for this position.
  14. Are you interested in obtaining a Masters' degree in Archival Sciences?
  15. Do you have any volunteer experience relevant to this position?
  16. Tell me about your technical skills, and the programs in which you are proficient.
  17. Archivists have a good variety of career options. If you could choose, would you best like to work for a museum, school, government agency or private organization?
  18. There are many mediums which need to be archived. Out of the following, which are your top three in terms of archival preferences? i) sound recordings; ii) videos; iii) documents; iv) photographs; v) films; and vi) electronic data.
  19. What part of being an Archivist do you enjoy the most?
  20. Tell me about a time when you incorrectly appraised a document. How did this come to your attention and how were you able to correct this?
  21. What eras of history do you enjoy studying the most?
  22. Why did you apply to our job posting and why do you wish to work for us?
  23. How well do you understand, or have knowledge of, the artifacts and records that our institution collects?
  24. What would your previous supervisor say about your archival skills?
Authors:
Contributing Author
Diana D'Souza
HR Professional
Creativeinkdrops.com/
Archivist Information
May 27th, 2017

Archivists assemble, catalog, and preserve valuable collections of information that have historical value. They spend a major part of their work day selecting, assessing, and arranging materials, preserving perishable documents, retrieving misplaced or lost documents, and making the archives accessible to users. Archivists are typically employed to work in higher educational facilities, libraries, local and central government, museums, and specialist repositories such as the Public Record Office.
Anyone wishing to pursue a career as an archivist must complete an ARA accredited postgraduate diploma after obtaining a bachelor's degree in any discipline. Excellent organizational, administrative and communications skills are essential attributes for this role. Archivists must also be methodical and logical, with excellent computer skills.
Interviewers will be most interested in knowing why you chose this particular career. They will also want to know if you have done an internship or had any first-hand work experience. You will most likely have to undergo a period of on the job training to learn more about the procedures and processes of that particular facility. Make sure all of your replies emphasize your interest and knowledge of the role. Going through commonly asked questions and practicing how to answer them will help you build your confidence before the interview. You can find these questions and answers listed at Mock Questions.
Archivist User Submitted Interview Answers
Question 1 of 24
How do you stay focused while completing tedious tasks?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I'm very self motivated and have an exceptional attention to detail. However, having a genuine interest in the collection helps center and focus me on the task at hand.
2.
Keep your focus at the task at hand do not overwhelm yourself take breaks when need so that you don't end up mixing documents that are not relevant to each other.
3.
I am under no illusions that this is a fast paced exciting field. In fact, I am well aware that this is the type of job that involves a lot of minutiae. In the past, I have dealt with tedious tasks (rehousing, etc.) by focusing on the routine. If I get into a good groove I often find pleasure in the flow of tasks, enjoying the pace and efficiency. However, that being said, I have had the unfortunate experience of hitting a wall. In those cases, I usually need to walk around and focus my mind on other issues to reproach the task later.
4.
Throughout my internships, I completed a lot of repetitive cataloguing. I honestly looked forward to these "tedious" tasks daily. There is a lovely rhythm to it. I sometimes listen to the radio - CBC Radio 2 or some jazz music to help pass the time.
5.
I am very resistant for boredom, I think I've got this after work in the Library where I was doing one kind of work trough whole day.
Question 2 of 24
What about being an Archivist excites you, and what originally attracted you to this career?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I love the focus on local history - the histories of an organization, its people, and its surroundings excite me. I love diving in and discovering new things that piece together the past. I believe its so important to preserve and provide access to these objects, so future generations can enjoy these institutions as much as I do.
2.
The part that being an archivist excites me is being able to keep one of a kind records that no one else carries, because there is so much responsibility to it. You personally affect the way research will conducted in the future and that's what I find interesting.
3.
I like idea of preservation; maintaining certain artefacts, in order to get a better understanding of things from the past.
4.
I really enjoy participating in the preservation process. It gives me satisfaction to know that my role assisted in preserving history.
5.
For me archival work is about preserving history and ensuring that what is happening will have an enduring impact on our future. At the same time, archivist, particularly in a research library setting, need to help make the history that we preserve accessible. Initially, I was not 100% sure what aspect of information/library science I wanted to pursue. But as I progressed in my program I realized that archives allow me to engage in the two areas that have always been important to my life, which is education and history. At an institution like KHS, I would have the opportunity to engage the community in learning about the history of Kentucky.
Question 3 of 24
How well are you able to write descriptions on records? Do you enjoy doing this, and if so why?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I have before using LCSH, EAD
2.
Yes I do enjoy writing the descriptions on records because that actually assist me think especially when documenting similar objects.
3.
I love creating finding aids. I really like organizing things and arranging them categorically or thematically, even if this is just an intellectual arrangement not a physical one. A good finding aid opens up the collection, and helps researchers and the general public alike access records.
4.
I think that my writing skills are very good, the more research or knowledge you have on the collection the easier this becomes. It's not my favorite thing to do, but I know this is important part of the job because it helps researchers have access to records.
5.
Yes I enjoy doing descriptions on records, every time I'm doing this I can learn something new about documents.
Question 4 of 24
Walk me through your typical research style.
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I collect as much information as I possibly can. I then organize it into themes. I write question I have in the middle of a blank piece of paper, then draw themes and answers out to the sides. Thinking and sketching out concepts maps helps so much, even for the smallest of projects. Once its all arranged, I create an outline and make sure everything flows.
2.
I usually make a list of all of the things that I want to read in relation to a certain topic or subject. I then go to my usual research for example, JStor and ProjectMuse, as well as library database systems such as ALEPH. I then use search engines such as Google, if I'm looking for specific quotations from authors or writers.
3.
I tend to start broad and then focus in.
4.
Basically there should be a topic or a subject. My typical research style is firstly planning, I plan on where to start, how to conduct the research, where to consult and the implementation.
5.
When doing archival research, I start in AT and do basic keyword searches to see what collections and items are available to those words. From there I either pull the items and view them or I also then look for secondary resources to consult their bibliographies to see if any particular collections were also referenced in making that work.
Question 5 of 24
Tell me about your organizational skills in a work environment.
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
Excellent. Because I have worked as admin officer before and I used to organise lots of projects.
2.
I really great organizational skills, because it helps me make sure that I am completely things correctly the first time. It helps me make sure that I am keeping track on the projects I am working on.
3.
On a scale of 1-10, I would say that my organisational skills are a solid 7.5.
4.
Very well organized. I enjoy always having a home for things. It can make ones life so much easier.
5.
Out of 10 I would say my organizational skills are a 80. For the most part, detail and order are key components processing collections. However, I also think that being too rigid and over thinking some aspects of processing can be counter productive. I the current collection that I am processing, I have had a structure that I have been following, but when I ran into material that did not fit that structure I adapted.
Question 6 of 24
Have you ever misplaced documents? If so, what did you do?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
Yes, it has happened before.
2.
No. The only time I have misplaced a document is when I am working over time and told myself that I will file it in the morning only to find out that I did file it before I leave.
3.
Yes I have, but I have mostly been able to relocate them. I tend to organise things by monthly periods, so even if I have not placed documents in specific folders or files, as I date my work, I can find them without too much difficulty.
4.
This has never actually happened to me, but when I was working at the Museum of the Moving Image we defintely encountered lost records. In most cases we had to recreate the metadata after we were able to find the missing documents.
5.
I have misplaced documents, basically I had them, and didn't take them where they were supposed to go because I had to assist someone. So I put the documents on my desk and completely forgot because in my head I had them and took them to their relevant place. Took me some time to find them because I was not looking on my desk as it is not where they were supposed to be and when I finally found them I learned to say to users that please wait while I put this where it should go which is something I was not able to do before the scenario. Best scenario is I think its a good thing that whatever happened happened because I wouldn't have learned as in my head I found it rude to keep someone waiting because I have to put away papers and some wouldn't even understand themselves.
Question 7 of 24
What types of record management are you most familiar with?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
Cabinet and electronic filling system.
2.
I am mostly familiar with identifying records.
3.
Simple file and folder type management.
4.
Weeding Disposal Storing Retrieving organization.
5.
I mainly have worked under an umbrella of Functional Analysis as applied to a university setting.
Question 8 of 24
Tell me about the most challenging work you have done in the past.
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
The most challenging work that I have ever done was writing an essay on a subject I had no interest in. I picked a university module which was of little interest to me, and although I ultimately chose an essay topic, I found it difficult to become interested in the topic. Eventually, I succeeded in finishing the task, but the experience taught me that work can become a lot more difficult when you are not interested in the task that you are concentrating on.
2.
Obtaining my degree was a long and rewarding journey. I overcame many obstacles to get where I am today.
3.
I was new at the an institution which only had two permanent employees and as an intern I was left alone for nine days to take care of the institution and the users and I didn't even have a month there. That was challenging because I was still finding my way. But then it was just for a day, then it happened again only this time it was for nine days, the institution's online system had a payment hiccup so I could not access it, the in house system was not installed yet into my computer and I had to keep the institution going. That was challenging.
4.
The most challenging work I have done to date is working on the Farrell correspondence. The collection has been worked on by perhaps ten people over the course of 5 decades and there simply was not a consistent rhyme or reason--or accuracy in many cases.
5.
Organizing a family collection which was scattered in different places and having to describe them and their provenance.
Question 9 of 24
What type of archival work are you most familiar with?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
School archives/small non-profit organization.
2.
Although I have had no experience of doing it, I am familiar in the practice of cataloguing.
3.
Many food and beverage position from the kitchen to management to serving. I have always been a very reliable and honest employee.
4.
I was a student record management assistant as part of practicum, I was a library assistant in a library which serves as a national archive for marine resources. I have conducted library practicum as part of my studies and I volunteered a resource officer for the Media studies department of the University of Limpopo.
5.
Cataloguing and referencing. To process collections for public availability.
Question 10 of 24
Why is this profession important for society?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
Archiving shows society the importance of the past, the progression of businesses and history. Without the past, we are unable to see how we as a society have progressed.
2.
It is important for society to properly document their history. People must be able to retrieve the histories of their families, governments, corporations, etc. To better learn from the past and prepare for the future.
3.
To have a clear sense of where we are going we need to know where we are coming from. And this profession is responsible for the preservation of such information, information that can assist us avoid certain situation and even help us make decisions in the future.
4.
So the public can learn more about their culture and history.
5.
Because people need to know about their history.
Question 11 of 24
If you could not be an Archivist, what other career path would you choose?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I would probably become an academic/university lecturer as I really enjoy engaging with people, teaching them new information as well as constantly learning new ideas and skills.
2.
The only other interests I have would to become a history professor. Though this is not so much for the teaching aspect, I enjoy learning about history.
3.
I am interested in knowledge management which I understand archives are also responsible for through their community visit to try and collect in formation that is not documented anywhere else.
4.
Yes, modern european history and archaeology.
5.
I am interested in anything related to history and French. I am considering a career in public history.
Question 12 of 24
As part of your duties, you may be required to lift heavy objects. Do you have any physical restrictions?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I have a muscular condition called "costochondritis" which is essentially the inflammation of the muscles in the chest. It can be exacerbated by heavy lifting, but it is manageable.
Question 13 of 24
Tell me about your post-secondary education and how you feel it prepared you for this position.
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I completed an undergraduate degree in Classical Civilisation and English. Studying Classics gave me a fantastic insight into the society and culture of the Greco-Roman civilisations. Furthermore, doing Latin gave me a much better understanding of etymology. As someone who enjoys history, a profession which would involve being surrounded by historical artefacts is very appealing.
2.
I hold a degree in theatre arts, Ifeel I have skills for the job.
Question 14 of 24
Are you interested in obtaining a Masters' degree in Archival Sciences?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I am interested in obtaining this qualification as whilst voluntary experience in working with archives is useful, this qualification would help to further my career as an archivist.
Question 15 of 24
Do you have any volunteer experience relevant to this position?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
No, but I am currently trying to gain some more.
Question 16 of 24
Tell me about your technical skills, and the programs in which you are proficient.
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I am proficient with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and I have a good understanding of using Microsoft Excel as well. I am also very familiar with using the ALEPH library database, as well as the research journals JStor and ProjectMuse.
Question 17 of 24
Archivists have a good variety of career options. If you could choose, would you best like to work for a museum, school, government agency or private organization?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I would probably choose to work at a university/school archive as I am mostly interested in academic archives, particularly those of literary manuscripts. I would also be interested in working at a private organisation such as a business organisation like Boots. Learning more about the heritage of a company would give me a great insight into the progression of a company.
Question 18 of 24
There are many mediums which need to be archived. Out of the following, which are your top three in terms of archival preferences? i) sound recordings; ii) videos; iii) documents; iv) photographs; v) films; and vi) electronic data.
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
My favourites are documents, photographs and videos.
Question 19 of 24
What part of being an Archivist do you enjoy the most?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I enjoy learning about history in a physical form. For example, one of my favourite authors is D.H. Lawrence, and my university was his alma mater. Their archive had large collection of his writings, as well as photograph clippings. Artefacts tell a story, and they allow me to build up a picture of the past much more clearly in my mind.
2.
Being an archivist you learn something new everyday, this can happen as you describe, store or retrieve, People's personal interests differ and I may not be interested in a certain topic and therefore not consider knowing much about it but as you work you get a see that and it broadens your scope of knowledge and just makes your job never dull.
3.
Finding random tidbits of information that may have otherwise been lost.
4.
Collecting and adding to existing archives.
5.
Working in any part with honesty I love it.
Question 20 of 24
Tell me about a time when you incorrectly appraised a document. How did this come to your attention and how were you able to correct this?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I have never had an experience like this.
2.
I once looked at a document and thought well this is too old to b valuable, luckily I did not get rid of it right away because when I learned of a file plan I got to realize that the age of a document does not determine its worth.
3.
I once came across a set of documents in the Corporate Records collections which I thought were all sent by the Secretary of the School but upon assessing some subsequent documents I realized they were created by someone else. They were filed out of context and I could find the correct place to reinsert them so I separated them within the box I found with a special note.
4.
I was looking for a gentleman who was a school teacher and his name was Abraham. Unfortunately there were two of them in the area, and the name was rare enough that I didn't catch on until the family member realized the dates didn't match.
5.
I like cross checking if all things are in order each time I have less on my plate. So when I found out that mistake I rearranged and fixed it, at least it was not lost.
Question 21 of 24
What eras of history do you enjoy studying the most?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
My favourite period of history is the history of the twentieth-century American presidents. It was the perfect combination of a society and culture of the past, but it was also something that felt easier to picture when thinking about it.
2.
Political history, I enjoy it the most because it affects the economy, the people and the future. Our political history shows apartheid was bad, we are and ow in democracy and if you ask me we are not where we would like to be yet but Rome was not built in one day.
3.
Ancient History and Modern European History.
4.
French history, multicultural exchanges, colonial era.
5.
I am very found to know about romans .
Question 22 of 24
Why did you apply to our job posting and why do you wish to work for us?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
Your particular organisation appealed to my love of the late nineteenth-century, as I wanted to see some of the behind the scenes happenings. I also liked the focus on cataloguing in the job description, as I have a particular interest in that.
2.
I chose the institution because I understood that its location is known to lack in a lot of other areas and I wanted to help change that, Limpopo is known for service delays, be it in education, infrastructure and I wanted to do my part to ensure the change I would like to see, sure I can not change all those other areas but I want the others to say Limpopo lacks one two three but when it comes to their archives, they are on point.
3.
Because your institution has some very interesting collections which offer a good challenge to apply my archive skills to.
4.
I like local history. Goes well with the class I just took.
5.
I have always, since a small child, loved the Hamilton Library System. I love that Hamilton's Library values promoting Arts and Culture.
Question 23 of 24
How well do you understand, or have knowledge of, the artifacts and records that our institution collects?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I have a good knowledge having researched it in depth.
2.
I understand that the collection of the institution is of critical importance to the nation, I understand that these collections needs different care and storage, I understand that not all is of public consumption or rather classified and I understand that it needs to be guarded as some are irreplaceable.
3.
I have worked in similar archives whose main role is to process the papers of educational institutions including both corporate and personal papers.
4.
I know it's all local history.
5.
As a university student, I wrote my Master's dissertation on Hamilton History, so I was required to use the archives both here and at McMaster University.
Question 24 of 24
What would your previous supervisor say about your archival skills?
User Submitted Interview Answers
1.
I do not have a previous supervisor, as I am still trying to gain experience.