When I first started in my current position, things were a bit hit-or-miss with our student workers. Some of the people we hired were incredibly helpful and worked hard; others, not so much. I don't want to go into details about specific problems we had, since these are real people here, but I will let you know that there was a lack of service orientation. So, seeing a problem, I did what librarians do: I did some research. I...
- talked to people around the school to find what they were doing and to see if they were happy with their student employees;
- talked to librarians at other schools to pick their brains;
- talked to my staff about what they wanted to see.
After gathering all that information, I reworked our hiring process. The first change was to create an employment application. The form we use is a pretty basic one, but it gives us a lot up front. We ask for things like availability, of course, since we have certain priorities for front desk coverage. We also ask obvious questions like, "Why do you want to work for the library?" There aren't any wrong answers to that, but when we see something like "because the library seems like a nice quiet environment," it gives us the opportunity to explain how the library isn't (nor should it be) always quiet.
Then there's the interview. We came up with a script that we follow with each candidate:
- How would you handle an angry patron/customer?
- When you use libraries, how do you use them?
- How do you like to learn?
- How do you handle work/volunteer projects you’re given?
- Tell me about a previous job, either volunteer or for pay — what did you love and what didn’t you like?
- How do you respond when you don’t know the answer to a question?
- What is good customer service?
- How would you handle it if the phone rang right as a line formed at the circulation desk?
- What questions do you have for me?
If it's not already obvious, let me point out to you the distinct focus on patron service. These students who work for me are frequently the first person that a patron sees when they walk in the front door of the library. We want friendly and outgoing and service oriented individuals who will work hard. We ask about learning because we are counting on having to teach them the day-to-day stuff. Heck, for some of our student workers, this is the first job they've ever had. We can teach them how to check out books and pull holds; we can't teach them how to be friendly and outgoing.
How about you? How do you hire student workers? Or, if you're at a public library, how do you hire pages?