Tuesday, January 6, 2015

When the Interview is Over

We recently had a couple of part time openings in my library. If you've never been the interviewer, you have no idea how much work it is. Even more than interviewing, in some ways. For us, the openings were both circulation aide positions. That means the interviews are more about the kind of person they are and the energy they put forth than their qualifications. Circulation aides are the first - and sometimes last - people who are seen by members of our community. They are also the first and last to be seen by prospective students and their parents while on a campus tour. It's easy enough to help someone learn computer skills and library culture, but you can't really teach an outgoing, calm personality. 

It doesn't stop there, either. Sometimes you end up feeling like you interviewed one person but then end up working with their evil or lazy twin, the behavior and affect can be that different. This means you need to dig deeper: you need to check their references. I've skipped that step before, and let me tell you: it's a big mistake. We got left, high and dry, when a night person quit with no notice. We close relatively early as academic libraries go, but I still feel incredibly uncomfortable having someone close the library alone at midnight. I don't even like leaving people alone in the building if I can help it. So more diligence ahead of time is a must.

Now that I am on the other side of a round of hiring, I thought I'd share the questions we asked of the reference given by our recent slate of applicants:

I did solicit input on this, both directly from colleagues and on Twitter, but a lot of this was the work of me and my reference librarian (who is helping me conduct the interviews):
  • “What kind of employee was X?”
  • “Are they good at asking for help? Can you give me an example?”
  • “Would you hire X to work for you?”
  • “How would you describe your relationship with them in terms of management?”
  • “What one thing could they improve upon? What one thing would you tell her/him to keep doing?” 
  • “Are they a good team player?” 
  • “How are they at working unsupervised?”
  • “Is there anything else you could add that would help us to understand X?”
The truth is, if someone is bad enough, current employers might be tempted to lie to you in order to get rid of them. It's unethical, but I know people who have done it. There is no real way to 100% protect yourself from someone who ends up not working out, but you can do a lot while building up to the job offer. 

If you're an employer, what kinds of questions do you ask when you call references? If not, what kinds of questions do you think you would ask? (Or, if you are at an organization where human resources does this part, what kinds of questions to you send to them?)

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