The Interview

| December 2, 2015

After a student has demonstrated that they can follow my directions by completing an application, if I have a need to hire more student workers, I will move forward with applications and conduct interviews. Before the interview even begins, I go over the application carefully and check the information. For instance, I can easily check if they have been at the school for how long they say they have been at the school. When we start our interview, I do not ask questions that have already been answered by the application. I start with questions that I’ve generated from going over their application in-depth.

There are five basic things that I’m looking for in this process. They have already demonstrated the first one of them with their completed application (I’m looking for evidence that they can follow directions). In the interview process I’m also looking for evidence that we can communicate, that they see the job as more than just an opportunity to do homework, that they have a sense of what they are capable of contributing, and that they can work during the hours I am there (for training purposes). Here’s how I learn about these things.

Second, if they have had previous working experience (many students I have hired have actually never had a job before, which is perfectly OK by me), I ask them to tell me what they liked about their previous jobs. I don’t really care what they say, though it does give me a chance to get to know them a bit. What I’m really looking for here is evidence that they can communicate well and clearly. Sometimes I’ve asked students for information and, instead of responding to my question or staying on the topic at hand, they respond in very tangential ways. To me, clear communication between me and a student worker is important. So, regardless of the answer to this question, what I’m looking for is that they answer the question.

Third, I ask the student, “Why do you want to work here?” Again, there is not a specific answer I’m looking for. However, I do want to gain a sense that the student sees this job as more than an opportunity to do homework. Obviously, there will be time when students can do their homework while they are working. But, if a student is only interested in this job for that component, I see it as a red flag. In my previous post I mentioned that it is important to recognize that these are students and the real reason they are on campus is for their studies. Their education should be their priority. However, working in the library is more than just a chance to get paid to do homework. So, I’m looking for evidence of that perspective when I ask students this question.

Fourth, I ask, “Why should I hire you?” As with the previous questions, I don’t have a specific answer I’m looking for. What I’m trying to assess by asking this question is if the student has a sense of what they are capable of contributing.

Finally, I go over the potential schedule for the student worker and insist that the first semester they work in the library, they work most of their hours during the time when I am there and can train them. The major reason that I choose not to hire a student is if this won’t work. As you will see in future posts, the training of students is critical to their success in the library and I take that aspect of my job very seriously. If a student’s schedule won’t allow them to be in the library during times when I can train them, I will not hire them.

Now, one of the best student workers that has ever worked for me had an awful interview. I try to keep this in mind as I evaluate students for their potential to work well with me and join our library team. I think that shy students, international students who are still improving in their English, and others who could be overlooked for jobs in the library can be important assets to our library team. The interview and application can only tell me so much. So, I keep that in mind and go with my gut.

This approach to selecting student workers has been very successful for me. I have overwhelmingly hired incredible workers and enjoyed working with them very much. In fact, working with students has always been the highlight of my library career. However, these great relationships and successful collaborations were not a result of the hiring process alone. I also put a great deal of effort into training student workers. This will be a topic of future posts.