Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to hire a librarian.

When we can scrape up a little money, my library lets me hire someone. And because I'm legally obligated, I try to hold fair job interviews. Otherwise, "Cleavage Depth" would be at the top of my wish list. Except for you guys. I don't need another dude stealing attention from my perky B-cups.

So here is how to hold a fair interview. First, have a list of questions that have been approved by someone importanter than you, like someone in the human resources department. They can help you streamline your questions so you eliminate ridiculous terms like "importanter."

Make sure you ask the same questions to each applicant. But never ask about the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, no matter how hilarious you think you sound.

Questions should be have finite answers, but also allow the interviewee to expand and include personal experience. Here is a page with common questions, most of which, I have never asked anyone. Except for #5, "Why do you want to work here?" which always gives me a laugh when anyone answers, "Because libraries are so quiet."

What I try to do is answer all my own questions prior to the interview and keep a cheat sheet so I can score the interview answers later. And if I think you are extra awesome, I will turn over the cheat sheet so you can see it.

For example, Q: Why do you want to work here? A: "Because libraries are so quiet."

Well, that answer sucks. Out of a possible 3 points for a question like that, that answer scores only 1 point. That answer reveals that this person has never set foot in our library and probably has an image of libraries formed from viewing Masterpiece Theatre.

For, Why do you want to work here? I want to hear something about helping people find information; pretty much anything that excludes any mention of peace and quiet or health benefits or scoring librarian poontang.

So I make my cheat sheet which looks exactly like this:
  • 1) Name your favorite Smurf and tell me why.
    (I like to lead off with the same question that Google uses to hire programmers.)

    This is how I would score that question for up to 5 points:

    >>Did not know what a Smurf is, 0 points. And the interview is terminated.

    >>Knows what Smurfs are and says something like, "they are blue," but can't name one, 1 point.

    >>Names a Smurf, but not a positive role-model Smurf, i.e, names Jokey Smurf, 2 points. Ideally, we would want to hear the name of one of the more industrious or emotionally-balanced Smurfs, such as Papa Smurf, Hefty Smurf, Chef Smurf, Handy Smurf, or Painter Smurf.

    Smurfette may be referenced if the interviewee acknowledges that Gargamel is an evil bastard (since he made her to destroy all Smurfiness.. you should know that).

    >>Names one of the better Smurfs listed above, 3 points.

    >>Names a better Smurf and explains his (or her) benefit to the community using terms like, "cooperation," "sharing," "contributing," etc, 4 points.

    A Bonus point may be earned for answering in French, i.e. "Grand Schtroumpf," for a total of 5 points.
The key is to be fair, to give everyone the same Smurfitunity for Smurfcess.

I like to score against a cheat sheet like this because it helps me to score everyone against the same criteria. When you ask a question like, Why do you want to work here? you can get a wide range of answers. So, how do you score that? And then, if the interviews extend over one or two weeks, how do you remember what you originally thought was a good answer? And what happens if someone challenges your recommendation for hire? You'll need to convince him that your selection was based on some unbiased process. And yes, the cheat sheet changes over time. Do you think I still use the same answers from twenty years ago? If I ask, Tell me about your experience using computers, I'm not going to take off points if they don't mention DOS or Telnet. Hmm, you mention something called Windows 7, are you also familiar with Windows 1 through 6 , or just this number 7? Because we have all the Windows here. All of them.

If I had an opening right now, I would look for someone with some subject expertise, maybe some teaching experience. I don't give a crap about Twitter or Facebook accounts unless the interviewee expresses complete disinterest or disdain for technology. Conversely, I don't want to see your phone. And DO NOT show me your blog.

I want to know that you don't sit on your ass all day, that you weed intelligently, and that you don't want to be a "star" until you get our crappy, mundane tasks finished first.

Let me know your abilities, but don't be too cocky. Remove your tongue stud before we begin. Remember, you'll be on probation for a year; after that, you can do whatever the hell you want. But for that first year, your Smurfy ass is mine.