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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Good Questions To Figure Out RA Skills In an Interview- Important Read For Both Interviewer and Interviewee

Since I was just asked recently by my long time friend and library school classmate Deb, and I have been asked before by others, I thought I would share my advice for how to ask questions that will allow you to see what kind of RA skills your job candidate has.

Part of the issue is that many adult service library jobs aren't only RA, but any public service desk job, at any library will include some RA. As I train more and more Directors and Administrators as to the importance of basic RA skills in all employees, more of them are reaching out to me for help in how to identify RA friendly applicants.

Enough people have asked in in the past 18 months that I figure it is worth repeating here on the blog.

Also, this information isn't just for hiring managers. If you are looking for a library job of any kind, keep these questions in mind. They could come up.

My gold standard question I asked every single person who I ever interviewed is so simple but it always tells me so much:
  • A patron comes in and asks for the latest James Patterson. There is obviously a hold list. Tell me how you handle this patron.
Oh this question served me well over 15 years. It's so deceptively simple, but therein lies its beauty. The applicant who stops at taking the hold is not who you want at your library. The person who goes on to say they will talk to the patron about why they like Patterson and offer to work with them to find another title to take home today [if they want] is who you want.

You do not need to be able to spit out a readalike option to “pass” this question. That’s not the point. No one, not even me, keeps readalikes for every author in their heads. Understanding that this is a good chance to have a meaningful interaction with the patron is what matters here. Someone who articulates that is someone who understands RA service.

Interviewers- ask this question and sit back. Interviewees- think about engaging the patron as you answer.

My next important question is:

  • What are you currently reading right now?
This one is key because if the answer is “nothing” then you don’t want this person. If there is any RA happening at the desk you are hiring for, you need people who like to read staffing it. Readers can be taught to do RA because it is based on wanting a good book. Anyone who enjoys reading can learn how to help others find what they would enjoy too; they key here is that they enjoy reading for themselves, first.

So interviewees-- show up at every library job with the title of the book you are currently reading. Heck, bring a book to the interview. That is even better. I did and I book talked it to the woman who hired me. [For more about her, please read this memoriam post]

This is plenty if you are hiring for a job where RA is a small part of a larger picture, but if the job has a lot of RA I would also suggest this three part question to be added in:

  • What are your favorite types of books to read? What are your least favorite? Then ask how they would help a patron who comes in looking for books in their least favorite genre.
Asking this question allows you to assess if the person grasps that RA is a service for which they can employ resources to answer questions, just like reference. Having a candidate who understands this already and can talk about initiating the RA conversation, talking to them about appeal, and using NoveList or other resources to identify readalikes, is a good sign. Again they don’t need to be an expert, you are assessing if they “get it."

Interviewees-- you got that? Of course mentioning that you also read this blog can’t hurt either.

Hope this helps hiring managers and interviewees out there.  You can always contact me with more specific questions.

I just want the managers to hire the best people and I want the best people to get hired because then the patrons, the library, and the entire community wins!

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