Office Hours: The Right Questions

This “Office Hours” column suggests some interview questions we might incorporate into interviews. This column was prompted by an email from Kit Stephenson, head of reference and adult services at Bozeman Public Library, MT: “I am trying to find the best questions to find a full-stack employee. A couple of attributes I require are compassion, team player, and thrives on change. I want someone to be a conduit, connector, and a discoverer.”

Please consider the following as part of your potential discovery sets for future interviews.

How do you keep learning? Describe your personal learning network (PLN).

This gets to the heart of what I think makes a great librarian. The nuances of this answer could be telling. Unpack it a bit, too: What blogs do you read? Where do you look for answers about professional issues? Sure, the pages of LJ are an excellent start, but I would argue that a well-rounded future hire would be active and comfortable with a cultivated and well-curated PLN, both online and off. Describing it should be easy. I would want to hear about formal professional groups as well as informal ones. What benefits has your interviewee discovered in these networks?

What are some of your favorite books/TV shows/movies/podcasts?

I think this can be very telling. Interest in “Cozy Detective Stories” or Stranger Things or the best of the best from the local film festival will come along for the job. I wouldn’t want it any other way. No one should ever be expected to be an expert on everything—that’s what readers’ advisory tools are for.

How do you like to learn new technologies? Describe your process.

Straightforward and will tap into the potential hire’s learning style. Want a self-directed, explorative learner? Watch out for the “I like step-by-step training sessions and PowerPoints.”

How do you like to learn about the community you serve?

Explores ideas about outreach and understanding in the community. Balance “I would do a survey at the reference desk” with “I would go out to groups who aren’t using the library and listen to discover why.” Also: What types of partnerships should the library have?

Describe your best mentor or supervisor—what did you learn from that person?

This taps into how the person feels about being supported in a position as well as being managed. It may lead to an interesting and insightful story.