So You Want to Hire a Student: Part One

You have received word from on high that you have work study money to hire a student for your department. Minions of your very own- how exciting! I, too, have recently experienced this joy. Despite recently surviving a lengthy job hunt, I still had an adorable fantasy about the hiring process from the other side of the desk.

Our journey would begin with a carefully crafted job description that incorporated all the current departmental needs. In my daydreams I had a raft of eager undergrads desperate for a plum library job and a pile of resumes I could sift through to my heart’s content. I would have several in-depth interviews complete with carefully cherry picked questions designed to ferret out the slackers, poor time management cases, and complete n00bs. We would have a practical testing portion so we could find out whether the applicants could put things in alphabetical order! I would train them into mini-me’s and they would stay with us forever. It was going to be wonderful.

But this is not that dream. (This is a comedy of errors).

The busy underbelly of academia was exposed as I got my first look at what happens to hiring in the face of reality. That carefully crafted job description? Never posted. My understanding of how our student hiring worked was weak and it turned out that no one wanted to bother with advertising anyway. Instead, we went fishing in a general pool of student resumes. This posed a huge problem immediately; how did I know that any of these students even wanted to work in the library?

Of the three resumes we received from central casting, only one student answered their phone. I was so surprised when the third candidate actually picked up that I fumbled the introduction and forgot to mention half of the job duties, the rate of pay, or hours. Once I hung up, I remembered that our soon-to-be interviewee had no job description to look at, so I had to email her the full details. Twice. With several follow ups to impart directions to our office, the interview time, and my general incompetence (clearly).

Once all essential information was sent, I realized that in our confused haste to hire someone I had scheduled our interview for less than 24 hours away. So I scrambled to put together a selection of questions gleaned from my hiring literature, for all the good that did. The interview only lasted 15 minutes and we did little more than explain the job duties in depth (most of which ended up being hand-waved into “other duties as assigned”). That dream of testing whether the candidate understood alphabetical order seemed very far off by then. Despite the shallow vetting process, we seemed to be getting lucky since the candidate appeared punctual, sane, and dedicated. Maybe this wasn’t a complete failure!

Tune in to my next installment to find out if lessons learned are the only end result! Spoilers: this has a happy ending, I swear.


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