So You Want to Hire a Student: Part Two

When I left off, I was hip deep in the wreckage of an over simplistic student interview and wondering where I had gone wrong. But the interviewee seemed smart and hardworking and had a detailed resume. So we offered the job to the student about 20 minutes after the interview. And then didn’t call her references. It might have well been opposite day in the land of hiring.

The reality of hiring was a messy, rushed process that we got very very lucky at–our new student started two days later and she’s been fantastic. Plus if everything works well, we’ll get to keep her for several years. But don’t rely on luck. Luck and rushing generally gets you a student that slacks off or rarely shows up for work (and when they do it’s certainly not on any schedule you’ve set).

I may not be shepherding our new student into the land of library science while skipping through rows of books, but I have learned a few things:

  • The beginning of the school year will be busier than you think! Don’t wait until the last minute to check up on hiring procedures; talk to career services yourself if you are unsure what’s going on–don’t wait for others to work it out for you.
  • Try to set a date for when you want to start interviewing and/or have someone on board. We didn’t have a firm start date until suddenly it was a week into the school year and we needed someone yesterday. TARDIS’s are hard to come by, okay? This will help you organize your timeline better.
  • Have your interviewing materials ready to go as far in advance as possible. It’s better that you can pull out a file and be prepared at the drop of dime rather than scrambling through all your books and blog posts gathering questions up at the last minutes.
  • Pay attention to the little things. One student I called had an unprofessional voice mail message and called me back a week later. The student we hired arrived 10 minutes early to the interview, was dressed appropriately, and had her schedule available to look at even though we forgot to ask her to bring it. Red flags vs. positive vibes.
  • And last, begin as you mean to go on.

We haven’t completely salvaged our less than polished start yet, but don’t leave new hires hanging. Let them know up front what the expectations are for behavior, attendance, dress, and customer service. And then enforce with kindness and regularity. I’ve seen what happens when staff give up on enforcing best practices and behaviors. Or worse, don’t actually know because stuff hasn’t been codified in writing or they’ve been told incorrectly. Start strong, finish strong.


Sweetman, Kimberly Burke. Managing Student Assistants: A How-to-do-it Manual for Librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2007. Print.

Tunstall, Patricia. Hiring, Training, and Supervising Library Shelvers. Chicago: American Library Association, 2010. Print. ALA Guides for the Busy Librarian.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s