Ask PEGA: Asking the Right Questions

Welcome to the sixth installment of Ask PEGA, an advice column for all PEGA-SIS members. Just a reminder all questions can be submitted here and will be answered on a rolling basis by our anonymous pool of upper and middle managers from law libraries of all types and sizes.

Q: Suddenly I am part of the interview process for potential new hires at a law library where I am brand new myself. I feel like I don’t know enough yet about my own job, much less how it fits in with other people’s jobs. How can I make a useful contribution during roundtable interviews, especially if everyone senior to me has already asked all the obvious questions like, “what qualifies you for this job?” and then it’s my turn to ask the candidate a question?

A: One of our mentors, who is an associate director at an academic library, had this to say: It’s awesome that you’re on the search committee! You are in a position to provide valuable insight to the committee about what makes this position attractive to a candidate and how things look from the other side. When you’re new, you still have an outsider perspective on your organization and how things look and that can be very valuable. You will be better able to answer candidate questions on what it’s like to be new there than the people who have been there longer.

Another mentor had this to share: It’s OK to listen and be relatively quiet, take good notes, and watch how the candidates respond to the questions other people ask. You can learn a lot about people by listening! (Though having at least one question for each member to ask seems like something your committee would want to ensure — it’s fair to raise this during the “pre-meeting” by saying something like “Since I have less experience in this library, maybe I could ask a general behavioral question like ‘Tell me about your worst day at work and what you did.'”.)

Specific suggestions from our mentors:
You can always ask about the candidate’s experience. You can really dig into the resume for something odd or unusual to ask about. If you dig in you can ask how specific previous experience relates to law librarianship or led to later experiences. You’ll usually find something to work with, even without any specific knowledge of where you are. It might just give you a better sense of the candidate as a person, which is always useful.

Ask questions that are designed to access fit/what makes this person tick like “what motivates you?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” and trust that your insight is equally valuable.

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