The ad was out long enough, the applications came piling in, and the interviews are over. Okay, then why are you hanging back and not making that final decision? If you’re afraid you might choose the wrong person, you’re right, you might. The decision to bring someone new onto the team, as someone once told me, could turn out to the best – or the worst – decision you’ve ever made. Still, you need to make that call! Here are some hiring tips and secrets that just might give you a bit more confidence you’re making the best decision.

You know you’re hiring well when:

  1. You knew who you were looking for.

With every opportunity to fill an option position, leaders need to begin by analyzing real, customer-focused needs! If your Children’s Librarian retires and your community demographics have begun to lean strongly to senior citizens, then maybe it’s time to consider moving those hours into another position. If your library just made an enormous investment in self-charge machines and two of your circulation team members are leaving, maybe those hours as well can be better used in another position – maybe even something brand new! Do you need a Technology Trainer perhaps? Or how about a security guard? Would it help to have someone on the team with a social worker’s background or maybe someone who speaks a foreign language?

Open positions should be met with open discussions first, before any ads are written or interview questions prepared. Once you have developed a complete profile of the person you need to add to your team, including background, skills, and abilities, THEN you’re ready to start looking. This profile will help keep you focused throughout your search. Every time you meet an interesting candidate who might turn your head, you and your hiring team can remember just what you really need – and return to your applicant pool to find it!

  1. You’ve considered diverse opinions.

The only way to include a variety of diverse opinions into a hiring decision is to assemble a diverse hiring team – and then listen to them. While this won’t change the final decision into a democratic vote, it will give you, as the team leader, a more comprehensive understanding of how each candidate is viewed and how others might evaluate them.

Here’s an important tip about hiring teams – don’t use the same people over and over and don’t limit members to supervisors or other bosses. Why? Because by including members of the team your new hire will join, you’re going to get an early view of how best to begin blending your team into something new and better. Also, your team members can bring an understanding of the realities of their work that you – because you don’t work beside them – could never add.

There’s another great reason to add non-bosses to your hiring team and that is to develop tomorrow’s bosses by giving others the chance to grow their skills and experiences.

  1. You took your time.

Whenever I’m asked what a board or supervisor should do first, as soon as they learn someone on the team is leaving, my answer is the same. Cover their work. Interim appointments have the dual benefit of giving you and your hiring team the luxury of time to hire right (no panic to hire fast because stuff isn’t getting done) but also – again – they give you the opportunity to build someone’s skills and abilities who might someday be moving up themselves.

Once you’ve finished your process and, still, no one (including you) is jumping up and down in excitement over the potential new team member, then take more time and re-post. Adding to your team is way too important of an activity to rush through and the consequences of doing so are…well, just take your time and you’ll know you’ve made the best decision possible.

  1. You know their history.

This secret is no secret at all, as I’m sure you’ve heard it one thousand times. Still, though, it is incredibly one of the most ignored hiring rules of all time. Check references! Check the references listed by the applicant. Check with the current supervisor. Check (informally) if you know anyone else who might speak to the applicant’s fit for your job.

What if the applicant asks you to please not contact their supervisor because she/he doesn’t know a job search is underway? Then clarify – early on – that you must hear from the supervisor but that you will not contact her/him unless and until the applicant is a finalist for the position. If they still say “No,” then remove them from consideration. You must know more about your potential new team member than just what they chose to tell you.

  1. They’re smiling.

Soft skills matter as much these days – if not more – than they ever did. We’re a people-focused industry and, whether you’re talking about external or internal customer service, you need to hire a people-focused person. Author Arte Nathan once said it best, “You can’t teach employees to smile. They have to smile before you hire them.”


– Catherine Hakala-Ausperk with the American Library Association, author of Build Great Teams

Libraries Thrive Consulting
8686 Bainbridge Rd.
Bainbridge, OH 44023

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