I am a blessed library marketer. Every day, I get to work with a talented team of people to create meaningful content and graphics that connect with our cardholders. Some members of my team were here when I arrived. But most were hired by me. And one of the most serious jobs I have as a library marketer is to make great hires. It’s like building a house. You may have the most beautiful lawn and the perfect furnishings but without a proper foundation, the whole building is going to fall down and everything will be destroyed.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But your library marketing staff really does have to be more than competent. You need talented, passionate, dedicated people to work magic under library conditions, with limited time and resources. Each new hire is a chance to bring a different perspective to the creative pool of your system.
The work that library marketers do is not a job for a librarian. Marketing is a specialized skill that requires training. I could not be trusted to shelve, search complex databases, or help with someone’s homework. That is work that librarians go to school for and train for. It is a specialized skill. By the same token, if you’re hiring someone to do marketing for your library, they must have a background in marketing or journalism.
My team consists of two content specialists, a social media specialist, and two graphic artists. We create content and marketing collateral for 41 branches and for many system-wide initiatives. It’s a huge job. I have a pretty good track record of hiring great workers. No candidate is perfect but here’s what I look for and what I ask to uncover whether my candidates have these qualities.
Experience. I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has a certain amount of experience. Rather, I’m looking for candidates with a wide-range of job experiences. Have their past positions required them to do many different tasks? How did they handle that challenge? In our library, our staff does everything from building a float for the annual Cincinnati Reds Opening Day parade to editing videos, writing scripts, and working on social media posts. I want my candidates to be comfortable stepping in to tackle new tasks. You can find out a candidate’s range of experience by asking them to:
Describe your current workday.
Talk about the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on–what was the project, what was your role, what challenges did you face, and how did the project turn out?
Describe a time when you were asked to complete a task that you weren’t exactly sure how to handle at first. What was the task, why did you have concerns about your ability to complete it, what did you do, and how did it turn out?
Initiative. This might be the most valuable skill a potential library marketer can possess. You want a candidate who doesn’t need to be led through every step of every project, someone who will use their creativity to figure out ways to solve problems for your customers. You can find out if your candidate has initiative by asking them to:
Describe a time when you came up with a solution to a problem at your current job. How did you pitch the solution to your boss? What was your boss’s reaction? Was the solution implemented? What was the result?
Describe a time when you were really struggling with your work. What did you do to improve your situation?
Tell me about your outside interests or side projects. Do you ever see yourself turning a hobby or side project into a career path? How?
Passion. Library workers have to be passionate about the industry. They have to be fully invested in the library’s mission and be able to help the library achieve those goals without the advantage of large financial rewards, glamorous travel, or corner offices. Libraries are wonderful places to work, but they’re not going to be a good fit for someone who is looking for all-expenses paid luncheons and global speaking engagements. To find out if your potential hire really has a passion for the life of a library, go beyond the typical “why do you want to work at the library?” Ask them:
Tell me the role of libraries in your life.
Would our community suffer a significant loss if our library were to close? Why or why not?
I sat in on a fascinating panel discussion at Content Marketing World called: The Content Talent Crunch: How Marketing Leaders Approach Hiring a New Breed of Marketer. I learned a great deal from the panel members, who make hiring decision at some of the top brands. Here are the questions they ask their creative talent.
James Ellis, VP of Inbound Marketing at TMP Worldwide: Find out if your candidate can look at both sides of a story by asking them, “Think about a time when your previous employer made a business decision that you disagreed with. Can you describe why the business made that decision?”
Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief of Contently and The Content Strategist: Reveal the source of your candidate’s true passion by asking, If you had a giant bag of money and all you had to do was write, what would you write about?
Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President, Global Marketing for Xerox Corporation’s Large Enterprise Operations: Discover if your candidate can be a great conversationalist by asking, “What did you do to prepare for this interview?”
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