by Suzanne Schultz Pick, Senior Assistant, INALJ UK
My INALJ U.K. Success Story
I went on holiday to Florida at the end of September, as we usually do, so I wasn’t checking up on job posts for a good two weeks. I arrived back in England on the morning of the 7th October, and went straight back to checking for jobs on Direct Gov. I found two local listings for library positions that were through an agency.
I admit, that in these past few years, I’ve felt so discouraged that I’ve dismissed job applications because the process is long and arduous with all these repetitive fill-in-the-blank tables that totally screw up when trying to fill out in a Word document. The agencies, though, they accept a CV only, so I sent mine in to the two who posted the Library Assistant job roles.
I immediately heard back from both. The main questions the agency staff had for me was if I had a current DRB/CRB (criminal background check) and any experience in libraries and/or customer service. I did. After working in the schools, both as a supply teacher and a teaching assistant volunteer, I have had background checks done a lot in the past three years. Also, I have worked in the public library in Florida for part of my Practicum through my MLS program, and when I started at the university, I worked at a grocery store for a handful of years.
One agency wanted the CRB copy up front and an application filled out before I could even apply for the job. The other agency sent my CV to the Council who was doing the hiring for the libraries, and was able to give me an offer for a job within a couple of days.
Once I was at the job, I found out that during my time on holiday, the Council had posted for twenty one library assistant jobs, but the deadline for applications was that weekend before I came home. But they were desperate for staff, so I came in with a few other people from other agencies, to help out over the Christmas holidays.
After working well at the position for a month or so, I was given the opportunity to apply for the same job, but as permanent staff for the Council libraries. I had to fill out the long application form and answer two main, important questions:
• What are your current job duties? – I took the job spec and reworded everything that they were looking for in a library assistant role, using bullet points.
• What makes you qualified for this position? – This is where I had a chance to really spell out everything I’d been doing at the current job post. I cited customer service (a major factor), IT skills, working with children, internal computer systems, events I had worked on, clerical duties, and opening/closing procedures for the branch.
I was given a day to get myself ready for an interview, and the main questions I was asked were about customer service and team work:
• Give examples of how you’ve provided good customer service.
• What do you think are the qualities of good customer service?
• If a customer (they are not using the word “patron” here) has a complaint, what do you do?
• If a customer/member of the public is desperate and needs your help, what do you do?
• What skills do you have to provide excellent customer service?
• Give an example of how you handled conflict with a team member.
• How important do you think working in a team is?
These are things we do every day as librarians and library assistants, but it’s hard to explain in detail without sounding repetitive. Luckily, I had been at the job and have a fairly good memory, so I was able to give specific examples that I had experienced at the current library within the last month.
This whole experience is something I really didn’t think would happen for me, since I’ve been searching so long to get my foot in the door. There are internal jobs for staff with an MLS degree, so being a full member of staff at the Council will be a great to kick start my career.
The bottom line is, if you take every opportunity, don’t give up, and really let the interviewers know that you are eager to please a customer, and willing to work as a team, you will do really well in an interview. Even if you’ve worked in shops or grocery stores, volunteered, or had another career previously, it can all tie into work at the library. We serve the same basic purposes: working with the public, working with kids, handling money, handling products, and getting along with our co-workers.