Hiring, at its worst, inspires both boredom and anxiety. Wading through resumes bores us, and the thought of hiring the wrong person scares us. And the fear factor is worse when you’re a non-techie who’s been tasked with hiring IT staff. As with any complicated, difficult decision, success starts with good planning.
Consider the following when considering hiring staff:
The last ten years have witnessed a change in perspective with regards to IT staffing. At one point, most managers viewed technology as an obscure, mystical specialty similar to medicine or law. In-depth knowledge mattered more than personality in hiring decisions. Lately, after years of frustration and miscommunication, some business writers have started to preach a doctrine of “hire for attitude, train for skill.” The right balance depends in large part on who you already have on your team.
The consequences of a bad tech hire can haunt you for years, long after the person in question has left your organization. For example, consider the following:
With shrinking budgets, libraries can’t hire a full-time employee to address every one of their needs. So they get creative. One of the following ideas below might meet your needs while costing you a lot less than a permanent, 40-hour-a-week employee.
Some of our hardware and printer repairs and that kind of stuff, it’s way cheaper for me to send them out and have them repaired, than for me to pay someone here to do it. It’s by the hour. Sometimes we outsource hardware repairs, of course. Some of our network maintenance we outsource. It’s part of a contract we have with our local ISP at Cincinnati Bell, and they take care of our internet. They do our router maintenance for us. That I consider outsourcing but I kind of talked them into that as part of the contract so we get that for free basically; not free, but it’s kind of a bonus. The stuff that we don’t outsource would be more related to like our database and our servers because those are, to me, so security-sensitive. But yeah, the stuff that we have outsourced, I’m happy, honestly. It saves us money. Let’s say I have a tech that makes $18 an hour and I can get all my junk together and send it out, and some guy repairs it for a flat fee, for example, or that kind of thing. That saves us money.Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
In a smaller environment, they may just want to see if there’s a cooperating organization that has somebody who could come to the interview process with them. If they’re a library, see if a school district has somebody they could borrow for the interview time, or a local university or tech school, so that they can evaluate the technical part of the interview, and then the person who’s not technical can make the decisions about the person’s character and the ability to communicate and such.Jay Roos
Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN
Yes, one of our libraries has their own tech person, and I’ve helped them go through their interview process and come up with a job description. And one of the things in the interview process that I found helpful is having them explain how they’ll fix something, even if you don’t know, just if they can describe it to you, and you catch a few things, it helps. Or have an example, like the monitor wouldn’t come on, what would you do? Or one of our staff says they can’t get their email, what would you suggest to them to do? Or a patron is complaining because a Web page won’t come up, what would you tell them to do? One job interview that I went on awhile back was at a college, and they asked, “What would you do if somebody was complaining about another person looking at pornography?” And I thought that was a clever question to ask because it kind of depends on what the policy is. So, I guess coming up with real-life situations to ask that tech person on how they would handle certain situations is a good way to find out if they really do know what they are doing because some people can talk the talk but not necessarily walk the walk. You can read a book and get the terms, but do you really know how to do it?Jean Montgomery
Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation
For more suggestions on hiring technology support, check out our Further Resources section.