I build opportunities to discuss failure into all of our interviews

Headshot of Christian Zabriskie. A kid sits on his shoulders reading a book

Christian Zabriskie is the Executive Director of the Onondaga County Public library that serves the City of Syracuse and supports 22 independent member libraries in Central NY. 

He is also the Executive Director of Urban Librarians Unite which he founded with business partner Lauren Comito in 2010. He and Lauren were Library Journal’s 2020 Librarians of the Year. 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We use Civil Service Lists to determine reachable candidates then interview based on resume from the list of candidates we are given.

Titles hired: Director of Communication, Programming Coordinator, Director of Operations

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We use Civil Service Lists to determine reachable candidates then interview based on resume from the list of candidates we are given.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They exuded energy, were confident yet self-deprecating, and had a deep knowledge in the area that they wanted to use on a larger canvas…and had good ideas for what that looks like.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Finding fault in colleagues, I build opportunities to discuss failure into all of our interviews. If the applicant cannot see themselves in a failure but pushes it off onto teammates out of the block then they are not a good fit for our organization.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Their emotional intelligence

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Oversharing and not seeing space for personal growth.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

No, but I am not opposed to them. Do NOT judge people on their backgrounds! I run a large multi-million dollar library, my background through most of the crisis was a mess of reports, papers, printouts, and maps. If you looked at it without knowing my background or work habits then it would look like I was a disorganized hoarder.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Speak to the work of the library at a level above the work they are doing now. Get past transactional definitions of the work.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We work with the local office of diversity. We actively recruit as diverse a pool as is possible.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

What are you looking for to move your organization forward? Referencing any 1-3 specific programs, locations, or collections that we have. I don’t care about the questions, I care about them doing the work to research our organization.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author?

Bring your brightest energy and passion to the interview. I look for “the bright spark”. I can train staff to do pretty much whatever they need to know to be successful but intellectual curiosity and an agile mind are the essential starting point. Probation is important, give us an idea of what it would be like to work with you not just in this moment but a decade from now.

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area, Urban area

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