I don’t think I’d be good at the job I’m interviewing for

A reader writes:

How can I stop myself from focusing on the aspects of a job I know I won’t be good at?

The organization has contacted me for an interview, which means they think I’m qualified. But I’m scared they’re going to smell my fear — fear that they’re interviewing someone for a public-facing position who really would prefer hiding in a back room and being behind the scenes.

There are many detail-oriented parts of the job that I know I’d be good at, like proofreading documents, doing social media, and putting together promotional materials like flyers and newsletters. It’s just the reception and customer service part that I’m scared of. I wouldn’t really say I’m a people person. I’m pretty introverted, and though no one would say I’m unfriendly or sour, I’m afraid I’m just not a front desk personality. I also become short-circuited if too many things are going on at once — I prefer to work at my own pace.

I keep trying to tell myself that I would probably be okay with these aspects of the job once I’m trained and I’ve gotten used to those duties, but then I tell myself, “No! You’d suck at it!”

Does it sound like I really shouldn’t be trying to do this type of work considering my temperament? But there is no perfect job, and this has a good salary range and is in a library, and I have a library background. I feel like I can’t afford to sabotage myself.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 64 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose*

    This is one of those times where you go into the interview and ask how busy the reception desk usually gets. I also hate reception duties, and it’s basically a major piece of my job right now, but I get by because realistically we get next to nobody at the door and the phones don’t ring that much.

    Even for stuff you think you’d suck at, there are tolerance levels. Figure out what yours are and go from there.

    1. Cherries in the Snow*

      I agree with this. Part of it may be my upbringing/current situation, but I don’t have a lot of luxury in turning down jobs that aren’t perfect, and I’ve historically had to do a lot of jobs that weren’t my preference or where I had to perform in ways that weren’t my strong suit. However, there’s also some stuff I don’t even apply for (like waitressing or call centres), because I KNOW I would be too miserable to function. You have to find for yourself where that line lies.

      1. Anon for this*

        I get the upbringing/financial situation issue, and no job is perfect, but it’s helpful to reframe this as being that you don’t have the luxury of having your medium and long-term employability affected by working at jobs that rely on competencies that you’re weak in and don’t want to invest in improving. I’ve seen people languish and have trouble changing jobs because they were doing jobs that they were persistently weak at – not weak enough to get fired, but weak enough to impact their ability to get enthusiastic references, raises, temp gigs to become permanent, that sort of thing.

        The first time someone suggested this to me I thought it was really full of privilege and inapplicable to non-professional work. Instead, it helped me to pinpoint how I could identify jobs that didn’t play to my weaknesses. Like with call centre work, it helped me figure out that I could handle inbound customer service or B2B market research, but not telemarketing for instance.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah I thought I was fine with reception-plus-other-duties jobs because all the positions I held early in my career were for smaller entities that didn’t have a lot of actual public facing duties — more email and phone questions than anything else.

      Then I moved to a position for a rapidly growing department (the in-house staff tripled in the four years I was there, and the public events we hosted went from 8 a year to sometimes 8 a month), and discovered that I really can not handle a standard to busy level “front desk” position because a position where I get interrupted constantly and can’t plan out my day at least a little bit is just not one in which I can succeed without a massive amount of anxiety and stress.

  2. LAI*

    I would also suggest asking questions in the interview to find out how much time you’d be spending on customer service and reception duties, and specifically what their expectations are in that area. And maybe be up front with them that you’re more interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of the job, and that you like to work at your own pace – that way, they can screen you out if they know that those characteristics won’t be a good match. If you can afford to wait, it’s better to not get the job than to get the wrong job.

  3. Jennifer*

    In my unfortunate experience in this regard: if you don’t want to be Front Desk Person, you should not be doing the job.

  4. k.k*

    This is why I like to ask in interviews what a typical day in that job looks like. It’s so hard to tell from job descriptions. The one aspect you’re hesitant about could turn out to be very occasional, or it could be 90% of the job.

  5. Lil Fidget*

    I’d add to this – I can’t tell if you WANT to get better at these things or not. Some of this can be learned with experience and could go on to be very valuable in other jobs, but if you know you don’t ever want to have a job that uses these skills, you might decide to pass.

    1. Dlique*

      I like this response. I used to think I’d hate a job that was very repetitive and tedious, but in my current job I’m finding those are the parts that feel most rewarding for me. I think for most people there’s always room for growth and change if you’re not too resistant to it, and it may end up being very fulfilling.

      That said, you know yourself best OP, and if you know this would be miserable for you, don’t make yourself do it.

    2. Reya*

      I always thought I wasn’t really a people person, but it turns out I’m a ‘struggle to strike up conversations with strangers’ person. Give me a PURPOSE, and I’m fine.

      So actually, back when I had jobs where I had to talk to customers, it ended up not being a problem. You’re not having to make small talk with them or be their friend, you just have to be friendly and polite, and do a thing which it is your job to do. And it helped me refine those skills so that now, when I’m doing things that require me to interact with strangers by choice, I’m much better at it.

  6. Secretary*

    Great advice from Alison about evaluating how much reception you’re willing to do and not writing it off due to personality. This is a big pet peeve of mine, treating customer service duties as a “personality” rather than a skill. I deeply dislike customer service, but I’ve build influence and people skills to the point that I’m constantly told I have the “personality” for it.
    No. Just no. I’ve spent years and time and energy developing a skill that makes a difference personally and professionally. I wasn’t born with it and I hate that people will write off all that work as “personality”.
    LW, if you don’t have the skill set Alison is talking about, it’s not shameful or bad or makes you not a people person, it means that it’s not an area you want to work. That’s totally fine! Figure out what level you can do like commenters above have suggested.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, probably half of the library world are introverts who’ve developed front desk skills, not an extrovert personality.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        ^^This. One of my required classes in library school even had a section on developing communication skills.

    2. Safetykats*

      I agree 100%. I do a lot of technical training and presentations; a friend who has recently started doing technical briefings at staff meetings told me she’s really upset because she’s terrible at it. I’ve sat in on a couple of her briefings, and she’s actually quite good. When I asked why she thinks she’s not, her answer was “But it’s not easy for me and I get really nervous!”

      Just because something is not easy for you doesn’t mean you’re not good at it, or that you can’t be good at it. I the same manner, just because you’re used to working at your own pace, and it’s easier to do so, doesn’t mean you can’t do well at a job where there are different kinds of demands. The real question is whether you’re willing to try, whether you think developing this skill set would be ultimately beneficial for you, and really whether you’re able to look at this as an opportunity to be better at something that’s currently outside your comfort zone.

      Of course, if you honestly think it’s going to make you a miserable, non-functional, nervous wreck you shouldn’t take the job. But I know plenty of introverts who excel at these kinds of jobs, and even enjoy them. They just do them differently than the extroverts, which is fine.

      For the interview, I would try to think more about the parts of the job you would enjoy and find a challenge, in a good kind of way. Good luck!

    3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I very much agree with this. When I worked as a bank teller, I was known to say that “they pay me to be nice”. I’m not a people person and never will be, but I have great customer service skills. It can definitely be learned, if you want. I’ve learned it’s not a skill that I care to continue to use and so I’ve moved on to a job that lets me sit at my desk and happily crunch numbers with very little people interaction.

    4. k.k*

      Couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not a people person at all, I’m an introvert with social anxiety. And I worked successfully in customer service for 10 years. Totally a learned skill. I remember some coworkers being surprised that I was very quiet and not chatty with them, because I was so perky and friendly with customers.

      1. Xarcady*

        I’m about as introverted as they come, but I’ve learned how to do cheerful and chirpy customer service. And also how to appear outgoing to coworkers. It’s draining, but I can do it.

        And then we had to do that Myers-Brigg thing, and no one would believe I was an introvert. Like the strongest quality I had was introversion. They made me do the test over again. Still an introvert.

        1. ZK*

          Same here. Classic introvert but really good at CS. No one believes me when I tell them I am an introvert.

          But I practically run from the building at lunch and eat in my car so I can recharge and not strangle people in the afternoon. For me, that’s enough to allow me to get through the day.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      I kind of half agree here. It is a skill, absolutely. It was one I wasn’t great at when I started my job, and I’ve definitely gotten much better and more confident at it over the years. But I still don’t actually *enjoy* it a lot of the time, and that’s one reason I’m looking to eventually move into a more back-end area of my field. There are other skills that I’m only now starting to learn and I’m looking forward to getting better at them because I feel passionately about them and don’t find them draining the way I do being at the front desk all day.

    6. EddieSherbert*


      I am actually in a similar-type role to what OP is interviewing for – marketing, social media, with some customer service mixed in – and am definitely an introvert. I WORK hard to do a good job on the customer service portion of my job (and I have gotten great feedback on my customer interactions!).

      1. EddieSherbert*

        So, if it helps, OP, I super love my job! The marketing/social media aspects are definitely the most enjoyable part, but I have gotten to a point where I don’t mind CS and often enjoy my conversations with the customers.

        In the beginning, I kind of dreaded when my CS hours were approaching, but that was mostly because I still couldn’t answer many questions on my own. Now that I really know what I’m doing, it’s fine. For me, it’s harder to have realllyyyyyyy long small talk or life-sharing or whatever for several hours. Spewing work facts is fine!

    7. nep*

      Great point and insights, here. And Alison’s advice spot on.
      When I was working as a communications consultant, I dreaded the occasions (albeit rare) when I’d have to talk to the press. I would have thoughts like “that’s not my thing” or “I’m just not really into that aspect of this job and I can work around it.” I came to realise that, of course, those who do that and do it skillfully have worked at it. They have developed very specific skills to master that task. Only then did I see that it wasn’t about whether I was “that kind of person.”
      Sounds like going to the interview to hear more about the position and get a better feel for things is a good way to proceed — LW, please keep us posted.

  7. fposte*

    I’m thinking about “prefer to work at my own pace.” I wonder if the OP meant more that deliverables come up at longer intervals–that rather than doing something for somebody in front of you, you’re doing somebody for somebody who checks it over at the end of the week. I’m not sure that you can truly just work at your own pace in very many jobs; it may be that the expected pace is easy to meet, but you’d still have a problem if your own pace was below it.

    1. Doodle*

      I think it’s what you described here, plus the ability to choose what you are working on at any particular time. I certainly have deliverables, but as long as I’m meeting them, I can choose to work on x type of project in the morning when I have lots of energy and save answering emails etc for the after-lunch lull. Or I can decide to take a break from a thorny project and come back to it tomorrow (again, as long as I’m meeting the overall deadline.) Front line people often don’t have that flexibility.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      She might mean “I have a hard time working when I’m being frequently interrupted.” This is something that arises as an issue when you work at a front desk–very rarely is the reception part the only task you have.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think there are things she might have meant that would be viable preferences; it’s just I don’t think they’re really the same thing as working at your own pace, and that’s a phrase that could make somebody sound more work-unfriendly than they are. So I’m hoping it’s those other things and I would encourage the OP to think about which preference they’re actually trying to describe–it’ll be helpful in finding it.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yep. This is very much on my mind right now as I’m wearing about 3 hats, one of which involves reception and the other two of which require an uninterrupted train of thought pretty frequently. I…may have had an incredibly frustrating day today in which I can’t get a blasted thing done before I get interrupted again. I know the interruptions are part of the job, but they just don’t mesh well with some of the other parts of the job. Argh.

  8. mf*

    Front desk work can vary a lot based on the industry/work environment. I’ve worked on front desks that are pretty quiet–I only got interrupted maybe 1-2 per hour on average. And I’ve worked at front desks where I didn’t get more than 5 min of peace.

    So I think it’s worth asking some specific questions about the work environment: How would they describe the pace of the work on an average day? On average, what are the busy or slow periods during the day, week, and calendar year? How many customers might you be dealing with an hourly basis?

  9. Action Heroine*

    I’d like to echo Alison’s point that you need to be really honest with yourself about your willingness and capacity to do the job duties you don’t like. I spent a miserable year and a half in a job that was a bad fit because I convinced myself that I was up for parts of it that involved doing things I wasn’t good at, like being perky, upbeat, bubbly, and able to make small talk with strangers (like the letter writer, I’m much better when I have a quiet environment where I can work at my own pace). There were some other dynamics at play that I won’t get into, but the root of it that even though I’m (really) good at other things, I wasn’t able to succeed at this particular job. It really threw me for a loop and did a number on my self-esteem and self-perception to the point where I felt like I wasn’t a good employee *at all* and was unemployable, instead of seeing that it was just a bad fit.

    So I guess what I am saying is be really, really careful about what you’re getting into, and use the interview to get as good a handle as possible on the expectations. Probably an especially good time to remember that an interview is as much about you seeing if the organization is right for you as them seeing if you are right for the organization.

  10. Ainomiaka*

    I agree that skills can be learned, but I might say that enjoying the highly responsive/interactive customer focus is more of a personality thing. I can learn to do many things, but that does not mean I would enjoy doing them all.

  11. Xarcady*

    If this job is at a library, would only a few hours a day be spent on the desk and the rest out in back? I’m an introvert and I’ve had that sort of schedule and was able to make it work.

    If the entire day would be spent at the desk, then I’d probably not be able to handle it. I’m good with customer service, but an entire day of interruptions at a busy library desk while trying to do other work would be too much.

    One of the things that lets me function well in a people-facing position as a introvert is when the situation is highly structured. When I worked in a library Circulation Department, I’d spend 2-4 hours a day out on the desk. For the most part, people coming up to the desk wanted a) a library card, b) to check books out, c) an interlibrary loan request, or d) to ask a question better answered by someone else. With pretty much standard interactions and a sort of “script” to handle them, it was pretty easy for me to cope. I knew what my role was, and most of the patrons acted in expected ways. I wasn’t having to come up with small talk with a stranger on the spur of the moment.

    And proofreading does not mix well with front desk work where you are constantly interrupted–that would be a question I would ask. Some tasks are great for front desk work–they don’t demand tons of concentration, you can put them down and pick them back up easily. Proofreading, at least for me, is not one of these. But it’s the proofreading that makes me think the entire day isn’t spent at the front desk, which might make the job workable for the OP.

  12. Bea*

    I’m introverted and battled major social anxiety which involved phone calls for routine things. However I have never found it difficult to do front desk work and love customer service oddly enough. It’s something that if you’re willing to try and know you love the rest of your duties you may not fear so much in the end.

    Every job has those “bleh” tasks. In my world that task is collection calls. Even though 99% of the AP departments I call send it to voicemail. Hands down the worst. But I am a damn good happy AF bookkeeper. If I didn’t deal with the icky part, who knows where I would be exactly.

  13. Anonymouse*

    You also have to consider: is this something that I can learn to get better at through practice and continued exposure, or am I always going to hate it? For example, I’m glad that my job has pushed me to do more public speaking because I’m much better at it now and it’s a useful skill. On the other hand, I’m never going to be comfortable answering phones, and while I suck it up for the couple hours of reception coverage I do each week, I know if it was a bigger part of my job I wouldn’t get any better at it; I’d just be more miserable.

  14. Amy S*

    Semi related, but I would just like to clarify that introverted does not equal not being good at customer service or people-facing positions. It has more to do with how you recharge your batteries. I am a very introverted person but I love public speaking and working with customers, clients, etc. But at the end of a busy day I need lots of quiet time to recharge.

    Other than that I agree with the advice. I work with an admin/front desk person who also does a lot of detail oriented tasks. She often comments that she needs quiet, uninterrupted time to do her work but that’s not really possible since the other half of her job includes answering the phone and dealing with people when they come into the office. Seems like it’s not a great match to her personality and is making it a very stressful environment for her. You may have a similar experience with this kind of role.

  15. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

    LW: Go into this interview with confidence, and if you are offered the job, TAKE IT.

    I know, I know: you have some pretty real reservations about the nature of the work. But, listen to me: Library jobs are rare. Well-paying library jobs that let you do at least SOME of the things you want to do are even rarer. Please don’t sabotage your career because you’re feeling nervous about one aspect of the job.

    Let me tell you a short story. I, like you, am not a “people person.” I do well in front of crowds but it’s not my ideal work situation. When I started graduate school I was given the (rare, in these days) opportunity to teach a class all by myself my very first semester. I was offered minimal training or advice, and was basically thrown into it completely blind. My days leading up to this were filled with doubt and anxiety and I often wondered if I was doing the right thing. I had zero interest in teaching as a career but needed the experience, pay, and scholarships that came with the job.

    I’ll be honest: my first semester was REALLY tough. There was steep learning curve, I had little help, and I felt self-conscious 100% of the time I was up in front of my class. And you know what? After that first semester, it was fine! Each passing semester got easier and easier, and I gradually came to feel totally at ease in front of these kids. Dealing with people for a job, when you’re not used to doing so, feels really, really awkward at first. There will be some faux pas, and some cringe, but you WILL learn from it and get over it, and you WILL be a better person for it. Like anything else, dealing with people is a skill you can learn, and you WILL learn it.

    Tell yourself you’ll stay in this job for 2 years. That’s only 2 short years out of your long career. You will learn a lot and position yourself for a better job after those 2 years. Please don’t self-sabotage. Your field is tough! (I flirted with a library career several years ago after a couple library jobs.) Nail the interview and tell yourself you’ll get through it. You will.

    1. LaurenB*

      Yup. You can start applying for other jobs as soon as you start this one, but holding out for a technical services assistant job means you might be waiting for a long time. And having the customer service experience makes you more valuable for just about every other library job, even if in secret you are not the strongest at public facing tasks.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      +1 I think this comment is really important–how much of something you’re not thrilled about you should prepare yourself to tolerate varies a LOT by your industry and ambitions.

    3. Back Room Librarian*

      I completely agree. I started out front in reference and eventually moved back to technology services and I’m so glad I took the reference job. For one thing, you can learn to be good at customer service. Also, you honestly don’t have to wait 2 years for another job. Especially if you’re looking in the same library/library system. No one will be surprised that you’re using a library job as a stepping stone. If you really want to work in libraries, take the job. Just know that even in the back of the house, you get interrupted all the time (by the front line staff) and don’t really work at your own pace. Libraries are not a haven for introverts, believe me.

  16. Aphrodite*

    I’m exactly like the OP in the letter, and I have discovered over a lifetime of working that I should not–not ever!–go for any position that involves front line work or the public. It doesn’t just wear me down nor can I use yoga/meditation/quiet time/etc. to help me. It can literally destroy me.

    I need alone time and privacy to be myself. That’s not to say I am anti-social either, but I choose my own time and meet my own needs for socialization (and it never involves the workplace or co-workers).

    If you are this way, recognize it. Honor it. It’s the only way to go, even though you will likely run into (too) many extroverted people who think all you need to do is, well, to do it. They are wrong about you.

  17. Peggy*

    Please delete if this isn’t the appropriate forum for this semi-related question.
    I’ve read all the stats about men being willing to apply for jobs if they meet just 60% of the requirements (or 50% or whatever it is), while women tend not to apply unless they meet nearly all. The latter describes me. How do I know when I’m being “brutally honest” about what I’m not qualified for, and when I’m underselling myself? I would like to be more aggressive in pursuing opportunities, but I don’t want to set myself up to fail or make a bad impression on a hiring manager/committee.

    1. Aphrodite*

      This is a great question. Would you consider sending it to Alison so it could be its own letter?

    2. Bea*

      I have had a lot of women apply for positions they aren’t even 50% qualified for. My question would be when do these people get hired for jobs they only have that much of a match to?

      This is about letting yourself know that “no” isn’t going to hurt you and the reward may be worth the risk of rejection. Taking risks in life is all about knowing you’ll hear no a lot and accepting it.

      Just because people do it doesn’t mean it works well. I’ve never even considered hiring someone who would need to be taught 40% of the basic qualifications

    3. Elsajeni*

      I’d also love to see you submit this as its own letter to Alison, but there’s also always an open thread for work-related questions on Fridays; you could post it there tomorrow and probably get some interesting opinions from commenters.

    4. Jennifer*

      Well, my industry won’t interview you if you don’t have 95% and won’t hire you if you don’t have 100% so I’m biased, but I tend to think, how well can you argue for yourself as a good person to hire if you don’t meet a good chunk of the requirements?

      1. Nico M*

        Because a lot of job ads are written by idiots who don’t understand the job.

        If you are an experienced hire you know the basic parameters of the role and you can spot “copy and paste IT skills”, “things only an internal candidate could possibly do” and “weird stuff that’s a legacy of an oddly multi skilled former employee”

  18. Turquoisecow*

    This sounds like a great example of how, when you interview, it should be a two way evaluation. The organization isn’t making a decision based off your resume, so you shouldn’t base your decision off a job listing. Neither gives a complete picture.

    So many people go into interviews with the idea that they are on display and subjected to scrutiny, but you should also be scrutinizing the company and gathering more information to decide if the job is right for you, the same as they are gathering more information about you to decide if you are right for the job. Ask questions about how much front-end face time the job will require, how fast-paced things move, how much greeting newcomers and other sorts of dread people tasks are required. What is the division of tasks?

    And then take this informations seriously and weigh it against what you know about yourself (following Allison’s advice about figuring out where you are on the spectrum of people-people) and if it turns out to be too much? It’s okay to not accept the job if it’s offered. The company may also note that you’re less than enthused about the people aspects and not even offer it.

  19. SD Smith 82*

    I’ve been sucked into/tricked into front desk positions twice in my career. I started as a “receptionist/file clerk” in my field my final year of high school, and when our receptionist quit 3 months after I was promoted- i was expected to fill her role, and my current one at the same time. It sucked. It did prove useful when I left my industry to focus more on school and took a job running a hotel’s front desk for a year or so-

    Swore I’d never do it again after that. Then four jobs later- I ended up working for the craziest “bate and switch” job I’d ever had/seen/been trapped in. I was supposed to be working for an in house insurance department/sales position and somehow 1 year in they decided to have me RUN that insurance division, plus one of the receptionists, plus one of the executive assistants, plus a transaction coordinator for the real estate division. I had 6 roles, was underpaid for the only one that I was “hired” for- and was totally broken by the time I left- that being said- I learned what my limits are, and gained a bunch of experience that lead me to where I am now.

    In this case- you know what you might be in for. It could be a great experience and lead to connections/skills you may need further down. But if I’d known I was going to have to be a receptionist AND all the other jobs- I wouldn’t have accepted the offer I was given-

  20. Pollygrammer*

    I’ve done my share of front desk work (and, before that, food and retail) and I’m quite introverted and definitely not the outgoing type. What has helped a LOT was to sort of re-calibrate my expectations of myself and my behavior.

    I don’t try to be bubbly or chipper. Instead, I would describe myself as “warm.” I put on a peaceful smile and use a measured pace. I don’t allow myself to look frustrated or frantic, but I don’t fake perky enthusiasm either. I find it’s a nice middle ground.

    1. Back Room Librarian*

      I definitely think (especially lately with all the Facebook introvert memes) that we are branded as a special species who must not be bothered else we run to a dark room crying. In reality, I felt that I provided exemplary customer service, even compared to extrovert colleagues, because I’m a great listener/observer. Being able to get a read for a person’s mood and really listen to their questions or concerns is very important, and I feel like introverts can be very good at this. People want to be heard, and I know how to listen.

  21. Spider*

    So this is an old letter, but to anybody in a similar boat —

    As someone who works in a library, if this job is in a library and pays well, then by all means, go to the interview! To echo many comments already, the interview is your chance to get a better feel for the job duties, the atmosphere and pace of the workplace, etc. What you glean from the interview will either confirm your suspicions that this job isn’t right for you or it will pleasantly surprise you that the job is right up your alley. Either way, you have nothing to lose by going and you will get to network with people in the library world.

    On the other hand…

    If you have solid experience working in a library (or retail or face-to-face customer service jobs) and you know that the job you might interview for has a major percentage of its duties covering phones or assisting patrons (or any kind of work you know for certain you dislike)….unless you are currently unemployed and/or scrambling for a new job, why bother? You’ve had those learning experiences already — time to focus on finding a job your strengths are suited for and you might actually enjoy!

    As someone who works in an academic library as a staffperson with an MLIS, I constantly have well-meaning people send me job ads for professional librarian positions that involve reference and instruction. I don’t want to do reference or instruction. My MLIS program focused on cataloging, I’ve been a copy-cataloger as a staff member for almost 10 years now, I want to catalog. I want to work with the materials in the library, not the patrons. (Hey, somebody has to! Do people in public services have well-meaning friends constantly send them job ads for tech services positions? ….Kinda doubt it.) I gladly cover service desks, phones, and assist patrons when people are out sick, and I don’t mind the work when it’s a one-off thing, but I know myself and I know that I absolutely do not want a job that is primarily focused on interfacing with patrons or the public.

    So if I were in the letter writer’s shoes, I probably wouldn’t go to the interview. But in some other dimension, there might be someone going, “So I’m stuck in tech services, but what I really want to do is work a service desk!!”

  22. michelel*

    Ha, just yesterday I watched an episode of “Odd Squad” that used the “people persons / people people” bit.

  23. Gnomegirl*

    To be perfectly honest, if the OP plans on continuing in the library field, developing customer service skills is going to be essential. Almost every job in the field will require desk shifts, either at circulation or reference depending on your position. This might be a good opportunity to develop those skills!

  24. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    I don’t like traditional front desk duties either, but back when I was temping they begged me to fill in at one. Turns out the foreign company had a receptionist because they thought it was required by the office layout, and because they needed someone who spoke English to answer the phones. The only visitors I greeted my first month there were people who couldn’t find the ophthalmologists office down the hall. No one really interrupted my proofreading. It’s worth a look-see in my book

  25. schnauzerfan*

    I’ve been at our library for 30 years… in all that time we’ve never hired anyone for a “back room” position. Always front line. When we have a back room opening there’s always at least one person on staff interested, so they move back and their front line job is open… That may not be the case in all libraries, but that’s the case in ours.

    1. Aisling*

      That’s not the case in my library. We hire for the skills we need, no matter where the position will be located.

  26. Ramona Flowers*

    This letter has cleared up a mystery for me: for a long time I’ve been wondering why I seem so much better at coping with interruptions and refocusing afterwards. It’s because I’ve worked reception.

    I just want to say that this is something you can improve on with time and experience – if you start a reception job without being great at this, it doesn’t mean you’ll never improve.

  27. Chris Hogg*

    There are interviews and there are interviews … and there are interviewers who know what it’s all about and tell the truth, and there are interviewers who, well, you know. It would be best, as suggested above, to go to the interview(s) if given the opportunity, but to also absolutely talk to one or two people who have the job now, and to observe them at work for an hour or two, and to also find one or two folks outside the library who are doing similar work and talk to / observe them. Some (most) of this can be done before the interview (go into the library and talk / observe), and then compare what the interviewer says to your prior conversations and observations.

    Also, my wife is a professional librarian with over 30 years’ experience, and I’m sure she would tell you there are great jobs and not so great jobs in a library (she’s worked in three, both public and private), as with almost any career we find ourselves in.

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