This week I asked people who hire librarians:
Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you on a social networking service (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, LibraryThing…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances?
What about in person (at a conference, etc)?
Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.
LinkedIn is a different type of social networking service, and I think if a candidate tried to connect with me there, I would consider linking with them. It’s a career-oriented site, so that is more appropriate. However, with all other social networking, I would feel uncomfortable with that and would not add them. I don’t think I’d count it against them, but I wouldn’t add them. At this point, I don’t friend my staff on Facebook unless they reach out to me first.
At a conference, I think connecting through a service like LinkedIn is valid, especially if you are not presently hiring but will be in the future and that person wants to be remembered. Social networks other than LinkedIn, however, just don’t seem appropriate to me. Too much of a personal emphasis and not enough of a professional connection.
- Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
On a social networking service: No it’s not. It’s really awkward because usually the people who want to connect with me are people who didn’t get the job. I’m not on Facebook but I would never connect socially with a candidate if I were. LinkedIn might work after the search if you really connected with someone in person but I will not connect with someone on LinkedIn whom I have not met.
In person(at a conference, etc.): Yes, I think that’s fine and perfectly appropriate. I have met with people who were interested in positions at my library to talk about the library’s philosophy and organization. That’s been helpful to both them and me.
- Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
I would be extremely put off if a candidate tried to “friend” me on facebook. I consider my facebook account for my personal use, mostly to share picture with close friends. The security settings alone should alert someone that I am NOT interested in publicly sharing information.My twitter account is anonymous and not associated with work, so I would like to think a candidate would not be able to find it, and if s/he started following our work twitter I would see that as a plus (i.e. s/he is trying to learn as much as possible about our organization).I would not have a problem with someone introducing himself to me at a conference or other event, to put a name to the face and to express interest. If it turned into obnoxious attempts at ingratiating himself, I would be annoyed.- Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
As an older person, both literally and, to some extent, in the field, I find social networking to be a two-edged sword. It’s clear to me that libraries need to use this way to connect with larger numbers of people, particularly young people. I also feel that everyone is entitled to a private life, and that should not necessarily mean avoiding social media.Meeting a candidate at a conference or other official function is very awkward (I speak from experience). They may be there with coworkers or supervisors who may or may not know they have applied for another job and both parties usually want to avoid even the appearance of favoritism or advantage. My experience seemed like a no win situation, I ended up avoiding the person for the first half of the conference, which seemed rude, and then trying to explain, which was not easy either.- Daveta Cooper, Library Manager,Technical Services, Benicia Public Library
It depends on the social network. I do not want to connect with candidates EVER on Facebook. I don’t connect with work people at all on FB and candidates are no different. If I get a request from a candidate on my personal FB account, I will be annoyed. Candidates are welcome to follow our library account on Twitter @cpdblibn. I almost always connect with people who send me a request on LinkedIn, but prefer that candidates refrain from sending me that request until after they have been hired. It won’t impress me and seems like a waste of time to suddenly decide I am worth a connection.
In person(at a conference, etc.): The same rules above will apply.
- Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
In person(at a conference, etc.): Fine. Conferences are for networking.
- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
On a social networking service:For me, this is a firm “NO!”. I feel the same way about phone calls. Really. Seriously. I’ll call/contact you. I don’t honor requests for links, friends, followers or etc from candidates (although anyone is free to peruse whatever I have out there online since I am doing the same for them!).
When I am contacted by phone or other means while the search is in process, it just means I have to have an uncomfortable conversation about where exactly the candidate stands. When they stand nowhere, it is particularly yucky. I think this is one of those situations where you wait for the interviewer to reach out.
Of course this may just be me and my own perceptions of being “pushed’ but I tend to err on the side of discretion here. If a candidate has strong credentials, references and presence, that should be enough to impress the search team.
In person(at a conference, etc.):This is still pretty uncomfortable if you don’t already have an existing relationship. A “hi” is fine. Beyond that, trust that the interviewer is well aware of the candidates at a conference/meeting. You can mutually observe a lot about the candidate/interviewer in these situations that will inform decisions further down the line in the search process.
- Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
This is an interesting question; I imagine you’ll get a range of responses. I happen to have a relatively high profile for social networking online, and I’ve leveraged it for my own career in terms of meeting librarians on twitter and Friendfeed and blogs, entering conversations, and even developing presentation pitches with folks I had never met in person. It’s been a wonderful way to broaden my perspective, to engage with libraryland outside of my own library’s walls, and keep abreast of issues across the profession. Because of my own experience, I encourage this sort of general engagement. (Side note: It is important to see where folks have their professional presence versus their personal presence – for instance, I’m pretty open about my presence on Friendfeed and Twitter as a professional; I rarely link out to my Facebook profile since I use that for friends and family. Horning in on someone’s personal space when you want to talk shop (specifically, how to work at their shop) is awkward and may not net you the cache you’re looking for.)
I think it’s important to note what you want to leverage networking for. (For instance, If you want to ask me about a specific job posting, email is the best place to do that. 140 characters on Twitter is not sufficient. If you want to engage me in conversation about the profession, just say “Hi I’m a librarian and found you, hello!” or want to share a link you might think is of interest, social networking is a great place to do that, and I recommend it. I also try to use it to send quick friendly messages like “I saw that new service/web site/article/awesome thing you made, great job!”)
In person at conferences, be cheerful, introduce yourself at will; that is what conferences are for. While “Do you have any jobs open?” isn’t inappropriate, it’s always much more of a conversation starter (and shows genuine interest and background work) if you can note “I noticed your library is doing interesting things X and Y! You must have a great team. Can you tell me about your work there, and what areas you might hire in for the future?” If you’re already a candidate, be friendly, but again, remember that te person may not be able to talk to you about the position or the process. Asking about the position itself is fine; moving into “Does everyone love my CV?” crosses a line.
IMPORTANT: online social networking tends to be casual – think about what kind of communication you want to have with the person – if they are the chair of the search committee, or you are a candidate for a job, you might not want them eyeballing your twitter stream if you also use it to complain about your work hours! Because of this, in terms of networking for a specific job, I prefer more formal communication like email. For candidates: You have to remember that contacting a prospective employer with an active search on social networks puts them in a bit of an awkward position – they are probably not allowed to talk about the search due to HR and legal issues. While I wouldn’t hesitate to follow the prospective employer if they have a public *and regularly used* Twitter account, I would recommend using it to follow what is going on at their library, but would not recommend Direct Messaging them about the position.
Short version: my recommendation is to use social networking to develop your presence in the profession and build your network, but as a candidate, stick to more formal means of communication to protect yourself, to prevent accidentally putting the hirer in a problematic situation, and to prevent awkwardness.
- Colleen S. Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor, Lupton Library,University of Tennessee at Chattanooga