Further Questions: How does the initial selection work?

Here’s the first in a series of six great questions posed by a reader.

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Who does your first round of sorting/selecting applicants for interviews (a computer/an HR professional/you/someone else…)? Is there generally a fixed number of applicants selected for the initial round  or does it depend on the position, the pool of applicants, or something else entirely?

Laurie Phillips

Because librarians are faculty here, HR does not receive the applications. They are sent directly to the chair of the search committee. The search committee has a rubric by which the members evaluate the applications. Each application must have all of the required qualifications and usually one of the desired to be an A application. The committee meets to go through the applications one by one and assigns Yes, Maybe, and No to each application. The Yes applications are narrowed to the number of candidates who will be phone/Skype interviewed..

- Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Hopefully I can share some insight into how this process works at the majority of staffing firms. Usually selection at a recruitment agency is a two stage process. The first selection occurrs when a candidate initially sends in their resume (by email or by uploading it via a web portal). This selection is usually carried out by a recruitment consultant scanning the resume (and cover letter/email, if there is one), to screen out anyone who clearly doesn’t have any library/records experience, qualification or relevance. I’ve had teachers, plumbers, and today a welder…
The second part of this stage, with many agencies, is a telephone screening call. Different agencies have different policies – some will register everyone who applies who has some relevant experience/qualification, while others will screen out any who don’t pass the telephone pre-screen – that would generally be candidates with poor communication skills but could also include those with unrealistic expectations (in terms of salary for their level of experience, for example) or who don’t meet other criteria the agency has decided to apply.
Once a candidate is registered with a staffing agency, the second selection takes place when a consultant has a job vacancy and searches through the database to find candidates who are a good match, in order to contact them to see if they are interested. That search is often an automated one, using either codes generated when the database file was created or keywords from within the CV/resume (or a combination of the two).
In order to make sure that your details are amongst those retrieved during this second selection process, it is important to make sure you include all the relevent keywords. For example putting “familiar with a range of online subscription sources” isn’t much help when a recruiter is searching their database for instances of the words ‘Factiva’ or ‘Lexis Nexis’!
I have noticed that many candidates leave recruiters and hirers to make assumptions from their resume – “I’ve worked for x years as a Librarian in y kind of organisation – so it’s obvious I can do inquiries, cataloguing, acquisitions, or whatever’. Well to the database search engine it isn’t obvious, and resumes like this rarely come up in searches. Consequently those candidates find they don’t often get calls about vacancies.
It is important to remember that a recruiter may interview 10-15 people a week, every week. After a few months it becomes impossible to remember all those people – so a database search is really the only practical way to make sure that more than 1 or 2 weeks most recent applicants get a chance. Making sure your resume is searchable, for the types of skills you want to use in your next job, is therefore very important.
- Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
We’ve no HR department.  I as director do the first contact.  A quality control librarian does the final selection based on quality of sample records.
- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Emilie SmartIn our system, all applications  go through our City HR office.  When we put in a staffing requisition, HR pulls the appropriate applications, grades them (using unknown criteria), and sends us names.  Sometimes they send us 5 names, sometimes 3 names —  you never really know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes (too often) they send us the same names over and over even though we’ve passed over the people multiple times.
We’re not really sure what drives the number of names we receive, nor do we fully understand the grading criteria that is used.
- Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Marge Loch-WoutersWe are a fairly small shop (public library serving a 51K population). Each manager handles the initial sorting for positions they are hiring for. The process is adaptable depending on the number of applications the different managers receive for any job opening.
We usually have a huge pool of applicants for youth services jobs – the area I hire in. Once I have a top pool of fifteen to twenty-five candidates, I send them essay questions. This helps us narrow the pool further to 8-10 applicants. Some managers go directly to interviews. I usually have an additional Skype interview before final interviews to narrow the field to a final 4. It helps me get a first read on the candidate and helps me see how they will potentially fit with our existing team of five other professionals in the department. Our final interviews (and essay reading) is usually done with a team of interviewers (usually managers). By the end of this ordeal..oh, ahem, I mean process…we usually have found the match that works great for the library and the successful applicant!
- Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Dusty Snipes GresFor me it depends upon the position and the pool of applicants. I do read every resume – even the ones on flowered, scented stationery printed using a fancy hard-to-read type font with my name spelled wrong on the cover letter.

If there are a lot of applicants I will submit to each one (if they meet the basic job requirements) a set of questions concerning the job, sort of a pre-interview. Then I will narrow the search from there and usually interview at least three. I have had occasions where the pool was so small that I called all applicants for an interview. If it is necessary I will do a first interview via web/online.

The last opening I had, 18 months ago, I had 3 applicants and only 2 met any of the job requirements. That was a shock! We ended up having the position taken away from us because we couldn’t fill it. We cannot convince folks that living 90 miles from the nearest mall doesn’t mean that life has come to an end.

- Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Melanie LightbodyAny regular full time or part time position must go through HR first. There is no set limit of applicants who can be accepted. We’re a Merit system county. Everything is prescribed and by the book. Only those meeting the basic qualifications will progress. It is a very fair system, I think.

For extra help, it is a much more informal process. In fact, I’ve several times seen the progress from volunteer to extra help to regular employee.

- Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Marleah AugustineI do the first round of sorting when I am doing the hiring. I usually go through the applications and narrow it down to those to contact for interviews. For each position, I like to have about five interviews. Sometimes every application looks great and I want to interview them all; sometimes the initial round of applications just isn’t enough and I leave the position open for a bit longer.
- Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Petra MauerhoffUsually *I* do the first round of looking through applicants, because they are usually addressed to my attention, but then I pass the whole stack on to the manager who will be supervising the position and s/he gets to pick candidates who will be interviewed. The number of candidates we decide to interview depends on the overall number of applications as well as the qualifications of the pool of applicants. If we are not sure if there is anyone who REALLY fits the position, we will interview a few more people to make sure we get the one who fits best.
- Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
Paula HammetIn our academic library we have a search committee of 3-5 librarians. The management of the responses to the search is done by our campus Faculty Affairs office, which sends out the acknowledgements of apps, and the letters at the end of the process. The search committee draws up a list of criteria (based an on the position announcement), and a list of questions, based on the criteria.  The questions and criteria have to be approved by Faculty Affairs before the search committee can get access to the applications. [Hint to applicants: read the position announcement carefully!]
The applications are reviewed by all members of the search committee individually, then we meet together to draw up our list of 6-10 semi-finalists (the number varies depending on the position and the number of qualified applications we receive). We typically do short phone interviews with the semi-finalists before narrowing our choices to 3 (rarely more) candidates to invite to campus for a day-long interview.
In the last few searches we’ve done, we have been blessed with strong pools of candidates.  That can make it more difficult to sort through the apps to find the candidates who really stand out as having the specific skills and talents we are looking for (and maybe some we didn’t even know we needed!). Once the committee agrees on a candidate, and a back-up, we discuss our recommendations with the Dean, who will then make an offer.
There are a lot of talented librarians out there looking for work! We usually are really excited about the people we invite to campus, and it can often be a difficult decision to decide on the “right” one to whom to offer the job.
- Paula Hammett, Librarian at Sonoma State University
Samantha Thompson-FranklinOur campus policy for all searches is to have all applications for a position be sent directly to our HR Dept. where they make sure that the applicant has submitted all of the required documents. The applications are then sent on to the chair of the search committee for review by the committees members. If an application is missing any required documents, then those applications will be flagged as incomplete, but the committee chair will still receive the application and the chair and the committee members are free to make their own decision on whether or not to review the application or wait until more documents are received and the application is complete. Each search committee makes its own decision as to how many applications they will select for an initial round of interviews (usually phone interviews initially). Sometimes it depends upon how many applications are received for a position, but usually the initial round of interviews will include about 7-8 applicants.
- Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundWe are a medium sized library and when we post a good job (full-time with benefits) we will get between 30 and 40 applicants. The process for interviewing and hiring is slightly different for our lower level positions. Pages, substitutes and hourly employees are selected by the person who will directly supervise them.

We don’t have an “HR professional” on staff so the department managers and I conduct the interviews. Typically I let the direct supervisor or manager sort through the applications and pick out about 10 we might want to interview. As director, I then go through that smaller pool and identify those that we will interview. We do not have a set number of candidates we want to interview. It depends on the importance of the job and the size of the candidate pool.

In the case of full-time employees I participate equally with the manager of the department in the actual interview, but I make the final call on who will be offered the position. We work from a set list of questions so all candidates are asked the same questions and we take turn asking the questions. Generally we talk a bit about each candidate right after the interview, but do a more thorough review after all the interviews are completed.

- Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  Are you feeling kind of zen?  I hope you’ll leave a calmment.

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7 Comments

Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Recruiters, Rural area, Youth Services

7 responses to “Further Questions: How does the initial selection work?

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