This interview is with Brittany Turner, who is the Records Manager/Special Projects Librarian with the Shreve Memorial Library and also works as a consultant focusing primarily in the area of cultural heritage protection. Previously, Brittany worked as Project Coordinator for “To Preserve and Protect: Security Solutions for New York’s Historical Records” at the New York State Archives and Village Clerk for the Village of New Paltz, NY. Brittany received her Master’s in Public Administration through the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York at Albany, and her MLIS in 2012 from the University of Alabama (Online Cohort).
Ms. Turner has been hired within the last two months, but prior to that was job hunting for a year to 18 months, looking in Academic libraries, Archives, Public libraries, School libraries, and Special libraries, at the following levels: Entry level, Requiring at least two years of experience, Supervisory, Department Head, Senior Librarian, Branch Manager, and Director/Dean. She is in a city/town in the Southern US, and was willing to move:
within specific regions which may be expanded for the right position.
Ms. Turner is active in a number of professional organizations, including the SAA Security Roundtable and RBMS Security Committee. She is also the 2011 recipient of the Donald Peterson Student Scholarship award.
What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?
Professional, challenging work. Salary that corresponds to my qualifications. Generous benefits.
Where do you look for open positions?
EVERYWHERE. LinkedIn, Facebook, Professional Organizations and Associations, USA Jobs, Craigslist, [INSERTREGION]helpwanted.com, Monster, JobFox, Individual Organizations, ReWork, State Employment Websites, etc. The most helpful resource I’ve found is INALJ.
Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?
√ Other: Yes, I expect to, and no, it’s rarely there.
What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?
It depends on the position. When I’m applying through an automated site like USAJobs, it takes about 3-4 hours to set up the initial application. After that, depending on the length of the questionnaire, it’s about 15 to 20 minutes on average. That being said, the chance of getting a Federal job right now without Veteran’s preference is slim-to-none, so I know those are unlikely prospects and the quick prep time means everyone else can send many blanket applications, too.
For specific opportunities through other outlets, it varies. Although almost all Universities seem to be using the same database framework, the huge majority are not accessing a centralized applicant database. Filling out that tedious, time consuming form over and over usually has me reassessing how much I’m interested in the job halfway through, and I finish those applications about 50-75% of the time. Sure, the University is able to screen applicants automatically that way, but they may also be missing out on highly qualified candidates who don’t really want to deal with the BS for the millionth time.
In the case of an email application, I’ll spend a few minutes customizing one of my “stock” cover letters, attach one of my stock resumes/CVs, and add any additional resources that might be useful or required. I’ll rarely create something new to support an application, and I think my use of an eportfolio helps provide additional resources and samples if the employer is looking to see examples of deliverables.
I am shocked at the number of employers who still require paper applications and will only apply for these positions if it’s an excellent opportunity, despite my major concerns regarding the bigger implications of the use of paper applications. It’d definitely be a specific question I ask during any interview, since it really reflects on the health and philosophy of the organization as a whole.
I’ll also complete paper applications if I’m trying to make a point. The position I recently accepted had a paper application; it was worth the hassle, but one of the first things I hope to do is assist with the transition to a web-based application systems. The only other paper application I’ve completed in recent memory was done so in an attempt to highlight how ridiculous the practice was, as the position was with a large library system that frankly should’ve known better. I printed the application. Then, in the miniscule blank spaces where I was supposed to indicate my responsibilities, accomplishments, etc. (essentially, resume), I literally cut-and-pasted QR codes that corresponded to the appropriate position in my digital resume. I didn’t get the job, and I didn’t expect to, but hopefully the employer got the point. Any medium-to-large library or library system that truly believes paper applications are appropriate is majorly limiting their pool of potential candidates, and not in a good way. It’s a major red flag.
Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?
When would you like employers to contact you?
√ To acknowledge my application
√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ To follow-up after an interview
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me
How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?
Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?
√ Tour of facility
√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers
√ Meeting with HR to talk about benefits/salary
What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?
Web-based applications that do not require applicants to fill out the same generic database for the zillionth time. Please just allow upload of resume or CV in lieu of filling out the fields. Actively recruiting candidates who meet their needs rather than sending out an announcement and hoping for the best. Working directly with professional organizations and academic programs to identify strong matches. Sharing the announcement beyond their own website.
Inclusion of accurate, likely salary and benefit information in the announcement (not just “commensurate with experience” or “$10,000 to $100,000 per year, DOE” or “generous benefits package”) is a must. Candidates understand that there will always be some flexibility, but at least help them help you. While it’s true that seasoned professionals will be able to weed out some unlikely prospects by evaluating the position descriptions alone, in a difficult job market many will be looking to expand their search beyond positions that show upward momentum. When you’re transparent about your budget, it increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to attract candidates with an even richer skill set than that required in your job description. Although intentionally withholding salary information may be ethical, it isn’t really helping you or your candidates. We don’t want to waste your time by applying for a position that we could never possibly accept; please don’t waste our time by asking highly qualified candidates to apply for a position that’s advertised as professional yet pays minimum wage. Be upfront – if your position description and stated salary range aren’t generating the volume or quality of applications you hoped for, it’s likely a problem with you and not the applicants.
What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?
Open, honest communications. Each employer understandably expects a customized application package, regardless of the fact that many applicants are screening and/or applying for literally hundreds of positions every week, . Please take the time to offer the same level of customization in return; if another candidate “better met [your] needs,” explain why. This may not be feasible for every applicant, but it should be within reach for interviewed candidates at a minimum. I know, some HR attorney is balking, but not only is it a matter of courtesy, it may also help to provide guidance to job seekers looking to improve their skills, enhancing the overall quality of applicants within the profession and making it more likely that candidates will reapply to your organization with a stronger package in the future. The excuse that each employer receives billions of applications and they can’t possibly take the time to provide an individual response to each one is bogus. No one works harder than someone who is unemployed and struggling to find meaningful work. Applicants can do it, and so should you (within reason; obviously no one expects you to tell John Doe that he wasn’t hired because he clearly hadn’t bathed in three weeks).
Similarly, and this is a little one, please respond to the applicant via the medium they used to apply. If you require paper applications, you need to send a paper response. If you require email applications, send an email response. Either way, though, at least send a response in some form! It would also be helpful if your announcement and/or application confirmation included contact information for whatever staff member is responsible for monitoring the progress of your search. Sometimes, an applicant may be faced with an offer but hasn’t yet heard back from their dream job; since so many employers don’t acknowledge us at all, you may have lost your dream employer to another organization simply because they had no way to verify whether you’d selected another candidate or even started interviews yet. It also ensures that the clever few who figure out the who’s who of your organization are contacting the appropriate person in HR rather than supervisors or search committee members.
If you’re contacting an applicant for the first time, please do so via email and not phone. If an applicant has applied for hundreds of positions, no matter how special you are or how special you think you should be, they probably won’t be able to remember your organization let alone the details of the position off the top of their heads. Don’t set applicants up to make a sub-par first impression this way. Contact them via email, and reference not only your organization but also the specific position, linking to the announcement if possible. Not only have we applied for lots and lots of vacancies, but we probably also applied to multiple openings within your own organization. Be as specific as possible to make our work a little easier. The last thing a job seeker wants to do after being contacted for an interview is to root through hundreds of near-identical emails and announcements to figure out which one it’s for.
Recognize that this is a relationship. Sure, you have a lot at stake in selecting a new employee, but so does the employee. That relationship needs to be mutually beneficial, adaptable to change, and able to embrace compromise. If one party is giving significantly more, while the other is taking significantly more, guess what? That’s an unhealthy, potentially abusive relationship. Don’t set the stage for major problems later on. Treat your prospective employees with the respect, understanding, and flexibility they deserve, and you’ll benefit from the same in the future.
What do you think is the secret to getting hired?
Be thorough and be fast. Churn applications out as quickly as you can. Develop tough skin. Be willing and immediately prepared to relocate. Make friends with your browser’s auto-fill. Use INALJ. Avoid all the boring “attention to detail” buzzwords and catchphrases, especially if your resume is loaded with typos and inconsistencies (which it shouldn’t be). Don’t lie or embellish; do highlight concrete, specific examples and accomplishments. Take the time needed to come up with one or two stellar stock cover letters, then make minor modifications to sell yourself for the specific position or organization.
Perhaps most importantly, be willing to work for (slightly) less than you’re worth, but recognize that you are exploring a new relationship. Look for extra benefits in the type of work you’ll be doing rather than compensation, but maintain some healthy skepticism. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. When your sacrifices start to significantly outweigh your benefits, it’s time to walk away. Don’t allow yourself to be blinded by your need for a job right now – you can take a miserable, low-pay, no-benefit, dead-end job anywhere, so avoid doing so in your chosen profession, especially if that decision is being made out of desperation. If the employer is asking too much of you without giving enough back, not only will you find yourself miserable and unemployed again in the future, but you may also have inadvertently marred your professional reputation moving forward. Work the register at a store to pay bills (customer service skills!), volunteer or intern to keep your skills fresh and networks growing (variety and versatility!), and keep applying for those professional positions until you’ve found the right one.
Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?
Thank you for doing this survey. I’ll be sharing it with others. Let me know if there’s any way I can help!
This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!