Further Questions: Why Is It Taking So Long?

This week I asked people who hire librarians to share anything they cared to about their hiring timelines, more specifically:

What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take?  What are the factors that can lengthen the process?  Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application?

Laurie PhillipsOn the different stages: First we develop the job description, search plan, and advertisements. That all has to be approved by the Dean and the Provost. When it is approved, we advertise in the Chronicle, on ALA Jobs, with library schools, and a few other places for about 4 weeks. We take about a week to review applications after the application deadline then meet to go through the applications together and decide who to phone/Skype interview. We take a week to phone and Skype, then use reference checks to make final decisions about who to bring to campus. Checking references also takes a week or so. At that point, we decide who to invite to campus (usually no more than 3 candidates). We contact them and give them a choice of dates – usually over a 2-3 week period starting two weeks from when we contact them (enough time to arrange travel). We usually meet within the week of the last candidate’s visit to decide on the successful candidate, with input from the Dean. Once we get the go-ahead from the Dean and the Provost’s office, we can make an offer.

On factors that lengthen the process: Availability/schedule of committee members, quirks of the spring academic/New Orleans calendar (Mardi Gras, Easter break, festivals, etc.).

On checking application status: If you need to know if you’re still a contender, then do, but it won’t make a difference. If we haven’t contacted you within a reasonable timeframe, you probably haven’t made it to the next round. Academic searches do take time, but we move fairly quickly through the stages once we get going. I had a candidate contact me before the application deadline to find out if the job had been filled. That indicates a completely lack of understanding of how academic searches work (and I had personally emailed each applicant to say that we would be reviewing applications after the deadline). I am currently right in the middle of campus visits and have had several emails from unsuccessful candidates. At this point, we aren’t going to change our minds and it’s a hassle for me to have to respond, but I understand the candidate’s anxiety about the process.

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


Since we hire on the basis of successful submission of MARC records, the major controlling factor is the time the candidate takes to complete the records.  Questions about how to prepare the records, which show a lack of knowledge concerning MARC coding, are a negative sign.  Our workload may at times slow sending of sample PDFs for cataloguing, and review of records, which we regret.   Little is to be gained by follow up in less than a month.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging


Colleen HarrisUpon an opening, the Library’s Management Council and any interested parties attend a meeting to discuss the open position, the needs of the library, and whether we want to do a straight refill of the position or change it to a different position. This can take up to four weeks.  Then we’re dependent on HR to sign off on the job posting, and it is posted for at least a week (staff) and usually 3-4 weeks (particularly for faculty librarian positions). At that point, the committee goes through the applications using a rubric to score each one and determine top candidates. That rubric, and the recommendations for the top candidates to phone interview, go to our dean and our Office of Equity and Diversity.

We phone interview anywhere from six to eight candidates per position; though they are 30 minute phone calls, they tend to stretch out over a week or three depending on travel schedules of committee members and trying to get a maximum number of committee members scheduled to attend, since we all have busy calendars. After that, again, a rubric is used to rank the candidates, which is sent to our dean and OED, with a recommendation for the top three candidates to invite to campus.

Interviews – once we get the okay from the dean and OED, we like to schedule them to give candidates at least a week and a half to two weeks to prepare (it’d be unfair to tell them they have to give us a 45 minute presentation, and that we’ll fly them in tomorrow). We have to schedule around vacations of important folks like the dean, committee chair, etc., and we try to get all three candidates (it’s usually three) in within a week or week and a half of each other. We solicit feedback from everyone via anonymous survey, the committee meets to hash things out, and the recommendation goes to the dean.

At that point, things become dependent on HR – we pass up our selections and reasoning, HR and the OED office sign off that there’s been no shady business or discrimination based on the justifications we give for each candidate, our dean makes a verbal offer, then things have to go “up the hill” to HR and University upper administration to be signed off on, which can take 2-3 weeks.

Only once all those signatures have been obtained is the contract letter written and sent to the candidate. Only once we get the signed letter back from the candidate do we inform  applicants that the job has been closed – this is why it can take so long to hear back if you haven’t been selected to interview.

We are one of the faster academic libraries I’ve worked at in terms of hiring, and it’s still a process that takes months. Take heart if you’re on the job hunt that because of this, being on the job search for a year or two is not at all out of the ordinary if you’re looking to work in an academic library.

– Colleen  S. Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor, Lupton Library,University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Terry Ann LawlerOur municipality has a very lengthy process with regards to hiring.  On the back end, we have a long process involving lists of people who have applied in the past and are in a ‘pool’.  On the front end (where you care about it) the process is still fairly lengthy.
From interview day to actual start day can be over a month.  Because I have to justify the person I wish to hire, then call references, then ask for official permission to hire then finally contact the person and offer the job, it can take up to 2 weeks just to notify people that DIDN’T get the job.
There are times when I have started that process and for some reason had to back away from that candidate and go with a 2nd choice (so you can see why I don’t notify those who weren’t chosen first).   When that happens, it can add another 2 weeks to the process.
I understand that this can be very frustrating for hopefuls and I try to be as honest as possible about how long it will take me to contact someone.  But, knowing that the times can vary makes this hard to really do accurately.
Checking the status of your application can be tricky with my city as well.  Getting in the hiring pool gives you an automatic notification that your application has been accepted.  On the one hand, once you’re in the pool, anyone can call you for an interview when we have an opening.  That’s great news.  On the other hand, I might not have an opening for 6 months.  Not so good news.

Once you have actually had the interview, really it is just best to wait till you get notified.  If another job comes up and you really need a yes or no right away, then call the hiring supervisor and ask directly.  Otherwise, sit tight and once I jump through all of my organization’s flaming hoops, I’ll contact you.

– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library


Marge Loch-WoutersHiring Stages:

Accept applications (up to 2 months)

Winnow down to a top 20 (1 week)

Send essay questions (1 month)

Winnow down to a top 10 (1 week)

Brief skype interview with outside candidates (1 week)

Winnow down to 4-6 for final interview (1 week)

Reference Check 3 -7 days (depends on references availability)

Candidate offered position and subsequent negotiation or, if turned down, reaching out to next candidate for same – 1-2 weeks)

Emails out to non-successful candidates – 1 day

 Lengthening Factors:

Availability of primary manager (holidays/vacation/professional conference and meeting commitments all lengthen the search timeline)

Need to widen the pool of applicants or extend the application deadline if candidate pool doesn’t fit job

Having offers rejected and going down the line of candidates

Notification of non-consideration to ALL candidates is held until the job is finally filled

 When should candidates check:

If they have another job offer but prefer your institution

 What would be kind of us as hiring institution:

Sending a quick email update saying that the job search is still in process 6 weeks; 8 weeks; 10 weeks after the deadline

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library


Thank you to my interviewees!

Please do share your own stories about hiring timelines in the comments – were you hired after six months of not hearing anything, for example, or are you a hiring manager who has to get six different signatures before sending an offer letter?  I’m interested in both applicant wait times and hiring librarians’ “flaming hoops.”
(By the way, if you are someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at HiringlibrariansATgmail.  It is a very minimal infringement on your time, with no particular commitment for weekly participation on your part.)



Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

5 responses to “Further Questions: Why Is It Taking So Long?

  1. Very useful behind-the-scenes info here! I just shared this with the Palmer School students and graduates (and others).


  2. Thank you for sharing this information! I’m on the job hunt and the whole waiting game gives me such anxiety. Now that I know its not as scary any more.


  3. Rosa

    I have worked in academe and academic libraries for almost 30 years, and I have never seen an academic search take less than 6 months, from start to finish, and sometimes more … I’m sure there are instances where hires are completed faster, but I haven’t run into them. I know it’s frustrating to applicants, but please don’t fear that the fact that a process takes a while means you didn’t get the job.


  4. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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