Further Questions: Does Current Employment Status Matter to You?

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

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

How much does current employment status matter to you?

Laurie Phillips

I don’t think it has to matter at all. We hire people who are just graduating. A person’s current employment can often make it more difficult for them to interview, but we’ve tried to be accommodating. Also, I would caution job seekers to make sure that they can generalize from their current situation and not get too caught up with how they’ve always done things.

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

Emilie SmartI really only look at current employment status if the candidate has been unemployed for a while — mostly because I wonder what they’ve been doing. More important to me is employment history — where have they worked; how long did they work there; what kind of work did they do. Have they done a lot of job-hopping? Have their jobs lasted more than 1 year? Less then 1 year?
I interview a lot of entry level people so I want to know if they have even held a job before. People fresh out of library school who have never worked are often a risk — especially if the job I have requires that they supervise.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Melanie Lightbody
Current employment status doesn’t make any difference to me, especially in this economy. Very qualified people have been let go due to budget cuts. Some other library’s loss may be my gain.
– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County
Marleah Augustine
I like to know about current employment status, just to get an idea of the experience the candidate has, as well as a timeline for hiring, but it’s more just informational rather than something that matters to the hiring process.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
J. McRee Elrod
Not at all.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Samantha Thompson-FranklinWhen reviewing a candidate’s application, the person’s current employment status doesn’t matter to me, whether they are employed part-time, full-time or unemployed. However, if there is a/are significantly long gap(s) in their employment history that is unexplained (either in their resume or cover), then I may consider that a red flag and I will discuss it with the other members of the search committee as to how to proceed in the review process of that candidate’s application. We won’t necessarily rule that person out as a suitable candidate but it can raise some concern.
– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library
Nicola FranklinWhether an applicant is currently employed in a full time, permanent, position, in a contract or temporary role, or is unemployed and seeking work, can have an influence on a hirer’s decision making process.

Whatever the truth of the situation, employers like to play things safe. Rightly or wrongly, they feel that someone who is currently employed, and who has significant tenure in their current post, is more likely to be either more highly skilled and/or more able to get along with co-workers effectively.

Even more important is the pattern of employment over the years.  Employers tend to focus on whether an applicant has held down a few long-term permanent jobs, or has only had one or two full time roles and spent much of their career in short-term contracts.

There can be a tendency to wonder why those people who have worked a lot of temporary roles, but who are seeking a permanent position, haven’t been able to find one earlier.  Of course some people make a choice of contracting and temporary positions as a lifestyle choice, valuing the chance to take breaks between assignments.  However someone in that position wouldn’t normally be applying for a full time permanent position.

The other common reason for having a period of temporary and contract roles is following a lay off or redundancy.  This is especially true at the moment, and also occurred to large numbers of people in the 1989-91 recession and, to a lesser extent, when the 2001 dot com bubble burst.  Some employers are happy to accept that temping in those situations is a positive, proactive measure to keep skills current and avoiding the temptation to sit at home on the sofa watching TV!  Others, however, take a harder line and feel that this process sorts the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and the best employees will get quickly re-hired even in a slow economy.

My advice in times of unemployment would be to do something – ideally temporary or contract work directly related to your normal role, or otherwise temporary work in a related field, or other work (eg retail) that uses transferrable skills (eg customer service), or even voluntary work (whether library related or for a charity or school body, etc).  Keeping busy, learning new skills along the way, and putting all your activity on your resume or CV, is the key to getting back into a ‘proper job’.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
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.

If you’re reading this, the world hasn’t ended!  Yet!  So take a breath, leave a commament.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

6 responses to “Further Questions: Does Current Employment Status Matter to You?

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