Further Questions: When and How Should an Applicant Check-In?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

After submitting an application, when and how is it appropriate for the applicant to check in with you? If they haven’t heard back within a week? Two weeks? Should they call? Email? Drop in?

Laurie Phillips

Assuming the applicant has heard from me that the application has been received, he or she should not follow up before the closing date. The committee generally doesn’t even meet (other than to develop criteria for reviewing applications) before the closing date. After that, there is a general plan for Skype/phone interviews, checking references, and campus interviews. Contacting me will usually not influence the committee one way or another, although I may be able to tell them where we are in the process. I prefer email to phone or dropping in. I don’t generally have a lot of time to return phone calls and if a candidate dropped in, there is no guarantee that I’ll be available.

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

Marleah AugustinePeople often submit applications at times that we are not actively hiring. In those cases, there is really not a great time frame for checking back in, because when they call, we may still not be hiring. We always let people know that we keep the applications on file for 6 months and that’s the first place we’ll look when we have an opening and start hiring. If we are actively hiring when an application is submitted, I tell people the specific date that I plan to hire someone — “I hope to fill the position by May 15” — so that gives them a better idea about when to check in.After an interview, I always try to give the applicant a time frame as to when I will contact them — usually something like “We hope to have a decision made by Friday, so plan to hear from us on Monday”.
I prefer a check-in by phone or email.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Do not check in unless there is some question about the delivery of the application. If they are mailing an application, they should mail it return receipt requested. I always get back to people, or have the management agency get back to people.
– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Emilie SmartIn our system, applications are submitted to the City’s HR dept. and we don’t know anything about application status until we’ve requested a list of candidates.  If other governmental HR departments are like ours, applicants are told that their applications will be scored when needed and there is no point in contacting anyone until you are called to set up an interview.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Donald LickleyIf you made a direct application for a specific job, one week after the advertised application deadline is a reasonable time to enquire either by email or phone (or an email followed up by a phone call) if you haven’t heard anything. When there is a formal timetable for recruitment including an advertised application deadline, the interview date may also have been set in advance. If you’re lucky this too will appear on the job notice, which will give you a good idea of when to expect a response.

Many of the roles that we handle as a recruitment agency have more flexible timetables. Some clients will be happy to see a range of CVs/resumés over a period of weeks (or even months!), and will schedule interviews as and when suitable candidates are put forward. We ensure that our candidates are kept informed at every stage of this process. How quickly we get updated by our clients varies enormously, and this can depend on a whole range of factors from changing budgets and/or business objectives, to the availability of recruiting managers. They are only human after all, and go on vacation, or get sick, or get diverted into other projects at short notice, all of which can delay the recruitment process.

If you have applied for work speculatively to an organisation, again, it is reasonable to wait one or two weeks before following up with further communication. Whether you do this via email, phone or a personal visit will really depend on the individual organisation.

Having said all that, there are two types of recruiter: those who reply to unsuccessful job applicants and give feedback, and those who do not and never will. If a job notice says words to the effect of ‘If you haven’t heard within two weeks then assume you’re unsuccessful’, the likelihood is that you won’t hear back unless you’re being invited to an interview. This may be harsh, but at least you know where you stand.

– Donald Lickley, Recruitment Consultant, Sue Hill Recruiting

Randall SchroederIt is a question I have wondered about myself while I am a job seeker. It is an uncomfortable position since one does not know how the other person is going to react. Sometimes I have received kind and candid responses. Sometimes I have been blown off. Will an inquiry about status hurt one’s chances? It shouldn’t. If it does, do you want to work at a place where asking questions is discouraged?

So when I am on the other side of the table as a member of a search committee, I try, as best as one can, to give the candidates an accurate idea of when they should expect an answer. If I cannot keep that promise within a week or so, candidates are always welcome to call or e-mail. My preference would be an e-mail so I can answer when it is easy to do so, but I would never not talk to someone on the phone. Nor would I discount their candidacy for contacting me unless it went over the top, like showing up in my office every other day.

I do know, however, that is not a universally held position, especially in academe. I believe we have a professional obligation to not let people hang, but committees get busy during the course of a school year. People leave for breaks, conferences, etc. and it can be hard to get together.

Having said all that, I always tell job applicants that the mills of academe grind slowly. Be patient. But if you can’t stand it, call or e-mail and I will let you know what I can tell you at the moment. My only request is that courtesy will get you courtesy.

– Randall Schroeder, Department Head of Public Services, Ferris Library for Information, Technology & Education

Marge Loch-Wouters“Don’t call me; I’ll call you” is my preferred method. After our application deadline, I really can’t say much to an inquiry other than that we are still making decisions. All candidates who haven’t received an initial “No thank you” note remain viable for the position for almost the whole post-application period until interviews. For us, because we ask for essay questions and often a skype interview before final candidates are invited for an in-person interview, the process can be an excruciating two-three months. So getting inquiries isn’t helpful to a person’s candidacy and feels like nagging.

While we appreciate that this is an awful waiting period for an applicant, we are working hard on our end shepherding applicants through our process and it takes time. We always hope candidates continue to actively seek other opportunities.

The one exception I would make on this is if a candidate wants to drop a quick note with a bit more information about themselves (for instance, an additional class or volunteer work or project taken on germane to the position) and why they remain interested in this position. This may continue to strengthen a strong candidate’s bona fides if done sincerely. Just popping in with an email to say “Hi” though won’t help much.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) 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 contact me.

Thank YOU for reading!  

I comment in the morning and in the afternoon.  I comment in the evening, underneath the moo-oo-oo-n.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

2 responses to “Further Questions: When and How Should an Applicant Check-In?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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