It’s pretty ridiculous to ask the candidate (who does not know the other candidates, unlike the employer) how they outrank people they’ve never met

President Roosevelt is now hunting in the Louisiana canebrakes. (LOC)This anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for six months to a year. This person is looking in academic libraries, library vendors/service providers, public libraries, special libraries, and non-profits in general, at the following levels: entry level and requiring at least two years of experience. Here is this person’s experience with internships/volunteering:

Volunteered for several years at a variety of libraries/library services providers doing a variety of things such as reader’s advisory, programming, fundraising, etc. Current job is also applicable in several ways (i.e., reference type questions, organizing information, knowledge management, etc. plus PR/marketing which everyone claims libraries really need and value) but employers seem to cross you off the list pretty quickly if you do not have something with “library” in the name on your job history (and not just volunteer history). Pretty frustrating, especially for the jobs that are supposed to be entry level. Also very narrow-minded of the field because they are missing out on good candidates who might bring some new life into the field by having a bit of a different perspective.

This job hunter is in a suburban area in the Northeastern US and is willing to move, but

for the most part only on the U.S. East coast — still a large number of states though!

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

– job responsibilities match my experience, skills, and expectations
– reasonable salary for the experience/expectations required
– location

Where do you look for open positions?

ALA, INALJ, grad school listserv, LinkedIn, AALL, Non-profit Times, word of mouth, etc.

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ No (even if I might think it *should* be)

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

Time range depends on how application must be submitted. If I can just submit a Word document or PDF, it’s most just modifying and pulling together what I’ve already culled in the past. Still probably about half an hour or so as I decide on the best language for this particular job and update my cover letter/resume to reflect that. Some employers have their own system, which requires you to copy and paste from your resume or something like that. Those take considerably more time.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

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?

√ Phone for good news, email for bad news

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?

1) List at least the salary range rather than “salary commensurate with experience and education.” Everyone knows that salaries may vary based on the candidate’s past but there’s no way that every job has an attached salary that is completely up in the air until someone is hired. Employers have a range in mind and they should list it instead of wasting everyone’s time. A potential candidate could ignore a job because they’re worried the pay is too low, or they may go through the entire interview process only to be told the salary and decide it’s too low, refusing the job and leaving the employer back to square one. On the flip side, some of us look at the salary and when we see it’s extraordinarily high, we can right off eliminate that job as one requiring a different skill set than our own. The employer wins by not getting unnecessary resumes from under-skilled candidates, saving them time and energy.
2) Likewise, it’s beyond annoyingly frustrating when employers don’t list a salary but instead ask YOU the candidate to tell them what you think the salary for this position should be. Again, they know what range they are willing and able to afford, so they should be upfront about this.
3) Again, on the same vein, when employers don’t list a salary for the job they are seeking to fill but then want you in your resume to tell them how much you currently making, which in many cases could be comparing apples to oranges (i.e., if you live in a different state, if you are currently in a different position or different type of organization such as a non-profit vs a for-profit). I don’t mind telling people my salary (I’m a state employee so it’s a matter of public record anyway) but I expect some reciprocity.
4) Candidates are going out of their way to appear professional and polite. Employers should do the same. I’ve had some employers be very abrupt during the interview process and one who was terse and almost angry during the interview (while her other colleagues were super nice). These kind of attitudes do not encourage the best candidates to follow through with their application. No one wants to work where people are rude from the get-go.
5) A few employers have not yet joined the 21st century and require snail mail applications. This is ridiculous. Set up a free gmail/yahoo/hotmail/what-have-you account for this purpose if you have no other e-mail option.
6) Some employers have their own application system, which makes the application process far more frustrating. For some, it’s simply uploading your cover letter and resume to a site instead of e-mail it, so it’s not a big deal. For others though, they require you to individual put in each past job, your degrees, etc. which is time consuming and frustrating when you already had a resume ready. So first off I advocate for a better system. If that’s not possible, employers should note in their job ad about their application system so a candidate does not waste their time writing a traditional cover letter/resume only to find that it is useless in the employer’s system.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

See above.
1) Also, many employers never acknowledge your resume whatsoever. A standard “your application was received” auto-reply when you submit via is a basic courtesy that EVERYone can extend.
2) If a candidate has taken time out of their schedule (including time that could have been spent looking for another job or working at their current one) to interview with an employer, it is beyond rude if that organization does not have the decency to follow up with some kind of notification, either via e-mail or phone, to say that the job has been filled by someone else (or they are pursuing other candidates instead) so that the candidate can stop wondering and move on. Also, basic courtesies like this and the one above leave people with a good impression of your company, leaving them willing to apply for another job in the future (rather than leaving a bad taste in their mouth), recommend your organization to a friend, and/or continuing to use the services of your organization (especially important for a for-profit organization). You basically never want to leave a candidate feeling like your company is rude or inept, because that hurts your brand reputation.
3) During interviews, many employers frequently ask “why are you the best person for this position?” This is pretty standard fair but it’s pretty ridiculous to ask the candidate (who does not know the other candidates, unlike the employer) how they outrank people they’ve never met who may indeed be more qualified than them. A better question is “what qualifications/skills/experience do you have that fit this job?” or something similar with the qualifier “best” in there.
4) Some employers pop surprises on you during the interview, like asking you to present or giving some kind of test of your skills. I understand that they have to weed out the good versus the bad, those that are telling the truth on their resume versus those that exaggerate or lie, and those that can think on their feet. But there are ways of doing this that feel like an employer looking for a good candidate and there are ways of doing this that feel like a professor shaming a bad student. Employers should always strive for the first. I’ve also had employers have me fill out my job history again when on site. This is not a huge deal but if I’ve already submitted my resume (which I’ve already done to get to the interview stage), then this is redundant and a waste of time.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

I wish I knew! Knowing the right people doesn’t hurt. Perhaps all those people who do exaggerate on their resumes, in interviews, etc. have the right idea but I could never do that.

Are you hunting for a new LIS job? Take the survey!

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!

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Filed under Job hunter's survey, Northeastern US, Suburban area

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