Further Questions: Can you explain what “fit” is and why it is important in hiring a new employee?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Can you explain what “fit” is and why it is important in hiring a new employee?

In a happy sort of coincidence, the post today by our friends at INALJ was about fit as well. These thoughts are definitely worth checking out as well, especially since they are from the applicant side of the process. Click here for the post.

Laurie PhillipsI know that this is a really difficult issue for job applicants and really hard to address! That said – look for things in the ad or on the library’s website that address what type of organization it is and that will lead you to fit. For example, we are a medium-sized library at a private university. We have a flat-ish, team-based organization that is very collaborative. We all have our primary responsibilities and we all serve as liaisons, teach, and work at the library’s one service desk. As a candidate, do you understand what that means? Partly, that you’ll be involved in a lot of different aspects of library services. To work here, you need to be good at prioritizing your own work, taking leadership on your own projects, getting others involved. You need to understand what it means to work as a member of a team that includes both librarians and staff. You won’t need to push others to take part in your projects, but you’ll need to be respectful of others’ time and priorities. You’ll need to be able to reach out to faculty and students on your own while working with others to accomplish larger goals. We are a Jesuit university so we want faculty librarians who understand the goals of a Jesuit institution – care for the whole person, social justice. You can’t expect to move up the ladder at this kind of institution because the ladder doesn’t exist and work silos don’t exist. So if you come to an interview here, we will be gauging how much you a) understand all of that; b) embrace all of that; and c) would thrive in this kind of environment. So to more succinctly answer the question – what kind of organization is it, what do they value, and how would you fit in and thrive in that organization? We spend a lot of time and effort on hiring and mentoring new people. If they don’t work out, it’s a waste of all of our time. That’s why it’s important.

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

Melanie LightbodyI think everyone will have different definitions of “fit” but here is mine:  Fit is that combination of skills, abilities and personality which allow a candidate to slip into an already working team and enhance it.

Frankly, at the point in which I’m strongly considering two or three candidates as finalists for a position, fit is the most important factor for me.  I have found it true that when you get into a finalist round, every candidate is capable of doing the job.  It is more about whether what they have to offer will fit best with what is already in place.  As an example, a children’s librarian might have all the skills necessary to be competent but he or she comes across as, say, not willing to give team credit for accomplishing tasks or not able to contribute to our social media presence, then that person is not a “fit.”  I try to make sure that a candidates colleagues or co-workers get a chance to at least meet our finalists.

– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Celia RabinowitzIt might be useful to say what “fit” is not.  For me “fit” does not necessarily mean looking for a new employee who will be a carbon copy of the librarians already in our organization.  One of the benefits of hiring is to add diversity in all its forms including personality, talent, and ideas.  My experience is all in smaller libraries at liberal arts colleges.  In order for us to accomplish goals, work collaboratively, and to really benefit from that diversity we need to “feel” that we share a mission and commitment.  So if we interviewed a candidate who clearly valued research over teaching and working with students we would think seriously about whether that person would be a good fit for us.

This process is not always very scientific.  Sometimes a cover letter or phone interview will provide enough clues that a search committee might conclude that a candidate is not a good fit for the library.  Or that might not become clear until an on-campus interview.  And, yes, sometimes the “fit” issue is kind of fuzzy.  Something just doesn’t click.  It’s hard to imagine the candidate working effectively with others in the library.  Making disparaging remarks about non-MLS staff without knowing much about the local library culture would be a pretty clear red flag for some committees.

And – sometime the candidate realizes that fit isn’t right.  This isn’t a one-way street at all.  Interviews are all about the candidate and the committee trying to determine if this is a good match.  So candidates – pay attention, look at your potential colleagues and work environment.  No matter how much you really need a job, think about whether this is a match that will provide you with professional support, opportunities to grow, and some degree of personal satisfaction. If not, then maybe it’s not a good fit.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH
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 us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.


Filed under Further Questions

2 responses to “Further Questions: Can you explain what “fit” is and why it is important in hiring a new employee?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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