Further Questions: Would you hire someone who has been fired in the past?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Would you hire someone who has been fired in the past? Would it matter if they were fired for cause or if their position was simply eliminated? What tips do you have for job seekers in this position?

*Note: After I asked this question, one of our responders, Kristen Northrup (see her reply below), mentioned that there is a distinction between being fired and having a position eliminated. The wording in the question was mine, and was inspired by a question that I found online as I was brainstorming questions for this series. When I emailed Kristen to thank her for bringing up the potentially confusing and/or bad wording of my question, she replied: “It wasn’t just you, is the weird thing. I see fired being mixed up with laid off all the time, even on official government documents. Some agencies use the term fired to mean either one, which is really unfortunate.” Food for thought! What do YOU think about this? Reply in the comments below!

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundI might hire someone who has been fired.  There is a library board in our area that went through six directors in as many years.  Some of the firings were probably good decisions, but others seemed questionable to me. I think of that library as being somewhat toxic and generally don’t interview people who have worked at that library.
In regards to people who lost their because the position was eliminated I would have the same hesitancy.  It it was a situation of last hired first fired I’d consider the person.  I the former employer got to pick and choose who to let go, I be a bit more cautious.
This is when it is essential to check references and not necessarily the references on the resume.  I’d call a colleague that knew something about the situation at that library and get a read from them.
As to whether I’d interview the candidate it would depend upon the candidate pool.  We’ve been pretty lucky with good candidate pools lately and I’m just looking for a reason NOT to interview someone.  I generally interview 7 – 9 people for full time jobs, but again it depends upon the size and quality of the pool.
– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

J. McRee ElrodThis is information I would omit from a CV, and refrain using the supervisor who fired one as a reference; use a colleague with whom one had good relations.




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


Laurie PhillipsTo me, there’s a huge difference between fired and laid off because the person’s position was eliminated. Now, there are times when someone’s position is eliminated because they are not making the most of it and it seems expendable. One of our tenure track faculty members was let go by her previous institution because the branch library she managed was restructured and became an archive. There was no place for her elsewhere within the library system. That was all clear in the hiring process and the Dean at the library where she came from served as a reference for her. It was obvious that they were pulling for her to land on her feet because the restructuring and the subsequent elimination of her position had nothing to do with her performance. In that case, it made no difference to us. If someone was fired for cause, they would have a difficult time, I think.

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

I would say that it would depend on how long ago the applicant was fired, if it was ten years ago, people can change a lot in ten years. If the applicant met all of the minimum and preferred qualifications for the position, I would still likely ask them for a phone screening interview and I would be sure to write interview questions that would try to get at the issues that might have lead to the termination (and of course I would have to ask all applicants the same questions).


I would recommend the applicant clearing spelling out what occurred in such a way that the former institution is still described in a positive light. This can be done in the cover letter similar to the way you might explain a gap in employment due to having a child or an illness. For example, if you are coming from an academic library where librarians are tenure track and you do not make tenure, you can explain that you enjoyed your time there but your priorities were more in line with assisting faculty and students and you are perusing a position this new institution where the primary mission of the library is customer service.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Library Learning Services, University of North Texas Libraries

Jessica OlinI guess it all depends on specifics, but in general I wouldn’t have a problem with it. There’s a lot that goes into being successful as an employee, and much of it isn’t actually within the employee’s control.




– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

If someone’s position was eliminated, then they weren’t fired. They were laid off. So they have nothing to worry about.


I don’t recall that I’ve hired anyone who had been fired for cause since moving into libraries. Several candidates have made it to the interview stage despite that history being clear on their application and it has always been something else that disqualified them from being the final choice. I can certainly imagine situations where whatever cost them the previous position would also make them inappropriate for our organization, but it’s nothing automatic.

– Kristen Northrup, Head, Technical Services, North Dakota State Library

Celia Rabinowitz The first tip I would give anyone who has been terminated in the past is not to try to cover it up. That said, a resume will show the dates of employment but an applicant is not obligated to include any information about why they left a job. There are many reasons why someone’s employment history might show job changes frequently enough to raise questions but the answer is not always that the applicant has trouble keeping a job.

The issue of being fired would likely not come up until a phone or in-person interview. If it was fairly recent, and the applicant’s references know about it, the person should discuss it with the hiring manager, or director at the place they are interviewing before they leave. I would want to hear the applicant’s explanation of what happened and hope that a reference could also provide some context. I am not sure I can say whether it would make a difference if they were fired for cause. I think that would depend on what I learned, what position the person was applying for, and what impressions the search committee and I have of the person.

– 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

3 responses to “Further Questions: Would you hire someone who has been fired in the past?

  1. I would hire the person depending on the situation. There was a time that I would say no but I have been in this business long enough to realize that there are some pretty vindictive people around who are not afraid to use their powers for less than good. So I most certainly would..


  2. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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