Further Questions: How do you define hirable?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

One question on the Hiring Librarians survey is: Approximately what percentage of people who applied for your last open position would you say were hirable? Can you answer that question for us on Further Questions, and also share how you define hirable.

Laurie Phillips

I would say 25%. That reflects the number of people who met the criteria to phone interview. They meet all of the required qualifications and one of the desired (usually). If they don’t meet the required, we can’t move forward. This is one of the main reasons why applicants have to address the qualifications. If you don’t show us that you’re qualified, we can’t even consider you. I have to say, though, that one person made me reconsider what I had asked for. I thought this candidate would have been excellent but the committee wouldn’t agree because we had asked for experience and probably shouldn’t have. That’s where those of us who are hiring learn from our mistakes!
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

A disappointingly small percentage of our applicants for librarian positions are hirable.  Generally, these are people who have failed to read and respond to our thoughtfully crafted job ads listing requirements.  If you do not meet the minimum requirements for a position, please do not apply.  If there is wiggle room on the preferreds, by all means, make that case in your cover letter.  Generic “shotgun” applications that bear no clear connection to the position posted are a waste of the search committee’s time and a cause for frustration.

– Anonymous

Jessica OlinI don’t know real percentages. We have HR filter out the people who don’t meet the minimum requirements. For our last open position, that meant a high school diploma and either library experience or customer service experience in a higher ed setting. Of the applications we did see, I’d say about 25% looked good enough that we’d be willing to talk to them, but we only invited 6 in for interviews. We normally only invite three, but that time were hiring for two part time positions and wanted to cast a slightly wider net. As for what “hirable” means to us, we look at things like willingness to learn and interest in the library (as opposed to just “I need a job”). We ask ourselves if we think this person can do this job with a reasonable amount of time allowed for learning.

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

Julie Todaro“New” librarian applicants: I will receive around 200 applications for my “entry” level jobs…that set typically includes the people who check off that they want their resume/application submitted for “everything for which they are qualified” …and so I will get about 20 people in this set of 200 – maybe a few more – who are technically qualified but didn’t want that job specifically OR now have a job.
Of the rest, a large number of people who not only meet the basic qualifications but exceed them by many years. For those we use the same vetting process, that is, do they have experience in instructional design (if we require or prefer that) so no applicant is “over qualified” it’s the match of specifics that counts.
So at least 150 or more may meet basic qualifications. The decision for interviewing then moves to “preferred” which is why I always tell people to carefully word but absolutely including all that they prefer. It’s a much more important category now – especially for entry level or lower experience required – because we need to be able to distinguish among those many applications.
As an aside, we have the grid from HR to use in vetting people, but we have a secondary grid that includes requirements and preferred categories to measure AND we use a designation to indicate “how important is that preferred” with either a ranking (as it is #1 on our list of preferred) or an A, B, or C…This makes sure our process is clear.
And does this vary? Yes, by time of year…for example and obviously – many more in any spring and post May graduation dates. Luckily I can hire year round even though they are faculty and are on annual contracts.
“Experienced” librarian applicants: So this is where it gets tricky …for general management jobs we get an “okay” number of fewer than 125. But a fewer number of these are qualified, that is, if we require 3 years of management experience, we really mean it…so we can’t take people who coordinated or managed projects or money…we have to have people who – as they say in HR – “signed timesheets.” I have also had people misrepresent their time to look like management – and often completely unintentionally – but it is always caught by HR as they compare actual experience. Another bug in this is that HR only counts full time…so if you were a part time librarian or managed part time, then for one year of management experience, you will need 2 years of part time management experience.
Specific to functions….finding someone to be in Technical Services and Automation – for me – was hard…so I had MANY applications from people who were tech experts but had not worked in Technical Services. And – for my position – you needed to have had experience in Technical Services to manage many of the traditional and non-traditional functions.  So of the 125 who applied only about 10 had the requisite required experience I needed.
– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College

That’s a bit of a tricky question. Since the City handles our application process, we don’t see all the applications that come in for a position. They screen out anyone who doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications stated in the job description, so by the time the applications get to us for review, all we have are candidates who are technically “hirable”, at least in terms of meeting that minimum threshold. So, for me, the definition of “hirable” isn’t “meets minimum qualifications”. For me, a “hirable” person is someone who has demonstrated throughout their career (pre-MLS, post-MLS, I look at a person’s total work history, not just library work)a desire to move up, take more responsibility and try new things. I look for someone who interviews well (even when nervous), is articulate, thoughtful and not afraid to ask questions during an interview. Deal killers for me are poor grammar, job hopping, throwing previous co-workers, bosses or institutions under a bus (don’t ever, ever, EVER do that, seriously), not knowing anything about the library you’re applying to and, for heaven’s sake, TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE OR PUT IT ON VIBRATE DURING AN INTERVIEW. So, based on my admittedly biased criteria above, I would say that the percentage of “hirable” candidates that make it to the interview process is probably about 70%. I do give people a lot of leeway (except for those deal-killers above) and I put a premium on a good attitude and a willingness to learn. I can teach someone how to use our computer systems, I can’t teach someone how to be nice.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

J. McRee ElrodOur litmus for hiring if the ability to prode and send a .mrc file of records.  Only about 1.3 of applicants can do so, I assume because of the poor quality of library school cataloguing instruction.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Jacob BergI define hirable as having the demonstrable training, experience, and skillset(s) to do the job. This is one major reason why it’s important to customize cover letters, and sometimes resumes and CVs, to a particular job and job description. Based on that, I’d say that about ten percent of applicants for our last open position were hirable.
-Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University

Marleah AugustineTo me, “hirable” means that the applicant meets the minimum requirements and seems to be a good fit — meaning the applicants seem as though they’d be able to work with a variety of patrons but especially adults (as that’s the department I supervise), they could assist with basic computer questions, they have good customer service, they seem willing to learn, and they don’t seem like they’d get flustered easily. There are also different dynamics among staff members; it never fails that my daytime staff have a slightly different dynamic than my evening staff, and so when the person would be scheduled can also affect my decision about who is “hirable” and who isn’t.

To answer the first question, I would say that about 25% of the applicants appeared to be hirable. I hire for part-time, paraprofessional positions, so we get a wide range of applications just because some people apply for everything that’s available and aren’t necessarily looking to work in a library — so this doesn’t reflect the percentages you might find for an administrative, professional position that has higher minimum requirements.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

In general, I would say 20-30% of applicants for librarian jobs are not hirable because they lack the M.L.S. (It is listed as required, but I guess they are optimistic.) Of the remaining applicants, about half turn out to be unhirable because of poor communication skills: they do not answer the questions asked; do not make eye contact; fail to observe common rules of courtesy; display very low energy; have inadequate vocabularies; or exhibit poor listening skills. Sad but true.

– Anonymous

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: How do you define hirable?

  1. Sarah

    “In general, I would say 20-30% of applicants for librarian jobs are not hirable because they lack the M.L.S. (It is listed as required, but I guess they are optimistic.) ”

    I find this unbelievable!!


  2. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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