Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.
This week’s question is:
I frequently hear complaints from candidates who have to provide both a resume or CV and type the same information into an online application. Does your organization do this? Even if it does not, could you shed a little light on why this might be a common practice? Bonus questions: are there other hiring redundancies in common practice? How much control do you have over the bureaucracy of the process and how much is decided by another part of your organization?
Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: Our university system human resources division controls much of the process part of searches. The online form requires completing boxes that do ask for most of the same information that appears on a CV or resume, and they also require attaching a CV. One reason this may help the HR (and search committee) folks is that it can be easier to check the form version for required and preferred qualifications because the information appears in the same order for all candidates. I have found that CVs can vary. Some applicants put education information right up top (the way I was taught), but others do not. The HR form may ask for details that a candidate leaves off their CV.
There is one other practical reason. When we reach the final interview stage, the entire library staff (and the rest of campus for library faculty positions) are invited to participate. We use a secure campus space to post each candidate’s cover letter and CV. I participate in interviews with candidates for all kinds of positions and always look at credentials before sessions with them so I appreciate having them. Only the search committee members have access to the HR portal where all of the information and assessment tools are available.
I can’t think of other redundancies in our search process. I do appreciate still having the flexibility to build our own interview questions and schedules for candidates and to be able to communicate directly with them about scheduling. Much of the rest of the process is outside our control including arranging travel or sending messages to candidates who do not move on through the process.
Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: We are in the same situation as a lot of small-to-midsize public libraries, in that we are a department of local county government. The county HR department handles the application process, so they (or the vendor whose software we use) set the application requirements. We do receive every application that is submitted, though, so none of them are pre-screened before they get to us.
Our only requirement is for the application itself, and that’s all that most candidates submit. For management or librarian positions I do like to see the resume and/or cover letter. Dates and places of employment on the application are one thing, but the resume can show us how you organize and contextualize that information, what skills you consider most important, and how you think your previous work could connect to your work here.
Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: If a public library is not an independent entity within its service area, be it a municipal, school district, or county, it is subject to the hiring practices of the controlling governmental authority. In my library’s case, we are subject to the hiring practices of county government as we use the county’s human resources department.
The county requires a standard application form be completed by applicants for all positions. The application form requests what would be considered essential employment information in a standard, consistent format that makes an initial review of the candidate’s qualifications easier. It also allows the County’s human resources department to collect information to help it “comply with Federal/State equal employment opportunity recordkeeping, reporting, and other legal requirements.”
While it might seem redundant having both can be helpful.
1) An application can serve as a helpful distillation of multi-page resume and cover letter.
2) A resume may be produced by a professional writer for an applicant and relevant information may be formatted or placed in a way that is unhelpful for the reviewer. Receiving a resume that was clearly written for another job is indicative of a professionally produced “one size fits all” resume or a candidate not willing to take the time to edit the resume for your job.
3) A poorly completed application can be indicative of an applicant’s attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, and desire for the job. As an example, if the application is not signed by the applicant (which has happened in hard copy and electronically) it is not complete and is rejected.
4) The necessary employment information for the human resources department to properly process the candidate as a new employee is in an acceptable format. We do not want any delays in the hiring process because the human resources department “does not have the information necessary to complete the onboarding process” for the new employee.
While requiring an application may seem a redundant for some institutions, as a part of county government and using its human resources department, I have found having a formal application with a resume is desirable and helpful.
Jennifer Lautzenheiser, Director of Libraries, Middle Georgia Regional Library: We require both because they provide different information. A resume or CV includes all of the work experience someone wants to share with us. An application is a legal document that should include all historical information to include supervisors, job titles, pay rates, etc. You can’t terminate someone for a lie of omission on the resume but you can from the application. This has been relevant for our system. We’ve had people claim to have not been convicted of a crime which was found to be false. We also found that an applicant included education on their resume in an unclear way which made it appear that they had a degree that they did not. This became apparent on the application. I know it’s a pain. I think it would be helpful if people thought about the purpose of each document. The application serves me as an employer. It allows me to compare apples to apples. The resume serves the applicant. It allows them to put their best foot forward and showcase themselves with the information they want to highlight.
Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Many institutions have switched to a software system or in some cases, a more sophisticated software system for online human resources’ processes. These software packages typically have a number of process issues and – obviously – are never the panacea for problems in hiring, but they may provide – certainly – a structure for hiring that was not in place before. With that in mind the “why” as well as “pros and cons” follow.
Why do organizations do this?
- More than ever before, organizations have a template for HR processes including for hiring applications. Typically, these software packages – in order to trigger auto responses – have to “see” a number of boxes “ticked” or completed before the applicant is actually in the system and to move the application along the automated process.
- If there is an “e” vetting or “human” vetting system in place anywhere in the process, all information submitted has to offer an “apples to apples” approach to provide a solid comparison. If areas aren’t filled in, then the application might not be considered eligible and more often than not – blank sections not only stall the process but don’t move the applicant along in eligibility for consideration.
- Many vetting processes are designed to have the template mirror position descriptions so that the applicant’s submission content may be mapped to the description advertised…again, to make sure the applicant is eligible.
- Many software packages do not allow for attachments which means that an applicant may appear to have only partially submitted their work, thus entering information in again IS redundant but necessary for inclusion.
- Templates offer an equitable approach for an initial review of applicants so that someone submitting a 20 page resume (whether that length is recommended or not!) doesn’t get a better look than someone submitting something shorter or providing equal information but with different terminology or more tersely.
Unfortunately, completing processes – no matter how big or small the business, library, organization or position is – is one of the areas of conformity in most organizations. And, rather than considering it an exercise or unnecessary steps, it does indicate specific interest in the position as well as care in completing the packet, if basic instructions are followed. It seems silly to some but necessary for managers as there is nothing more time consuming than reviewing applications for people when each application looks different and possibly has different terminology. And different terminology – although not incorrect – could be reflective of type or size of library or regional or geographic terminology differences. Changing submission content to a more common denominator of terminology – if at all possible – contributes to equitable consideration of applicants.
Pros (specific to the CV/resume duplicate content question and general pros)
– ease of understanding how an applicant is a match for a position if all of the organization’s forms are completed
– applicants can “sell themselves” clearly from the beginning by choosing content to complete the organization’s forms
– narrowing of content to have to turn in initially to be considered while allowing for more content to be submitted later in the process or during the interview
– conforming content (online or print/paper) can now include links out to applicant products, research, resources they created, streaming videos, etc.
and in general
– online or more streamlined content for applications yields faster responses to whether or not applications have arrived, if applicants need to complete other sections to be eligible, etc.
– packets can be more easily expanded throughout the process
Cons (with some suggestions for addressing Cons in “Recommendations”)
– job seekers spend a great deal of time and often a great deal of money creating CVs/resumes to reflect who they are and NOT being able to initially present themselves based on this content may be discouraging
– individual CVs and resumes can position an applicant’s information to put them in the best possible light and allows them to leave some “history” out or minimize issues
– form/templates do not allow a great deal of space for descriptive information
– many forms/templates do not allow applicants to cut and paste content at all or if they do, their final product shows up with inserted characters within the text
– those seeking jobs often apply to many institutions and a different personalization process for each is time consuming
– many software packages require that people create individual accounts so signing up or creating profiles as well as possibly then receiving emails and having their content reside in an organization’s HR database is not desired
I recommend that librarians seeking employment – in advance of applying for specific positions – consult job postings overall to determine current categories and titles of available jobs and then create their own core set of packets for creating applications. Although many people are not always qualified for multiple jobs, many are and diverse packets could differ by type or size of library, public or private institution, general or specialized expertise, frontline or behind the scenes services, or management and leadership vs non-management or coordinative. In addition, a list of current terminology found in position descriptions advertised should be maintained such as subject areas, functional areas, descriptors and attributes. Bits and pieces of this content can then be used to address specific parts of jobs to apply for such as knowledge of or experience with OER, project management, emerging technology, cutting edge public services, as well as the successful applicant should be innovative, results-oriented, and self-directed. Applicants should then match what evidence or experience they have against available positions. Also, if positions advertised do not have much information or much unique information, applicants should review the institution’s website for programs and services and then use matching words and specific work found to articulate or discuss or advertise institutional programs and services.
I also recommend that applicants who are trying to avoid identifying gaps in employment or a succession of positions with abbreviated work history OR the need to immediately identify current employers, they should complete the application form requested but add to content areas (no matter how limited) statements like:
- Additional information is available upon request either before or during an interview.
- Please ask me to provide more specific dates as needed either before or during an interview.
- Should I become a serious candidate (or finalist, etc.) OR should I be asked to interview, I would be happy to address any questions you may have such as my employment gap or my shortened tenure in my current position.
Finally, at no time in the “history of hiring” is it a good idea to make the reviewing parties or the one hiring “work” to vet applicants. So partial applications or applications where you “complete” the form but say “see CV” or “see resume” or “see attachments” doesn’t assist those vetting for the best match. In addition, although it is always time consuming to have to map your credentials against the actual advertisement or position description it is always better to – when completing forms – use the same or similar words or “crosswalk” that content …that way the person vetting or hiring doesn’t have to guess if you have that specific experience or not OR have to guess if you have it but call it something else.
We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or on a Beatles record played backward. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.