Further Questions: How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with?

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.

How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with? How might this affect working relationships later on, either with current colleagues or the new hire? If a candidate you think was amazing was not hired, do you have the ability to reach out afterwards to connect them with other libraries/later openings in your organization?

Anonymous: I have pretty good instincts about hires and I should have known that this particular one was a mistake. We interviewed three people for a librarian position. Both had worked at the library at the university in close proximity to our campus. One had been a librarian who, for whatever reason, had not been offered a continuing contract. The other was a staff member who had just finished library school. I felt that the young man who had just graduated from library school was a far better fit for the position. His interactions with me were spot on and I felt like he would excel at the position. The other person was more experienced but, to me, just wasn’t connecting with the challenges of the position. This position reported to me, but both my colleagues and the Vice Provost (who interviews all faculty candidates) insisted that the young man who had just graduated was somehow immature and less desirable. We had another meeting with the more experienced person and I still had reservations, but I went along with it. Sadly, I was correct. The new librarian got another job elsewhere and thrived, but the person we hired was not a good fit and ended up not being offered a contract a few years later. I spent a lot of time attempting to develop and mentor this librarian and I don’t think my feelings at the time of hire affected my ability to work with this librarian, but it just wasn’t ever going to work. I look back on that any time someone is pressuring me to hire a particular candidate. I trust my instincts. In another case, we didn’t hire someone for one position, but I really liked him and had in the back of my mind that I thought he would be great working for me (rather than the job he had applied for). About a year later, we had a staff position open in my area and I hired him and he has been amazing. In fact, he is moving into a librarian role in January. That one was a win! 

Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: Bad hiring decisions can have a disastrous effect on workplace morale and productivity and turnover. This is why it is so important to check references thoroughly, to have diversity on hiring committees, and to encourage/ensure that diverse candidates are applying and are actually considered.

When employees see someone hired who is not qualified, or whom they know – or discover later – to have lied about their experience and qualifications, they can lose hope in general at that workplace. They may resent and distrust the new hire. When fully qualified applicants (internal or external) are not considered, that can have the same effect.

It actually makes sense for people to give up when they see these things happening again and again – why put in effort when there is no reward or recognition for hard work and dishonesty is rewarded? Or when they see someone hired for reasons other than their skills and experience? Having a workplace of demoralized staff who are less engaged than they could be (at best) or running for the exits (at worst) is bad for everyone, though.

If an amazing candidate was not hired at my workplace, I would advise them to apply elsewhere. If they’d already been rejected once it would be a hard sell to convince them to apply there again.

Anonymous: This is a great question. Thank you for asking.

Years ago the library I was working for hired a technician who I did not think was qualified or a good fit for the team. Politics played a bit in the hiring so that annoyed me further.

This person turned out to be a terrible fit with the team and barely did the job that was required. Because of the politics we worked with the staffer as much as we could to engage them and bring them up to speed and it did not go well.

After 2 months of trying (and hearing the support staff complain A LOT) we had a meeting and told the individual that we were going to have to see x,y,z improvements before the 90 day review. I think they worked one more week before they gave notice. Lucky for us there  was not much damage to the team that had to be repaired. The managers understood that we had to try and make it work and hear the staff’s concerns. 

A few years ago my favorite candidate was not chosen for the job. I was super bummed. In my eyes they were the best person for the job and any other person would be a far behind second choice. The hiring committee did not feel the same way and the person they hired is actually really amazing and is a good fit. There are no solid rules about reaching out after the job has been filled, so I sent an email. The candidate was surprised and said that it was nice to know that they didn’t totally mess up the interview and that the committee actually felt that the other person was better suited. We actually collaborated on a project and are colleague-friends. They got another job before another job posting came up at my organization, but I would have told them to apply and I would not have gotten in any trouble. 

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: I am hopeful the process used by the organization has enough “process” and “procedure” and the right people involved to make sure there isn’t two much discord over a hire. To avoid this or to minimize this I suggest:

  • reminding people of the process and who makes the final decision in advance of their accepting membership on the hiring committee
  • a discussion with the committee outlining guidelines with a review of decision making and the concepts of the process together
  • taking good notes during the interviews so that justification for internal members is clear at the point of selection (and yes — personal notes made during interviews are confidential within committee discussions and destroyed post interview)
  • good communication throughout the process with the committee so that they know likely outcomes as candidates are interviewed, then discussed
  • if possible – confidential sharing among committee members when deciding, with – instead of verbal voting – confidential voting for finalists/a finalist
  • as much as legally possible – discussing aspects of prioritizing candidates
  • as appropriate – weighting areas of importance to indicate why some areas are more important than others

There is often a fine line between or among candidates and anything the chair can do to capture discussion and then voting to illustrate choices with weighted scores, the better the process. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.us, on Twitter @HiringLib, or delivered as a nagging feeling of guilt that I just can’t shake. 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.

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