Tag Archives: application

Further Questions: When and How Should an Applicant Check-In?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

After submitting an application, when and how is it appropriate for the applicant to check in with you? If they haven’t heard back within a week? Two weeks? Should they call? Email? Drop in?

Laurie Phillips

Assuming the applicant has heard from me that the application has been received, he or she should not follow up before the closing date. The committee generally doesn’t even meet (other than to develop criteria for reviewing applications) before the closing date. After that, there is a general plan for Skype/phone interviews, checking references, and campus interviews. Contacting me will usually not influence the committee one way or another, although I may be able to tell them where we are in the process. I prefer email to phone or dropping in. I don’t generally have a lot of time to return phone calls and if a candidate dropped in, there is no guarantee that I’ll be available.

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

Marleah AugustinePeople often submit applications at times that we are not actively hiring. In those cases, there is really not a great time frame for checking back in, because when they call, we may still not be hiring. We always let people know that we keep the applications on file for 6 months and that’s the first place we’ll look when we have an opening and start hiring. If we are actively hiring when an application is submitted, I tell people the specific date that I plan to hire someone — “I hope to fill the position by May 15” — so that gives them a better idea about when to check in.After an interview, I always try to give the applicant a time frame as to when I will contact them — usually something like “We hope to have a decision made by Friday, so plan to hear from us on Monday”.
I prefer a check-in by phone or email.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Do not check in unless there is some question about the delivery of the application. If they are mailing an application, they should mail it return receipt requested. I always get back to people, or have the management agency get back to people.
– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Emilie SmartIn our system, applications are submitted to the City’s HR dept. and we don’t know anything about application status until we’ve requested a list of candidates.  If other governmental HR departments are like ours, applicants are told that their applications will be scored when needed and there is no point in contacting anyone until you are called to set up an interview.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Donald LickleyIf you made a direct application for a specific job, one week after the advertised application deadline is a reasonable time to enquire either by email or phone (or an email followed up by a phone call) if you haven’t heard anything. When there is a formal timetable for recruitment including an advertised application deadline, the interview date may also have been set in advance. If you’re lucky this too will appear on the job notice, which will give you a good idea of when to expect a response.

Many of the roles that we handle as a recruitment agency have more flexible timetables. Some clients will be happy to see a range of CVs/resumés over a period of weeks (or even months!), and will schedule interviews as and when suitable candidates are put forward. We ensure that our candidates are kept informed at every stage of this process. How quickly we get updated by our clients varies enormously, and this can depend on a whole range of factors from changing budgets and/or business objectives, to the availability of recruiting managers. They are only human after all, and go on vacation, or get sick, or get diverted into other projects at short notice, all of which can delay the recruitment process.

If you have applied for work speculatively to an organisation, again, it is reasonable to wait one or two weeks before following up with further communication. Whether you do this via email, phone or a personal visit will really depend on the individual organisation.

Having said all that, there are two types of recruiter: those who reply to unsuccessful job applicants and give feedback, and those who do not and never will. If a job notice says words to the effect of ‘If you haven’t heard within two weeks then assume you’re unsuccessful’, the likelihood is that you won’t hear back unless you’re being invited to an interview. This may be harsh, but at least you know where you stand.

– Donald Lickley, Recruitment Consultant, Sue Hill Recruiting

Randall SchroederIt is a question I have wondered about myself while I am a job seeker. It is an uncomfortable position since one does not know how the other person is going to react. Sometimes I have received kind and candid responses. Sometimes I have been blown off. Will an inquiry about status hurt one’s chances? It shouldn’t. If it does, do you want to work at a place where asking questions is discouraged?

So when I am on the other side of the table as a member of a search committee, I try, as best as one can, to give the candidates an accurate idea of when they should expect an answer. If I cannot keep that promise within a week or so, candidates are always welcome to call or e-mail. My preference would be an e-mail so I can answer when it is easy to do so, but I would never not talk to someone on the phone. Nor would I discount their candidacy for contacting me unless it went over the top, like showing up in my office every other day.

I do know, however, that is not a universally held position, especially in academe. I believe we have a professional obligation to not let people hang, but committees get busy during the course of a school year. People leave for breaks, conferences, etc. and it can be hard to get together.

Having said all that, I always tell job applicants that the mills of academe grind slowly. Be patient. But if you can’t stand it, call or e-mail and I will let you know what I can tell you at the moment. My only request is that courtesy will get you courtesy.

– Randall Schroeder, Department Head of Public Services, Ferris Library for Information, Technology & Education

Marge Loch-Wouters“Don’t call me; I’ll call you” is my preferred method. After our application deadline, I really can’t say much to an inquiry other than that we are still making decisions. All candidates who haven’t received an initial “No thank you” note remain viable for the position for almost the whole post-application period until interviews. For us, because we ask for essay questions and often a skype interview before final candidates are invited for an in-person interview, the process can be an excruciating two-three months. So getting inquiries isn’t helpful to a person’s candidacy and feels like nagging.

While we appreciate that this is an awful waiting period for an applicant, we are working hard on our end shepherding applicants through our process and it takes time. We always hope candidates continue to actively seek other opportunities.

The one exception I would make on this is if a candidate wants to drop a quick note with a bit more information about themselves (for instance, an additional class or volunteer work or project taken on germane to the position) and why they remain interested in this position. This may continue to strengthen a strong candidate’s bona fides if done sincerely. Just popping in with an email to say “Hi” though won’t help much.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

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 contact me.

Thank YOU for reading!  

I comment in the morning and in the afternoon.  I comment in the evening, underneath the moo-oo-oo-n.



Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

Further Questions: Does Current Employment Status Matter to You?

Here’s the second in a series of six great questions posed by a reader.

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

How much does current employment status matter to you?

Laurie Phillips

I don’t think it has to matter at all. We hire people who are just graduating. A person’s current employment can often make it more difficult for them to interview, but we’ve tried to be accommodating. Also, I would caution job seekers to make sure that they can generalize from their current situation and not get too caught up with how they’ve always done things.

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

Emilie SmartI really only look at current employment status if the candidate has been unemployed for a while — mostly because I wonder what they’ve been doing. More important to me is employment history — where have they worked; how long did they work there; what kind of work did they do. Have they done a lot of job-hopping? Have their jobs lasted more than 1 year? Less then 1 year?
I interview a lot of entry level people so I want to know if they have even held a job before. People fresh out of library school who have never worked are often a risk — especially if the job I have requires that they supervise.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Melanie Lightbody
Current employment status doesn’t make any difference to me, especially in this economy. Very qualified people have been let go due to budget cuts. Some other library’s loss may be my gain.
– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County
Marleah Augustine
I like to know about current employment status, just to get an idea of the experience the candidate has, as well as a timeline for hiring, but it’s more just informational rather than something that matters to the hiring process.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
J. McRee Elrod
Not at all.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Samantha Thompson-FranklinWhen reviewing a candidate’s application, the person’s current employment status doesn’t matter to me, whether they are employed part-time, full-time or unemployed. However, if there is a/are significantly long gap(s) in their employment history that is unexplained (either in their resume or cover), then I may consider that a red flag and I will discuss it with the other members of the search committee as to how to proceed in the review process of that candidate’s application. We won’t necessarily rule that person out as a suitable candidate but it can raise some concern.
– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library
Nicola FranklinWhether an applicant is currently employed in a full time, permanent, position, in a contract or temporary role, or is unemployed and seeking work, can have an influence on a hirer’s decision making process.

Whatever the truth of the situation, employers like to play things safe. Rightly or wrongly, they feel that someone who is currently employed, and who has significant tenure in their current post, is more likely to be either more highly skilled and/or more able to get along with co-workers effectively.

Even more important is the pattern of employment over the years.  Employers tend to focus on whether an applicant has held down a few long-term permanent jobs, or has only had one or two full time roles and spent much of their career in short-term contracts.

There can be a tendency to wonder why those people who have worked a lot of temporary roles, but who are seeking a permanent position, haven’t been able to find one earlier.  Of course some people make a choice of contracting and temporary positions as a lifestyle choice, valuing the chance to take breaks between assignments.  However someone in that position wouldn’t normally be applying for a full time permanent position.

The other common reason for having a period of temporary and contract roles is following a lay off or redundancy.  This is especially true at the moment, and also occurred to large numbers of people in the 1989-91 recession and, to a lesser extent, when the 2001 dot com bubble burst.  Some employers are happy to accept that temping in those situations is a positive, proactive measure to keep skills current and avoiding the temptation to sit at home on the sofa watching TV!  Others, however, take a harder line and feel that this process sorts the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and the best employees will get quickly re-hired even in a slow economy.

My advice in times of unemployment would be to do something – ideally temporary or contract work directly related to your normal role, or otherwise temporary work in a related field, or other work (eg retail) that uses transferrable skills (eg customer service), or even voluntary work (whether library related or for a charity or school body, etc).  Keeping busy, learning new skills along the way, and putting all your activity on your resume or CV, is the key to getting back into a ‘proper job’.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
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 me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

If you’re reading this, the world hasn’t ended!  Yet!  So take a breath, leave a commament.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

Further Questions: How does the initial selection work?

Here’s the first in a series of six great questions posed by a reader.

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Who does your first round of sorting/selecting applicants for interviews (a computer/an HR professional/you/someone else…)? Is there generally a fixed number of applicants selected for the initial round  or does it depend on the position, the pool of applicants, or something else entirely?

Laurie Phillips

Because librarians are faculty here, HR does not receive the applications. They are sent directly to the chair of the search committee. The search committee has a rubric by which the members evaluate the applications. Each application must have all of the required qualifications and usually one of the desired to be an A application. The committee meets to go through the applications one by one and assigns Yes, Maybe, and No to each application. The Yes applications are narrowed to the number of candidates who will be phone/Skype interviewed..

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

Hopefully I can share some insight into how this process works at the majority of staffing firms. Usually selection at a recruitment agency is a two stage process. The first selection occurrs when a candidate initially sends in their resume (by email or by uploading it via a web portal). This selection is usually carried out by a recruitment consultant scanning the resume (and cover letter/email, if there is one), to screen out anyone who clearly doesn’t have any library/records experience, qualification or relevance. I’ve had teachers, plumbers, and today a welder…
The second part of this stage, with many agencies, is a telephone screening call. Different agencies have different policies – some will register everyone who applies who has some relevant experience/qualification, while others will screen out any who don’t pass the telephone pre-screen – that would generally be candidates with poor communication skills but could also include those with unrealistic expectations (in terms of salary for their level of experience, for example) or who don’t meet other criteria the agency has decided to apply.
Once a candidate is registered with a staffing agency, the second selection takes place when a consultant has a job vacancy and searches through the database to find candidates who are a good match, in order to contact them to see if they are interested. That search is often an automated one, using either codes generated when the database file was created or keywords from within the CV/resume (or a combination of the two).
In order to make sure that your details are amongst those retrieved during this second selection process, it is important to make sure you include all the relevent keywords. For example putting “familiar with a range of online subscription sources” isn’t much help when a recruiter is searching their database for instances of the words ‘Factiva’ or ‘Lexis Nexis’!
I have noticed that many candidates leave recruiters and hirers to make assumptions from their resume – “I’ve worked for x years as a Librarian in y kind of organisation – so it’s obvious I can do inquiries, cataloguing, acquisitions, or whatever’. Well to the database search engine it isn’t obvious, and resumes like this rarely come up in searches. Consequently those candidates find they don’t often get calls about vacancies.
It is important to remember that a recruiter may interview 10-15 people a week, every week. After a few months it becomes impossible to remember all those people – so a database search is really the only practical way to make sure that more than 1 or 2 weeks most recent applicants get a chance. Making sure your resume is searchable, for the types of skills you want to use in your next job, is therefore very important.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
We’ve no HR department.  I as director do the first contact.  A quality control librarian does the final selection based on quality of sample records.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Emilie SmartIn our system, all applications  go through our City HR office.  When we put in a staffing requisition, HR pulls the appropriate applications, grades them (using unknown criteria), and sends us names.  Sometimes they send us 5 names, sometimes 3 names —  you never really know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes (too often) they send us the same names over and over even though we’ve passed over the people multiple times.
We’re not really sure what drives the number of names we receive, nor do we fully understand the grading criteria that is used.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Marge Loch-WoutersWe are a fairly small shop (public library serving a 51K population). Each manager handles the initial sorting for positions they are hiring for. The process is adaptable depending on the number of applications the different managers receive for any job opening.
We usually have a huge pool of applicants for youth services jobs – the area I hire in. Once I have a top pool of fifteen to twenty-five candidates, I send them essay questions. This helps us narrow the pool further to 8-10 applicants. Some managers go directly to interviews. I usually have an additional Skype interview before final interviews to narrow the field to a final 4. It helps me get a first read on the candidate and helps me see how they will potentially fit with our existing team of five other professionals in the department. Our final interviews (and essay reading) is usually done with a team of interviewers (usually managers). By the end of this ordeal..oh, ahem, I mean process…we usually have found the match that works great for the library and the successful applicant!
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Dusty Snipes GresFor me it depends upon the position and the pool of applicants. I do read every resume – even the ones on flowered, scented stationery printed using a fancy hard-to-read type font with my name spelled wrong on the cover letter.

If there are a lot of applicants I will submit to each one (if they meet the basic job requirements) a set of questions concerning the job, sort of a pre-interview. Then I will narrow the search from there and usually interview at least three. I have had occasions where the pool was so small that I called all applicants for an interview. If it is necessary I will do a first interview via web/online.

The last opening I had, 18 months ago, I had 3 applicants and only 2 met any of the job requirements. That was a shock! We ended up having the position taken away from us because we couldn’t fill it. We cannot convince folks that living 90 miles from the nearest mall doesn’t mean that life has come to an end.

– Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Melanie LightbodyAny regular full time or part time position must go through HR first. There is no set limit of applicants who can be accepted. We’re a Merit system county. Everything is prescribed and by the book. Only those meeting the basic qualifications will progress. It is a very fair system, I think.

For extra help, it is a much more informal process. In fact, I’ve several times seen the progress from volunteer to extra help to regular employee.

– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Marleah AugustineI do the first round of sorting when I am doing the hiring. I usually go through the applications and narrow it down to those to contact for interviews. For each position, I like to have about five interviews. Sometimes every application looks great and I want to interview them all; sometimes the initial round of applications just isn’t enough and I leave the position open for a bit longer.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Petra MauerhoffUsually *I* do the first round of looking through applicants, because they are usually addressed to my attention, but then I pass the whole stack on to the manager who will be supervising the position and s/he gets to pick candidates who will be interviewed. The number of candidates we decide to interview depends on the overall number of applications as well as the qualifications of the pool of applicants. If we are not sure if there is anyone who REALLY fits the position, we will interview a few more people to make sure we get the one who fits best.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
Paula HammetIn our academic library we have a search committee of 3-5 librarians. The management of the responses to the search is done by our campus Faculty Affairs office, which sends out the acknowledgements of apps, and the letters at the end of the process. The search committee draws up a list of criteria (based an on the position announcement), and a list of questions, based on the criteria.  The questions and criteria have to be approved by Faculty Affairs before the search committee can get access to the applications. [Hint to applicants: read the position announcement carefully!]
The applications are reviewed by all members of the search committee individually, then we meet together to draw up our list of 6-10 semi-finalists (the number varies depending on the position and the number of qualified applications we receive). We typically do short phone interviews with the semi-finalists before narrowing our choices to 3 (rarely more) candidates to invite to campus for a day-long interview.
In the last few searches we’ve done, we have been blessed with strong pools of candidates.  That can make it more difficult to sort through the apps to find the candidates who really stand out as having the specific skills and talents we are looking for (and maybe some we didn’t even know we needed!). Once the committee agrees on a candidate, and a back-up, we discuss our recommendations with the Dean, who will then make an offer.
There are a lot of talented librarians out there looking for work! We usually are really excited about the people we invite to campus, and it can often be a difficult decision to decide on the “right” one to whom to offer the job.
– Paula Hammett, Librarian at Sonoma State University
Samantha Thompson-FranklinOur campus policy for all searches is to have all applications for a position be sent directly to our HR Dept. where they make sure that the applicant has submitted all of the required documents. The applications are then sent on to the chair of the search committee for review by the committees members. If an application is missing any required documents, then those applications will be flagged as incomplete, but the committee chair will still receive the application and the chair and the committee members are free to make their own decision on whether or not to review the application or wait until more documents are received and the application is complete. Each search committee makes its own decision as to how many applications they will select for an initial round of interviews (usually phone interviews initially). Sometimes it depends upon how many applications are received for a position, but usually the initial round of interviews will include about 7-8 applicants.
– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundWe are a medium sized library and when we post a good job (full-time with benefits) we will get between 30 and 40 applicants. The process for interviewing and hiring is slightly different for our lower level positions. Pages, substitutes and hourly employees are selected by the person who will directly supervise them.

We don’t have an “HR professional” on staff so the department managers and I conduct the interviews. Typically I let the direct supervisor or manager sort through the applications and pick out about 10 we might want to interview. As director, I then go through that smaller pool and identify those that we will interview. We do not have a set number of candidates we want to interview. It depends on the importance of the job and the size of the candidate pool.

In the case of full-time employees I participate equally with the manager of the department in the actual interview, but I make the final call on who will be offered the position. We work from a set list of questions so all candidates are asked the same questions and we take turn asking the questions. Generally we talk a bit about each candidate right after the interview, but do a more thorough review after all the interviews are completed.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

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 me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  Are you feeling kind of zen?  I hope you’ll leave a calmment.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Rural area