Tag Archives: Communication

Further Questions: How often does your library communicate with applicants throughout the process?

This week we asked people who hire librarians:

How often does your library communicate with applicants throughout the process–from notification of receipt of application onwards? A common refrain in job seeker surveys on Hiring Librarians is that job seekers want more communication throughout the hiring process (i.e. at each stage). Is this realistic? Why or why not? An insight into your processes may give job seekers better expectations for what to expect.

Thank you all for your responses! This is can be a difficult issue for job seekers who have never been “on the other side” to understand. The last respondent, Melanie Lightbody, asks job seekers: How often do you expect to be communicated with and what types of communication would work for you? If you are (or have been) a job seeker, please reply in the comments OR email a response to hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com for inclusions in a future post. Inclusions can be anonymous–just mention that! Thanks!

Laurie Phillips

This is particularly relevant for me right now because I am currently chairing a search for a tenure track librarian. I email each applicant to confirm receipt of his or her application or to let them know if there is a problem with an attachment, etc. After that, there is very little communication unless the person reaches the next round. We do not routinely contact people who don’t make the cut at each round. We really can’t because we haven’t finished the search. I email anyone we have interviewed to let them know that we have offered the job to another candidate. I used to call people at that level, but I was told that applicants prefer email. In an academic search, even the top candidates won’t hear from us until at least a week after the job closes. We generally don’t do a final review of applications until after the job closes and we’ll set a meeting for about a week later to go through all of the applications together. After that, we start calling people for phone/Skype interviews. I suppose, if someone contacted me, I could give them the general plan for the search, but not much else. If you’re interested in working for me, check out the ad: http://library.loyno.edu/blog/?p=3691
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Celia RabinowitzI was director at my previous institution for ten years. We communicated at regular stages throughout the process and they included: (1) acknowledging receipt of an applications – this shifted from paper to email at some point, (2) notification to applicants who were eliminated very early in the search because they did not meet minimum qualifications. This is where it gets tricky. Generally we don’t want to send notifications to people not included in the phone interview pool if we think we might want to include them once we do the first round. And then we don’t want to notify phone interview candidates that they are not coming to campus until after the in-person interviews just in case we want to go back to that group if we need to. This may account for gaps in communication that can be frustrating or in responses to requests for information that seem deliberately obtuse. We would hate to lose a good candidate among many so we might opt for “stringing” someone along for a bit.

But I think it is very important to notify candidates at any point when it is clear that they are no longer a viable applicant, and we always contact every candidate who does not move forward or who is not selected. This may be easier at a smaller institution. We had two recent searches and received in the range of 40-60 applications for each.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH.

If we advertise for a position, we respond when we invite a number of applicants for interviews; once the position is filled, we send something to all applicants that the position  has been filled.

I would also like to send an email or a post card to let applicants know that their application has been received. We don’t do this because we seem to get a very large number of applications especially when we have a full time position to fill. With e mail this should be easier.

– Kaye Grabbe, Lake Forest Library

Melanie LightbodyCandidates are communicated with at each step of the process.  Some of the processes take weeks and weeks, however, especially if there are many applicants.

1)      Candidates apply for the open position on our website.  There should be notification that they’ve submitted their application automatically generated.

2)       The application closes and then when HR can schedule the time, the initial culling is done.    When that is done, the candidate is notified whether or not they meet the minimum qualifications.  Sometimes there is quite a delay at this step.  I believe they are notified if they don’t meet the MQs.

3)      All candidates who meet minimum requirements are scheduled for an oral examination.  This may take a month or more to set up. This is generally an oral interview with set questions.  Currently, we do most of these by telephone. Candidates are notified of their score within a week or two +.  Those who score too low are out.  Those who score high enough are put on a hiring list which is good for six months to a year.

Now there may not be any more communication for quite a while, depending on when or if they are scheduled for a final interview.  The lower the candidates score the less likely it is they’ll be called right away or at all.  This may be our last contact with the candidate.  The email/letter they receive basically tells them that, I believe.

4)      The top several candidates are invited for a final interview.  They are notified one way or another.

Here is my question back to job seekers:  How often do you expect to be communicated with and what types of communication would work for you?

– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

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.

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Further Questions: What is the most important “soft” skill?

**This question is inspired by the segment on non-cognitive skills from the Back to School episode of This American Life. It’s a great episode, if you’re looking for something to listen to:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/474/back-to-school

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

What is the most important “soft” skill for a candidate to have, and how can it be demonstrated in an application packet (if it can)?

J. McRee Elrod

Since our cataloguers work at a distance, the “ability to play with others” important in a workplace does not usually apply.  We value promptness and living up to commitments.  We have no way of measuring this other than experience with the cataloguer, and don’t know how it could be demonstrated in advance.

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

Nicola FranklinHmm this week’s question is harder than it looks!  Given other things being equal (which they often are; people attend the same/similar MLS programmes after all), it is soft skills that often tip the balance between candidates, so picking out just one to be the most important is hard!

I would say that communication skills are the most important ‘soft’ skill for a candidate to have.  Of course, ‘communication skills’ is a short phrase for a large range of skills.  Unpacking it, you get written, verbal and non-verbal communication, and within each of those are again a range of skills.  For example, within verbal communication you have persuasion, influencing, presenting, telephone skills, reference interviewing, etc.

Candidates can demonstrate written communication skills directly through their resume or application form – is the writing clear, concise, articulate?  Verbal communication skills are harder to show in the application packet, but can still be alluded to indirectly, for example by including experience of chairing meetings, giving presentations, manning issue or enquiry desks, etc, which involve using verbal skills.

I’ve written more about different types of communication skills on my blog.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Marleah AugustineOver time working in a library, I found that empathy and patience is one of the most important skills that people should have in a public library. We work with a wide range of patrons, and it’s very important to be patient and understanding. When I have a tough experience with a patron, I can’t be snippy and rude to them — I don’t know if they just lost a family member, if they have a mental health issue, if they didn’t take their blood pressure medication that morning, or if they just lost their job. Yes, it can be trying, but I have to be able to brush it off and move on with my day — and not take it out on the next person to approach the desk. I might be skewed in this direction because I also have a master’s in psychology, but I think it’s very important for staff to realize that they don’t know what that patron is experiencing and they must treat all patrons with the same level of professionalism and respect.

That skill is also important when working with fellow coworkers. Not everyone has the same work style or method of approaching tasks, but different methods can be equally productive. Staff need to consider that what works for them doesn’t always work for others, and this goes for part-time and full-time staff alike.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Laurie PhillipsOkay, I’ll be the first to admit that I had to look up soft skills because I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Truth is, what you call soft skills are, in many cases, more important to us than anything else. You have to have these basics to come work here. Most of them can’t be demonstrated in an application packet, but you should be prepared to address them in interviews and presentations and to expect that your references will have to address them.

I found any article by Kate Lorenz titled “Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters” on the web. Her top 10 are all crucial in my environment:

1. Strong work ethic – we need people who are thinkers and visionaries but we also absolutely need people who are productive – what we call “do-ers.”

2. Positive attitude – one person we interviewed in my last search asked for feedback on why he didn’t get the job. The main thing was his attitude toward some big projects we were accomplishing over the summer. He sounded like he was dreading the fallout. On the other hand, the person I hired described our approach as “fearless.”

3. Good communication skills – this is a top requirement. Written communication skills are evidenced by your letter. Don’t miss that opportunity. Verbal and interpersonal skills will come out in your interviews and presentations.

4. Time management abilities – the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities is crucial. We are blended librarians who have a lot on our plates. We ask people in the phone/Skype interview to describe situations that illustrate these abilities.

5. Problem-solving skills – again, a crucial skill. We are often looking at creative solutions to difficult problems.

6. Acting as a team player – we are a team-based organization, so we often ask references about the person’s ability to work with others collaboratively. If all of their accomplishments are solitary, it’s hard to see them fitting in here.

7. Self-confidence – we have to put ourselves out there with our students and faculty and project confidence in our abilities and our knowledge in order to be taken seriously.

8. Ability to accept and learn from criticism – our librarians get a lot of feedback and mentoring as part of the rank and tenure process. If they cannot learn from that feedback and respond to it, they will not progress.

9. Flexibility/Adaptability – our jobs change and evolve. We have to be open to that.

10. Working well under pressure – our Learning Commons desk is insane for the first couple of weeks of school. If we can survive that and our teaching load, we’re fine.

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

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.

Thanks for reading! All day I’ve faced a barren waste, without the taste of comments, cool comments.

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Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Instruction, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Public Services/Reference, Recruiters

Don’t Lie When You Don’t Know Something, I Will See Right Through That

This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of hiring committees at a library with 0-10 staff members.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Mature problem-solver.

Good interpersonal and communication skills.

Knowledge if the position is heavy on technical skills.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Doesn’t meet the requirements of the position.

Degree is not ALA accredited.

A lot of typos in the application.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Cover letter seems generic–not tailored to the position.

Cover letter unprofessional such as mistakes in grammar, spelling, format.

Resumes basically the same thing.  Not tailored to the position.

Too vague.

Can’t figure it out.  For example, instead of listing dates and place of employment, have a summary of skills at the top of the resume.

List lame things like hobbies and interests.

Unprofessional format.  Unorganized.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

If there is some big gap in employment, it should be explained briefly in the cover letter. [Not on the resume though].

Some don’t have exact dates and place of employment.  I want to get a quick overview of their experience and education.

Don’t make it so short that you don’t know what their committee work, honors, publications are.   I’m in an academic library so I consider them vitae same as faculty.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, I want to look at every accomplishment

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Dress professionally.

Don’t ramble on too much or get off-topic.

Don’t lie when you don’t know something. I will see right through that.  Just say you don’t know but you would love to learn it.

Don’t bring up personal things like your kids, your pets, your plants during the interview.  It’s OK to relax [a little!] and mention those at dinner if appropriate.

Ask me to repeat something if you don’t understand the question.

Show your interest–you’ve looked at the website, have questions about the library, students, community.

Don’t criticize something about the library.  Rather talk about what you can bring to the position and the library.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

No enthusiasm.

Ramble on too much–especially when they are covering up lack of knowledge.

Inappropriate or too much use of humor.  I want to know they are taking the interview seriously.

Show me a lot of samples of their emails, writings, publications, brochures, when I didn’t ask for them.

Relax too much at dinner and give too much personal information.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Submission of application materials are all online.

Interviewers trained better on the questions they can’t ask, for example, age, race, country of  origin, etc.

Fewer applications.

2 Comments

Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

A History of Steady Employment and/or School

The Reading Room, Public Library of NSW, 1942, by Sam Hood

 

 

This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 50-100 staff members.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Tech skills,

communication skills,

a history of steady employment and/or school

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Spelling errors, poor formatting (indicates either weak tech skills or that they don’t care about the job)

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Having an Objective–particularly a generic one–on your resume is pretty useless; use that space for something valuable.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

A submitted resume ought to be customized enough that it responds point-by-point to the stated requirements from the job announcement.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be smart. Know a bit about the library. Be willing to say “I don’t know, but this is how I’d find out,” instead of making up a lame answer.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

It’s slowed down a great deal. We used to do a lot more of it.

2 Comments

Filed under 50-100 staff members, Original Survey, Public

I Look at and Enjoy Everything that They Include

Photograph of Archives Association Party for New Employees, Including George Allen Receiving Bowling Trophy from Dr. Wayne C. Grover as Meyer Fishbein Looks On, 1963This anonymous interview is with someone who is not a librarian.  This person works in an archives! S/he has been a hiring manager for a staff of 0-10.



What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Good communication skills
Open-mindedness
Ability to thrive without structure / create their own

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

I once had an interviewee say “I really see myself here”. Confidence is great. Bravado is a turn-off.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Errors. Obvious indications that you want to work in a different department but think Archives is a way in.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

No, but I look at and enjoy everything that they include.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ As many as it takes, I love reading

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Yes

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Show me how you think. Engage everyone in the room.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

I feel for people on the other end of the hiring process. It’s really challenging. However these are indicators of future problems:

* Answering questions in an emotional fashion.
* Showing a lack of respect for authority (if you can’t play nice in an interview, why do I want to be your boss?)
* Showing an interest in the setting, not the work

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

HR now helps more with pre-interviews but we approach the process and ask the same questions we did before.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

I want you to succeed. In order to do that, be your best self and be self-aware.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Archives, Original Survey

Share Some Activities That Worked in Your Library

HM Queen Mother at the formal opening of the new library in the Lionel Robbins Building, 10th July 1979This anonymous interview is with an Academic Librarian who has been a a member of a hiring committee at a library with 10-50 staff members.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

team worker
conscientious
good attitude and ready to learn

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

poor oral skills
no-care attitude
not having skills and degree required by job

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

particular projects they have worked on
projects/communication with other colleagues, library staff, etc.
community based activities

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Yes

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ Both as an attachment and in the body of the email

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Ask pertinent questions.
Smile and seem genuinely interested in our library.
Give examples of activities performed where one is currently working or interning.
Show interest in technology.
Share some activities that worked in your library.
Show good communication skills.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Chew gum.
Remain silent during most of the interview or give short answers.
Be overly enthusiastic.
Show too much confidence.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Be yourself!!!!!
Smile!
Eye contact is very important!
Enjoy the interview day or days– be comfortable.
Send out many resumes.
Stay on task when asked to give a presentation.
Ask lots of questions about the library and the community itself (you might be living there in the future).
Find out how you can be involved in team work within the library.
Reach out to all of the staff members when talking or giving a presentation, not just to the search committee.

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

When I Receive Dozens of Resumes as Attachments, I Would Like to Find Yours Easily

James Library, Madison, New Jersey, ca. 1900This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 10-50 staff members.

 

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

enthusiasm for the advertised position
required skills and experience or the ability to relate your skill set to the advertised position
good communication skills

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

I understand you’re applying for many positions, but make sure your letter is addressed to me and my institution! I’ve received letters applying for the job at College X and I’m at College Y.
Don’t be late for an interview but don’t show up 1/2 an hour early either.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

I’m tired of applicants not addressing the advertised position. I’m tired of applicants using the cover letter to reiterate what’s on their resumes. Tell me why you want THIS job.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

This comment isn’t about what they include, but what they name the resume. When I receive dozens of resumes as attachments, I would like to find yours easily. So please name it  “jones barbara resume.doc” rather than “resume2.doc.”

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be enthusiastic and curious. Ask questions. It’s ok to take your time and give a thoughtful answer to a tough question.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Giving one word or one sentence responses – I want to hear about your experience and accomplishments and ideas.
Not having any questions for the committee.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Good luck!!

1 Comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Original Survey