How to Avoid "Search Re-opened":
Hire the Right Technical Services Candidate the First Time
Preston Gates & Ellis
Coordinator & Speaker:
University of Pennsylvania
University of Connecticut
Richard Amelung, St. Louis University; Susan Chinoransky, George Washington University; Joseph Hinger, St. John's University; Katherine Reynolds, Yale University; Brian Striman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The first part of this program presented useful information about how to successfully search for and hire an employee. The second part narrowed the focus to Technical Services library employees. Between speakers, panel members acted out humorous skits of a hiring committee reviewing applications for a TS position, interviewing a candidate and discussing the candidates after the interview. These skits highlighted common "red flags" that pop up in the hiring process, signaling that a candidate may not be right for the position or that a mistake is being made in the process. There were "Before" and "After" versions of the skit, showing how applying the concepts learned in the program could eliminate these red flags and help you hire successfully.
Developing the job description
The best step to hiring successfully is to attract the best candidates from the start. Accomplish this by careful and thoughtful writing of the job description.
What is your library's mission and that of your organization? What composition of staff does this require? Everyone in your organization needs to agree on what you are looking for. List responsibilities in descending order of how much time they take in the work day. Don't let qualified candidates get away by making the "skills/responsibilities" section of the job announcement too narrow. For example, asking for "experience cataloging legal A/V materials" may turn away a very qualified cataloger who has been cataloging nonlegal A/V materials for years and could quickly adapt to cataloging legal materials.
The choice of publications in which the job advertisement appears affects the type and quality of applicants for your position. For example, many libraries advertise in ALA's American Libraries, but this often has too broad a geographical scope. Be creative when choosing where to place your ad.
To attract the best candidates you must offer an attractive package. We have all seen those job announcements that look like three jobs rolled into one, and to add insult to injury the salary range is too low. Asking the world and offering low pay is a red flag that you may have unrealistic expectations of, or are unclear about, what you are looking for.
Since your HR department will be involved in the hiring process it is best to work with them when writing the job description. Most HR people are not familiar with the operations of the library, so talk to your HR representative not only about the library but specifically about technical services. They can scan resumes more effectively if they understand the environment in which the candidate will be working. Ask your HR rep to brief your screening committee on legal issues they need to be aware of to avoid legal action resulting from a negative hiring process.
If you receive many weak or inappropriate applications, this may reflect that applicants don't understand the nature of the job or your work environment. This might be due to a poorly written job description. It also may be a red flag that the candidate is applying for a job for which they are not qualified. If the cover letter and resume are overly slick or don't mesh with the job description, this can be a sign that the candidate has manipulated their resume so as to make it through the first phase of the selection process.
Another red flag to watch out and screen for is the candidate who applies for a TS position but whose application materials show a lack of interest or experience in technical services. This candidate may be applying for your TS position mainly out of a motivation to escape public service.
Establish rapport with the candidate and draw them out by asking open-ended questions. Ask all candidates the same questions. When explaining the position to the candidate, let them know that adding value to their position is expected of them above and beyond their core job requirements. Explain the culture and hierarchy of your organization, and show the candidate the environment in which they would be working.
Because a candidate's past actions are one of the most effective indicators of their future success, asking behavioral interview questions such as "Tell me about a time when you…" will give you a more insightful look into a candidate's potential than hypothetical questions such as "What would you do if...?" Avoid making judgments of the candidate based on personal or cultural biases, as this is a major red flag which can not only cause an interview to fail but it can also be illegal.
Get a release from the candidate to check references. Check references over the phone rather than in writing, and make sure it is a good time for the reference to talk. Describe the position, and then ask questions which are related to the desired skills and attributes of the job and to the questions you asked the candidate in the interview. Ask the same questions of all references. It may be necessary to also conduct a criminal background check on a prospective employee.
Once you have hired the candidate who seems best for the job, finish up your good hiring practices by providing them with an effective orientation. Have a probation period to protect yourself in case the candidate doesn't work out. But hopefully, if you watched out for the red flags and followed the advice given in this program, you will have "Hired the Right Technical Services Candidate the First Time!"