20 September 2012

Embarassing Faux Pas of the Searching [Library] Employer

It amazes me that career advice columnists manage to survive. I am not sure if I am alone on this. But every time I see a new headline for '10 Things to Never Say in an Interview' or '5 Ways to Make Your Resume Shine,' I read the same common-sense or inane advice that has been repeated from time immemorial. Anyway, in libraryland there are many sites dedicated to navigating library school and the hiring process: Hack Library School, I Need a Library Job, Hiring Librarians, and Open Cover Letters. Letters to a Young Librarian also occasionally features some young career advice. Hiring Librarians has a regular feature where hiring manager at library organizations are interviewed about what advice they have for job-hunting candidates, covering everything from preparation and salary negotiation to etiquette and fashion. There should be a similar list for employers.

In their imaginary fantasy world, library
hiring managers probably wish all of
 their candidates are like Rex Libris.
One of my favorite job-search related blogs to peruse is You Ought to Be Ashamed, which focuses on the disastrously absurd in archival job postings, a la "Must have an MLS, Ph.D., be fluent in 5 languages, have 7 years programming experience. Salary: $32,000"). Sadly it is not updated that often. But I wish there were more ways for potential employers to improve their end of the job-search. In recent months, I have heard all kinds of embarrassments from job-hunters librarian and non-librarian alike, and one wonders what this world is coming to. To begin, here is a brief list potential employers should avoid.

1. Acknowledge applications, inquiries, our existence...anything!
Many employers use computer-based systems to process and store applications, and with the sheer volume that some employers receive, we understand that you cannot send every applicant a hand-written epic poem of our application's status. It shouldn't, however, be that difficult to at least program your system to generate 'acknowledgement of receipt' emails.

Even luddite-librarians don't get this many paper
applications anymore.
2. Notify all candidates/applicants that the position has been filled.
I have heard stories of a candidate being interviewed without any follow-up notification from the employer. Not getting a job can be a downer, but discovering that you didn't get the position from a press release on the organization's website or a colleague's Facebook status can be insulting. The hiring party is not exempt from professionalism in this regard.

3. Seriously, just list a salary range already.
We all know that most library jobs aren't dripping with opulent benefits, but it can be a tremendous frustration for candidates to fly themselves to another state for an interview (unless your library happens to be very well-off and very generous), only to hear THEN that the position only pays $23,000/year. It is also sadly true that due to the current state of the economy and the saturation of the job market with qualified candidates, many people are willing to interview, and in some cases, accept jobs that come with indecently low salaries yet require an extensive professional or academic pedigree. Librarians are willing to sacrifice a lot to do what they love, but it shouldn't require them to perpetually live below their own dignity.

8. Stop using non-library HR people, or start training them appropriately.
Because libraries come in all shapes and sizes, library HR people also come in all varieties. Some of them are former or current librarians, while others are HR by breeding and happen to work in a library organization. Their identities are usually depressingly obvious by some of the obnoxious job descriptions often seen on library job boards and listservs (refer to the doctorate and 5 languages requirement above...although admittedly some of those jobs do actually require an obnoxious skill set). HR personnel who actually know and understand the profession tend to write more precise, detailed, and reasonable job descriptions. Yes, the ideal candidate should be organized, competent in MS Office, able to cope with changing environments, and have the strength to lift 40 lb. record cartons. Tell us something that we don't already know.

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