From My Side of the Search Committee: All That and Things We Need to Do Better

So you’ve read the Cover Letter post and the CV/Interviews post and you’re still here? Brava for bearing with me. I know the previous posts have been laden with “don’t do this” and pointing out errors but those are so important. When I’m reading a cover letter for the first time, or meeting with a candidate for an hour, I’m not just doing that single task. I’m asking myself if I can spend large quantities of time with you?  Are you someone I’d like to have lunch with on a miscellaneous Thursday? Are you someone I’d like to collaborate with on research? Would I feel comfortable with you representing the library to department faculty? Could I be at ease knowing my students would be seeing you at the reference desk?

Beyond my own perspective, a lot really depends on the candidate pool. Did you have all of the qualifications we required? Did something in particular stand out to someone on the hiring committee? Did you actually tell me why you want *this* job, why you want to work with *me* (in the vague general *me* sense of the word–not ME specifically, a specific name can work for/against you depending on search committee)? It’s a difficult job market right now and there is a lot of competition.

But overall, I ask that you please don’t give me an easy reason to remove you from consideration.  I want to have too many good candidates to consider and be struggling to choose from them, not struggling to find qualified candidates among a pile of mediocrity.

Why do I know that name ?

Librarians are wonderfully interwoven through listservs, various types of social media, conferences, and back channels. And it can work for or against a candidate if I recognize a name. Some names are more common than others but there are enough unique librarians that usually I can filter.  It is highly in your favor as a candidate for me to be able to remember why I’ve heard your name before quickly and easily (e.g. professional programs, a good participant on a listserv, wrote an article, regularly tweet good things). If I can’t remember why I know you and you impressed me or another colleague enough with your submitted documentation, I may go looking. Be aware what is returned when I put “your name” + “librarian” into Google.

And while I’ve focused on candidates, I know libraries often don’t do things well when hiring. Exhibit A:  a librarian from Scotland’s experience.

On the institutional side, I wish there was more we could do to communicate with candidates. I know things take a long time and it feels like a black hole in between when you submitted your resume and the next stage. A lot of time challenges for one position had nothing to do with the candidates, but the schedules of the people who needed to meet with them. My calendar is solidly booked out through the end of July and people are starting to put things on there through October.  And yes, I’ve canceled vacation days to meet candidates in person. But not being able to get an update is, I know, very frustrating.

Speaking further to that,  if you didn’t get the job and you never hear from the hiring institution again, that is most likely reflective of legal and human resources policies and not the hiring committee being evil or not caring about you as a person/peer/candidate. Speaking for myself personally, I *can’t* tell you if you didn’t or why you didn’t get hired because that might/maybe/at some point open the university to a lawsuit if you felt I said anything inappropriate.

I wish too there was a way to give some anonymous feedback sometimes. I’ve seen candidates whose resumes were okay but whose cover letters seriously needed work. Or just needed an edit. Or the cover letter was great but the phone interview was less than stellar. Legally, however, that’s not allowed.  So take the chances people offer. Ask on a listserv if someone will read your letter or seek someone out. I’ve offered lots of times. Very few people have taken me up on it.

Finally, I tried to figure a solid estimate of the hours I spent working on the most recent pair of searches I was on (one search committee looking for two librarians) and I came up with between 50-60 hours. That’s just *my* work time devoted to search committee meetings, reading resumes, phone interviews, in person interviews, writing up my evaluations, etc.  While I’m not sure everyone put in that much time, even half that time per search committee member is a huge time burden to the institution, so we want to hire the best person and look forward to getting work with them.

As mentioned a couple weeks ago, we’re going to be hiring a few more positions. It would not be appropriate for me to review cover letters or resumes where I may have influence here at the institution. But I am certainly willing to review and if I can’t due to time constraints, I may be able to suggest someone else.

Good luck on your job search.