It seems I’m seeing more announcements for job openings lately so I thought I’d share some thoughts on hiring. I’ll focus on just one aspect of hiring, that of recruitment; in fact I’ll focus on just one aspect of recruitment. Although recruitment includes not only writing a job ad, and posting it in print and online resources, I’m going to focus on the other part of recruitment, that of actively encouraging candidates to apply.
Don’t get me wrong: The creation and placement of a well-written, informative job advertisement, and distributing it far and wide, is an equally important part of recruitment, and one that is worthy of its own blog post, perhaps for another day. But all too often “recruitment” ends there, especially for public libraries. They put up the ad and then sit back and wait for applications to roll in (and are sometimes surprised or even disappointed when they don’t.) They are forgetting that other piece of recruitment.
Recruiting applicants to apply is essential. Increasing the size of your candidate pool will increase your chances of finding the best fit for your position. So how can you go about it? Ask your employees or other colleagues if they have met anyone who might be a good candidate for your open position—and then contact them and invite them to apply. Encourage your staff to promote the library and its vacancy to their professional networks. Contact other libraries and library systems, and ask them to encourage good people to apply—or ask them to suggest names and contact them directly. People who might not have applied are often flattered to be invited, and just need that little bit of encouragement. Contact people you have met and been impressed with at conferences and other professional workshops or meetings. Even if people you contact don’t apply, they may often suggest someone else who might be interested, or may encourage others to apply.
I have a couple of ideas why those responsible might be hesitant to go the extra step to recruit applicants:
- The economy (or the “There are lots of people out of jobs. They’ll find us!” attitude.) Yes, there are lots of people looking for jobs. But don’t assume they’ll find you, and certainly don’t assume that the best qualified people will find you and apply. The hiring process should not be a contest to see who can find you!
- Time (or the “We don’t have time to do that because we need someone right now!” attitude.) Staff is probably the largest part of your library’s budget, and your most valuable asset. Although you may be short-staffed, you can’t afford not to take the time to hire the right person, which includes recruiting qualified candidates. If you don’t take the time, you may pay for it by making a bad hiring decision.
- Skill (or the “We don’t know how to do that!” attitude. ) Or, in the case of a library board hiring a new director, “We’re not librarians. We don’t have that network to tap into!” In some cases, that may be true, but you can find help easily by reaching out—to staff at your library, other libraries and their staff, and your public library system, for starters.
- Assumptions (or the “People who aren’t already looking for a job won’t be interested!” attitude.) Yes, some of the most talented people already have jobs and may not currently be thinking of changing jobs. But, given the right opportunity, they just might be interested. These talented people are the ones you want—so why not try to convince them to join your staff?
Don’t fall prey to any of these, or any other, excuses. Go out there and find good qualified people and tell them why they should apply. You’ll be glad you did!