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  • 1. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0888-045X.htm LIBRARY LEADERSHIP Personnel search part IV Directing the personnel search part IV: the on-site interview 157 Gary Fitsimmons Bryan College, Dayton, Tennessee, USA Received 7 July 2011AbstractPurpose – This paper’s purpose is to outline what goes into a well-done library personnel on-siteinterview.Design/methodology/approach – The paper reviews the need for planning and doing backgroundchecks leading up to the onsite interview and then suggests items to consider in both the planning andexecution of a well thought-out onsite visit.Findings – The finding is that planning the onsite interview well is essential to knowing whichcandidate will work out the best in the long run.Practical implications – Hiring the right person through a well-thought out process can save time,trouble and expense for years to come.Social implications – All job seekers should be treated with respect remembering that all have beenin that position and could be in that position again in the future.Originality/value – The value of the paper is in hiring the right person the first time using a processthat is beneficial to everyone involved.Keywords Onsite interview, Job search, Hiring process, Interviews, Job vacancies, LibrariesPaper type Conceptual paperIn the last installment we discussed the preliminary interviews in the search process.By the time a candidate is offered an onsite interview, he or she should have someconfidence that there is genuine interest in them for the position. If you already knowthat you cannot hire them for some specific reason, it is not fair to invite them for aninterview, even if your institution requires a certain number of interviews before a hire.In such cases it is necessary to either appeal for an exception or change in suchrequirements or reopen the search to expand your candidate pool. Reopening thesearch should only considered as a final option as it is expensive in terms of time andother resources already expended on the search and is definitely not guaranteed to addany qualified candidates to your pool. One thing that has not been mentioned in this series so far, but that absolutely mustbe done some time before a candidate is hired is a thorough background check thatgoes beyond merely checking references. A thorough check will include a criminalcheck (including legal right to work and immigration status), legal and financial The Bottom Line: Managing Librarydealings, address and phone number history, relatives and associates, neighbors, and Financesmore. Some institutions routinely have their human resources departments routinely Vol. 24 No. 3, 2011 pp. 157-159do such checks for all candidates that meet the minimum qualifications, but it is q Emerald Group Publishing Limitedamazing how often this indispensible step is overlooked. If it is not routinely done at 0888-045X DOIyour institution, you should insist on it at whatever point it will help move the process 10.1108/01420548880451111185973
  • 2. BL along – earlier it may help to reduce size of the pool and later it may help to decide24,3 between otherwise apparently equally desirable candidates. If, for some reason, your institution will not do one, you can do one yourself through an online service, making sure to choose a service that does a comprehensive job. You can also find out additional relevant information by simply doing a Google search for the candidate’s name with the caveat that this information may come from less than reliable sources or may158 actually be about someone else with the same name. The time and cost expended in doing a thorough background check is well worth the investment. After you have narrowed your candidate pool down to the short list, and decided whether to invite them all or one by one until you make an offer that is accepted, comes what you hope will be the final phase of the process: the onsite interview. This could be as simple as an in- person confirmation that the candidate is as near to perfect as possible, leave you with a difficult decision between somewhat equal candidates, or send you completely back to the drawing board. Whatever the result, this is no time to slack off on planning or execution. Once again, the planning should be centered on what kind of information you need to gather about the candidate(s). Hopefully by now you and your staff have discussed the candidates enough that your main goal should be to determine the fit of each one for your particular institution and position. The idea is to find out how well he or she makes use of his or her qualifications within the unique culture of your institution and with the others already working there. To accomplish this, the candidate should be provided with ample opportunities to interact with you, your staff, and anyone else that would normally come in regular contact with the person you hire. Small group meetings over lunch or larger group meetings with refreshments provide a more relaxed atmosphere for observing the intangibles that make for high quality interactions. If the job description calls for presentation skills, the candidate should be required to do a presentation on something relevant to the position with advance warning to allow time to prepare before he or she comes. Be sure to balance out group time with individual interviews with key people, including yourself (possibly early on, but absolutely as the final “wrap up” person). Also be sure to build in bathroom breaks and see to any other necessities that your candidates have. It is easy to see how all of this can fill up a day or even two days. The time must be well planned in advance so that the director can give full attention to the candidates and staff members during the interview days. Spontaneity is not a bad thing, but it should be used to modify and enhance plans, not as a substitute for them. In addition to interacting with the candidates themselves, one of your other major tasks is to observe their interactions with others to see if they can work together to accomplish projects and daily routines. This can usually be done through discussion of common problems in libraries or even an issue that you and your staff are facing currently. Invite and look for ready contributions to the discussion from the candidate. If he or she does not show interest in solving problems during the interview, such an interest is unlikely to develop later. A final task for both you and the others involved in the interview process is to sell the institution and the area to the candidates. This should be in the back of everyone’s mind during the whole process, but particularly crucial times to concentrate on this aspect is at the beginning and end of the visit, such as the trips from and back to the airport. If you cannot take that responsibility, see that someone does it that can leave a
  • 3. great final impression. Even if the fit is not right or there is some other reason Personnel searchcandidates cannot work there, they should leave wishing they could and that they wantto recommend the position to a friend. Once again, you never know how far the part IVgoodwill will go in helping you and your institution. Be sure to allow your staff some time after each encounter to formulate theirimpressions on a form so that they do not begin confusing candidates. Someinstitutions interview all candidates within the same day or days, shuffling staff and 159candidates like students between classes. This saves some time but is confusing,distracting and does not allow for the kind of quality needed in the interactions.Remember the cost of hiring the wrong person and think of the time as a worthwhileinvestment, even if it appears early on that the candidate will not work out. In the finalassessment, it would be better not to offer your position to a candidate you haveserious doubts about than to be sorry after the hire, and you and your staff cannot buthave doubts if you are rushing from one appointment to another with no time inbetween to reflect on the previous interactions. This ends our series on conducting library position searches. Next time we willdiscuss a related topic and one that also should be kept in mind while trying to fill anyparticular position: fitting the staff to the positions and vice versa.Corresponding authorGary Fitsimmons can be contacted at: gfitsimmon5590@bryan.eduTo purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.comOr visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints