Staff Selection, Hiring and Interviewing
by Chris Witkin


Staff selection, hiring and interviewing are among the most consequential functions that managers perform. Employee turnover rates in libraries are low, especially among professional staff. The selection decision is crucial since there are relatively few opportunities to hire new employees. Overlay these facts with a bewildering array of legal constraints and the selection, interviewing and hiring process quickly becomes problematic. This chapter will provide the logical sequence for the process of hiring and interviewing candidates in an effective and legal manner.

Chapter Organization

1. Staff Selection and Hiring

    1a. Basics every supervisor should know – principles and procedures

    1b. Regulations that affect the staff seclection and hiring process

    1c. Useful source guides

    1d. Do’s and don’ts of selection and hiring

2. Interviewing Potential Staff 2a. Basics every supervisor should know – principles and procedures

2b. Regulations that effect the interviewing process

2c. Useful source guides

2d. Do’s and don’ts of interviewing

1. Staff Selection and Hiring

1a. Staff Selection and Hiring – Basics every supervisor should know (Kratz 1993, 7)

A. Recruitment

The focus of this section is the process by which people that have not worked for the library before are selected and hired.

1. Does the responsibility for recruiting new employees lie with the library or with a separate personnel office
2. What are the recruitment requirements 3. What are your recruitment sources and what are the procedures by which vacancies are publicized within the parent organization and to the public
B. Requirements for employment 1. Position requirements should be directly related to the tasks to be performed .  Guard against exclusionary qualifications which are not directly related to the duties of the position. State how the requirements are set and where they may be examined.
2. Know general requirements for all positions 3. Know general requirements for librarian positions 4. Know general requirements for paraprofessional positions
C. Filling vacant positions
1. Outline the procedure for applying for the position 2. Appointment
The letter other official notice of appointment should include:
1b. Staff Selection and Hiring – Regulations that Affect the Process (Rubin 1993, 9)
A. Equal Opportunity Employment Policies
1. Official policy of the parent institution
2. Official library policy
3. Minority recruitment and retention
4. Employment of and reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities
B. State and federal fair employment practice laws applicable to the library
1. Summary of portions of the laws that directly affect library employees
2. Place where complete copies of the laws are available for consultation
C. Policies prohibiting sexual harassment or harassment over age, race or sexual orientation
1. Official policy of the parent institution
2. Official library policy
D. Adverse impact
1. An employer mat be found to discriminate if it can be shown that its practices have the effect of disproportionately screening out groups protected by law.
E. Equal Pay Act
1. It is unlawful to offer different rates of pay to men and women in so far as the job requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and has similar working conditions
F. Affirmative Action
1. The employer shall not discriminate and should do a self-analysis to determine if affirmative action is necessary in his organization. This is usually accomplished by comparing the composition of the organization’s workforce with the workforce outside the organization.
G.Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
1. The employer must ensure that the prospective employee is legally able to work in the United States
H. Negligent Hire
1. The employer may be held liable for negligent hire when a particular unsuitability of an applicant creates a danger of harm to a third person, which the employer knows, or should have known, when he hired and places the applicant in employment when he could injure others.
1c. – Useful Source Guides that Exist on Selection and Hiring

An extremely useful guide for hiring library employees is a how-to-do-it manual titled Hiring Library Employees by Richard Rubin. This well-organized, clearly written and comprehensive looks at the entire picture of hiring in a library setting. The chapters include Legal Considerations, Prerequisites to the Hiring Process, Recruiting Effective Employees, Conducting a Hiring Process, Orientation and Training, Dealing with the ADA. The appendices are equally informative and provide the following information:

Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, Sample Hiring Policy, Sample "At-Will" Statement, Sample Application Forms, Questions that Should Not be Asked in an Interview, Telephone Reference Form, Sample Letter of Employment, and an Orientation Checklist. Although this book was published in 1993, its bibliography isn’t as current and most of the works listed were published in the 1980’s.

First Choice Source Guide:
Rubin, Richard. Hiring Library Employees. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 1993.

Other Valuable Source Guides:
Carson, Paula, Kerry Carson and Joyce Phillips. The Library Manager’s Deskbook.

102 Expert Solutions to 101 Common Dilemmas. Chicago: American Library Association, 1995.

Giesecke, Joan, ed. Practical Help for New Supervisors. Chicago: American Library Association, 1992.

Kratz, Charles E. and Valerie A. Platz. The Personnel Manual – An Outline for Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, 1993.

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) publishes annual salary surveys that establish salaries for new and experienced special librarians. Be sure and make a copy available to the wage management department.

1d. – Do’s and Don’ts of Selection and Hiring

Establishing written evaluation criteria for the job vacancy is an important way to ensure the hiring of a qualified candidate. Before interviewing, the manager should be very familiar with the knowledge, skills and abilities that are necessary for success in the position. According to Rubin (1993, 66), the following are traits of good employees. Use the interview to assess the candidate’s

Ability to communicate


Attention to personal appearance

Commitment to the organization and the profession





Good Attitude

Good Health







Respect for Authority

Rubin (1993, 1) considers the following reasons for selection to be problematic:
" I like this person"

"The individual has lived in the community for years"

"The individual is a good friend so I can trust her"

" The rest of the staff will be happy"

"Everyone expects this individual to get the job"

" I might be sued if I don’t hire him"

"This individual expects to be hired"

"I will lose this person as a friend if I don’t hire this person"

"I don’t have a reason not to hire him"

"The person is prominent in the community"

"The person knows people who are prominent in the community"

"The person’s brother (mother, father sister) works here"

The following are critical elements in the hiring process (Rubin 1993, 4)
Established policies and procedures

Effective recruitment techniques and strategies

The use of job analysis to determine the nature of the job to be filled

Identification of qualified candidates

Effective interview procedures and techniques

Reference checking

Selection of successful candidate

Records maintenance

New employee orientation and training

2. Interviewing Potential Staff

2a. Interviewing-Basics every Supervisor Should Know

An interview is a means of communication. The interviewer has a dual mission: to represent the institution and to evaluate the candidate. The manager decides who should be interviewed. The candidate is contacted and the interview is scheduled. The candidate is asked to bring a resume and references to the interview if the manager does not already have these items. Make every effort to have a resume in hand before the interview so the questions can be planned ahead of time. Being ill prepared for an interview is difficult for the interviewer and unfair to the candidate.

A. Before the Interview

1. Plan it!
2. Develop a list of questions beforehand that will answer "What do I need to know about this candidate?".
3. Review the resume, the application form, and the cover letter before the interview.
4. Write down questions you have about the above.
5. Have a written position description handy and anticipate questions the candidate may ask.
6. Review questions that should not be asked (see 2b. and 2d.)
B. During the Interview
1. Choose a quiet place for the interview and ensure there will be no interruptions.
2. Be on time for the interview and come prepared with needed materials.
3. Establish rapport with the candidate after greeting him. Make some small talk such as asking if they had any trouble finding the library.
4. Explain the purpose of the interview and what will happen during the candidate’s visit to the library. Describe the job and the organization.
5. Ask if the candidate has any questions about the job or the organization before beginning the actual interview.
6. During the interview, allow the candidate plenty of time to consider the question and to formulate an answer. Do not interrupt but do help out if the candidate flounders.
7. Do not talk too much! It may feel awkward to remain silent but you’ll get more information that way. The general rule is the interviewer should talk 25% of the time.
8. Don’t anticipate answers and then not listen attentively.
9. Don’t disagree with or disapprove of a candidate’s statements.
10. Maintain eye contact
11. Make notes during the interview or risk forgetting the candidate.
12. Open-ended questions will provide more information. They begin with What, Why, How, Describe or Tell me about.
13. Ask only job-related questions. This is a good rule to adhere to in order to conduct an interview that does not run afoul of federal non-discrimination statutes. (See 2d. Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing)
C. After the Interview
1. Ask the candidate if they have any questions.
2. Give the candidate a tour of the library, if time permits.
3. After thanking the candidate for her time, and saying goodbye, return to your office to compare and evaluate candidates.
4. Check references from former employees
5. Send a note or call to notify candidate they are or are not going to be considered. Tell them how long the process in likely to take.
2b. Interviewing – Regulations that Affect the Process

A. Principal federal statutes bearing on non-discrimination in employment (Kanter 1995, 209)

1. Civil Rights Act of 1981
B. Inappropriate areas for questioning (Rubin 1995, 83)

Avoid probing personal or private topics that have no relationship to the candidate’s ability to perform the job. Also avoid any questions that might be interpreted as having a discriminatory intent. Questions that should not be asked are those concerning:

1. Age: Inquiries about age are legal only if there is a special reason related to law.  For example, making sure a candidate is 18 years old in order to comply with child labor laws.
2. Disability: Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, most questions about a candidate’s disability asked prior to hiring are not allowed.
3. Marital/family status: Questions concerning marital status, number of children, childcare arrangements or pregnancy are prohibited.
4. Race/color/ethnicity: Questions about a candidate’s national or racial background are prohibited.
5. Religion: This isn’t an appropriate subject for questioning. The interviewer may ask about the candidate’s ability to meet a regular work schedule, but may not ask about which religious holidays the candidate observes.
2c. Useful Source Guides that Exist on Interviewing

Hacker, Carol. The Costs of Bad Hiring Decisions and How to Avoid Them. Boca Raton: St. Lucie Press, 1997.

Kanter, Arnold. The Essential Book of Interviewing. New York: Random House, 1995.

Rubin, Richard. Hiring Library Employees. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1993.

Sachs, Randi. How to Become a Skillful Interviewer. New York: AMACOM, 1994

2d. Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing

Regarding name :

You may ask if applicants work records are under another name.
You may not ask if a woman is a Miss, Mrs. or Ms.
You may not ask an applicant to give a maiden name or any other previous name she has used.
Regarding age:
You may require proof of age by birth certificate after hiring.
You may not ask the age or age group of an applicant or request a birth certificate before hiring.
Regarding birthplace/national origin:
You may not ask the birthplace of the applicant or that of his parents, grandparents or spouse.
Regarding race/color:
You may indicate that the institution is an equal opportunity employer.
You may ask race for affirmative action plan statistics after hiring.
You may not make any inquiry that would indicate race or color.
Regarding gender:
You may ask sex for affirmative action plan statistics after hiring.
You may not ask applicant any inquiry which would indicate sex, unless job-related.
Regarding religion/creed: You may not ask an applicant’s religion or religious customs and holidays.
Regarding citizenship:
You may ask if applicant is a U.S. citizen, if their U.S. residence is legal, if the spouse is a citizen, and require proof of citizenship, after hiring.
You may not ask if applicant is native –born or naturalized, or if parents are native-born or naturalized, or date of citizenship.
Regarding marital/parental status:
You may ask status (married or single) after hiring for insurance and tax purposes.
You may ask number and ages of dependents and age of spouse after hiring for insurance and tax purposes.
You may not ask marital status before hiring.
You may not ask the number and ages of children, or who cares for them or if applicant plans to have more children.
Regarding military service:
You may ask if applicant served in the U.S. armed forces and the branch of service and rank attained.
You may require military discharge certificate after hiring.
You may not request military service records or ask about military service in countries other than the U.S.
You may not ask the type of discharge.
Regarding education:
You may ask what schools were attended.
You may ask about language skills, such as reading and writing foreign languages.
You may not ask the nationality or religious affiliation of schools attended, or how foreign language ability was acquired.
Regarding photographs:
You may require a photograph after hiring for identification purposes.
You may not request photographs before hiring or take pictures during the interview.
Regarding disability:
You may not make any inquiries unless applicant volunteers they have a disability. Even then, any questions should be limited to the disability can be accommodated.
You may not exclude disabled applicants as a class on the basis of their disability.
Remember, you may inquire about any area that has a direct reflection on the job applied for. You may not make a non-job-related inquiry that may present information permitting unlawful discrimination.
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