Q: I’ve heard that librarian search committees (especially in academia) do not appreciate follow-up calls from candidates. Is this true?
SM: I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are not appreciated. I will say, however, that follow-up phone calls (or e-mails) will most likely be futile; the committee will be reluctant to give out any information until the search is complete and a candidate has accepted the position. Further, follow-up phone calls, often encouraged in other professions as a way of showing your interest in a position, will not give you an edge in an academic librarian job search.
It is no secret that academic librarian job searches can take a very long time. You may wait several months before being contacted for an interview, or you might not hear anything at all (unfortunate, but common). Let’s say you were contacted by the committee for an interview. At the end of your interview, the search committee should give you some kind of timeline, or a general date of when you can expect to be contacted with the results of the search. If they do not, you should ask them (preferably before you leave) when you can expect to hear from them.
Once you know the general timeline, you should not contact the committee before the given date, unless: 1) you have pertinent questions for the committee that you forgot to ask at the interview, 2) you have (genuinely) been offered a position elsewhere and would like to at least find out if you are “in the running” for this other position, or, 3) you have decided you are no longer interested or have accepted a position elsewhere, and you wish to withdraw from the search.
If your purpose for contacting the committee is to promote yourself or to emphasize how much you want the job, don’t do it. This type of contact (anytime during the search process) is not appreciated. If the interviews have been completed, the committee gave you a general timeline of two weeks, and it has now been three weeks, then you do have every right to contact them to find out the status of the search. Just don’t expect to hear any real news – good or bad – until a candidate has accepted and the job search is officially over.
I have headed up, and participated in, several academic search committees. I can attest to the fact that the committee, like the candidates, often spends a lot of time waiting – for interviews to finish, for input from relevant people (other than the search committee), for a final decision (hopefully a consensus) to be made, for paperwork to be completed, for reference letters or calls, for approval from Human Resources to move forward, for a candidate’s decision once a job has been offered. Trust me, search committees do not enjoy waiting either. Ultimately, they want to finish the interview and selection process as quickly as possible and fill the open position with the best candidate possible.
TA: As a personnel librarian, I would have to add that, should you have any questions, even just about the status of the search, you should be able to call the library’s HR representative. We realize this is a long process, and that both the process and the time it takes can make candidates nervous. While you may not get specific information, you should be able to find out where we are in the search process – and, sometimes, just hearing a voice on the other end of the phone is comfort enough.
Additional Information on the Academic Job Search
“Academic Interview Process” by Nanako Kodaira
“Surviving (and Even Impressing!) the Search Committee” by Karla J. Block
“The Interviewing Process Broken Down” by Suzan Lee
“Do Academic Librarian Searches Take Too Long?” by Steven J. Bell
“Endlesse Searche” by Todd Gilman
The Successful Academic Librarian: Winning Strategies From Library Leaders by Gwen Meyer Gregory