You’ve applied for a job and gotten the exciting call that the library wants to interview you! You’ve done your research. You’ve ironed your clothing. You stand tall and spend a few hours answering questions, perhaps going on a tour. You’re told they hope to make a decision quickly and they’ll be in touch within the next couple of weeks. You send a thank you note and wait. You might even write a follow up. . . that gets no response. More time passes. Of course by this point you know you don’t have the job, but maybe you check the Library’s website regardless. Maybe they had some catastrophic event? No, their website proudly announces and welcomes their new employee; the announcement is over a week old, but you still have not heard anything from the library. To you, I say: congratulations! You just dodged a bullet!
A job interview is like a first date. All parties should be trying to present their best. The situation described above is rude, inconsiderate, and unprofessional. If that behavior is the library’s best face, then one must wonder how they treat their employees. This story is a true one. It is one I’ve experienced more than once and one that has been undergone by several people I know on more than one occasion in the last few months. I must believe that libraries do not realize this lack of response is highly unprofessional and reflects on all of us in the profession, not merely on their library.
While it is understandable that an employer would wish to hold off writing to candidates who are not selected until the actual employment offer is accepted, it is still important to communicate to these non-selected candidates as soon as possible. This gesture is not simply a courtesy for the candidate, but also an investment in the library’s reputation.
Letters of non-acceptance can be formulaic and can be ready to go as soon as a candidate has accepted a position. Such letters can be sent via email, to save on cost and time. For those who are unsure what to say or find the prospect uncomfortable, there are hundreds of thousands of samples available online.
In my library, I keep three generic letters on the computer: one is sent to all candidates when an application is received. It is short and simply acknowledges that I have received their information and assures them they will hear from me again. In sending this note, I, personally insert the candidates name at the top (e.g., Dear Mr. Smith…) since this takes very little time and helps me keep track of responses. It also communicates to the potential future employee that my library values human and interpersonal communication. However, as a candidate, a nonspecific generic note is equally acceptable. The purpose of this communication is to verify receipt. Often this note is sent via email, as that is how the application is received.
The second letter I keep on file offers acceptance of a position. This one requires more editing depending on the position. This letter is always addressed to a specific person, as this serves as a contract of intent. It is also always sent as a formal letter, not in the body of an email.
The third is a letter of non-acceptance. Like the acknowledgement letter, this is short. It thanks the candidate for their interest. It states that an offer was made to and accepted by another, and wishes them well in their pursuits. Mine also states that the candidate’s information will be kept on file for a year as this is required.
I personally keep two generic non-acceptance letters. One is for those whom we have interviewed and one to those who were not met. The letter for those who have interviewed is longer and thanks them for their time. This letter is always addressed to a specific person and is sent in the mail with a real signature. It is my library’s’ feeling that if a person has taken the time to spend a few hours with us and write a thank you note, they deserve a respectful response even if they were not chosen as an employee. Sometimes the decision was very close and we want that candidate to consider us again should another opening occur. It is important to us that we make a good impression. We also want that candidate to tell their friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues that our library is friendly, respectful, and professional, thereby supporting us in the future, even if they were not chosen.
The generic letter for those who were not interviewed is shorter and less personalized. I still address it to a particular person (e.g., Mr. or Ms. Smith) because I feel this is polite. Often this note is emailed and requires very little effort. Its purpose it to be respectful of a candidate, communicate the status of the job as is fair to them, and end what has been a potential relationship.
The time it takes to copy and paste the text, insert a name, and print or send these notes, even when responding to hundreds of applicants is very miniscule. However, the payback for this investment is great. If a library is not showing respect to potential employees, it is showing no promise of professionalism or respect to those on staff.