Kent District Library Improves Hiring Outcomes, Staff Diversity with Evidence-Based Selection

In 2019, Kent District Library’s human resources department (HR) set out to strengthen its approach to staffing the organization. Our goals were to create greater equity in the selection process through reduction of implicit bias; improve the viability of candidates through competency testing; and ensure the quality of hires to help reduce first-year turnover, improve the diversity of the workforce, and ensure their competency on the job.

Kent District Library logoTalented staff who are capable of understanding, embracing, and exercising their inherent and learned talents are fundamental to every organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Historically, employers hired people they knew. Simply knowing someone would often be enough to affirm their “qualification” for a job. Such actions contributed to generations of implicit bias–based decision-making. In time, communities grew such that everyone didn’t know everybody, and a more formal meeting would occur between an applicant and their prospective employer. These meetings, or “interviews,” provided for better-informed decisions to support their organization’s mission. Still, implicit bias continued to impact the hiring process.

West Michigan organizations such as St. Mary’s, Gordon Foods, the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Community College, and dozens more shared a goal of strengthening hiring and related outcomes through adopting the science of evidence-based selection (EBS). EBS is the process by which valid tests and assessments are utilized to determine if a candidate is a match for a particular job based upon the knowledge, skills, abilities, and personality requirements that have been identified as critical to its success.  Through the evidence of test results, for tests that measure specific competencies required of a job, a hiring supervisor can make a better informed decision on an individual’s likelihood of being successful in a given position. All of these companies and institutions, including Kent District Library (KDL)–HR, were trained in evidence-based-selection through West Michigan’s HireReach initiative (see   

In support of this initiative, KDL-HR has done the following:

  • Mapped all position competencies to the U.S. Department of Labor O*NET (Occupational Information Network) databases to ensure the skills we seek are accurately and consistently defined.
  • Coordinated sessions in which KDL staff—serving as subject matter experts—collaborated with consultants to review position competencies. Doing so ensured the accuracy of skill sets deemed critical for selection, further validating the testing criteria to be used.
  • Identified and began utilizing several assessment tools. Job candidates with the highest scores across all assessments are presented to the hiring supervisor in consideration to be selected for interview. The hiring supervisor selects their top three candidates for interview.

Although testing procedures have added considerably to the staffing workload in the HR department, hiring supervisors have repeatedly commented on the strength of presenting candidates and the fact that they feel confident in selecting any of those presented for interview, recognizing they’ve been properly vetted, and they’ve demonstrated in their interviews that they are all highly competent. This saves time during the interview process.

In the past, and as with many institutions, familiarity with a candidate could play a serious role in determining who was endorsed to be interviewed and considered for the job. Adding more science to the art of hiring as we have done has eliminated much of that bias and in turn promotes equity in our staffing process with the outcome of an even more competent workforce now and in the years ahead. Put simply: Competition for jobs is less about “who you know” and more about “what you know and are capable of doing.”

Implicit bias is often cited as a hinderance to hiring a more diverse workforce as well. Prior to using EBS, KDL’s workforce had few persons of color—approximately two percent—and that percentage has now grown to approximately 10 percent today, with 17 percent of professional hires under EBS processes (i.e., managers, librarians) representing persons of color. Workforce representation is trending in the right direction.

Testing and Predictive Validity: Test assessments help predict future job performance, fit (or lack of future trouble on the job), ability to work with the team, and likelihood of retention on the job. Testing provides a field of viable candidates who have strong predictive validity to perform well in the future while eliminating implicit bias, providing managers and staff with confidence in the ability of those who are being considered.

Legal Defensibility: Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and decisions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers have a legal responsibility to establish that their employment selection procedures are job-related and consistent with business necessity. The O*NET Job Analysis process, coupled with testing to ensure relevant candidate competencies as predictors of future success, are designed to comply with standards established by the EEOC for legal defensibility of the selection process.



The following process is designed to efficiently and effectively maintain staffing at the library with those who are best qualified from each candidate pool.

Step 1: Vacancy occurs due to turnover or newly budgeted positions.

Step 2: The designated hiring supervisor completes a position requisition and the position is posted.

Step 3: Posting takes place internally and externally.

Step 4: Applications are received in the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). The designated HR team member reviews applications, cover letters, and résumés to first identify those who are qualified versus those who are not.

Step 5: Applicants competing for the position are compared against each other by the designated HR team member to further identify those who meet basic qualifications versus those who are best qualified to be successful on the job, given their work history and career progression. A combination of two to three assessments (depending upon the position) are then applied for those recognized as best qualified.

The first assessment measures foundational skills. Visual acuity, numerical reasoning, and vocabulary skills are measured as a means of quickly determining an applicant’s foundational skill level. Research shows that those with strong foundational skills perform at higher levels and greater likelihood of success on the job.

The second assessment determines one’s job readiness, learning ability, and attention to detail through a series of short questions and exercises.

The third assessment is titled “Bookmark.” This is KDL’s proprietary public library employment assessment tool, which measures an applicant’s aptitude and predictive success in working in a public library. See to learn more.

The fourth assessment measures aptitude and specifically identifies those traits that research has found to be most relevant for the specific position for which they have applied across several general categories.

The fifth assessment measures the candidate’s personality profile and identifies those characteristics that are most prevalent.

Test scores are compiled, resulting in a compensatory scoring report that recognizes those candidates with the strongest scores as eligible for further consideration. The list of eligible candidates may be as few as two, but typically will be between five and 10 in number to create greater choice for the hiring supervisor. This eligibility list is then forwarded to the hiring supervisor.

Step 6: The hiring supervisor reviews the eligibility list and selects who they wish to interview.

Step 7: Prior to the interview, HR obtains reference feedback using the Applicant Tracking System for those selected for interview. Information is shared with the hiring supervisor to glean further insight into the applicant’s candidacy.

Step 8: Structured interviews are conducted by HR, along with the hiring supervisor.

Step 9: The hiring supervisor and/or their direct supervisor will make the decision who to hire, no later than two business days following the last interview.

Step 10: Human Resources will convey regrets to those who were not selected, while the hiring supervisor will generally make the job offer. To ensure internal equity, hiring supervisors are not permitted to negotiate wages of salaried employees.

Step 11: Employment paperwork is signed and onboarding begins.

With an ever-increasing desire to promote equity within an organization, library leaders need to ask, “What exactly are we doing to promote equity with our staffing process?” Although a fully integrated system of evidence-based selection might seem daunting or overwhelming to implement, it’s easy to start with a couple of simple assessments that are valid for some key library positions. Doing so will not only strengthen the legal defensibility of a library’s hiring process, but it will send the proper message that statements of equity are more than statements—they are actions that achieve real results.

Brian Mortimore is the Director of Human Resource and Organizational Development for Kent District Library, Grand Rapids, MI. An HR professional with over 25 years’ experience, he enjoys sharing “what’s really working” with others in the library industry and beyond. He can be reached at, where he and his team can share information to help you get started with evidence-based selection.  

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing