Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to Find a Taxonomist

The need for well designed taxonomies is growing, and the number of people becoming skilled in designing and creating taxonomies is growing. But finding the right taxonomist at the right time and place is still difficult, whether contract/temporary or permanent. If you are looking to hire a taxonomist, these are some places where you might look.

Recruiting/staffing firms

The taxonomy profession is not well defined, as it is for engineers, accountants, librarians, etc. It’s still too small and narrower to support recruiting/staffing firms that are specialized in the taxonomy field, in contrast to other professions. Yet it is also an interdisciplinary, cross-functional field, which does not fit nicely within another broader professional. Sometimes taxonomists are considered a type of librarian/information scientist and their recruitment falls to staffing firms in that field. Yet other times taxonomists are considered adjuncts to the profession of content management and their recruitment falls to information technology staffing firms. They may also be considered a part of knowledge management, so they could come under the interest of more general management recruiters. These splits makes it difficult for the hiring firm to select a recruiting partner. If possible, an employer should contract with multiple recruitment firms in different areas of specialty, such as library science, information technology, and knowledge/business management. Be aware that some qualified taxonomists are looking for only temporary contract work, and some are looking for primarily full-time permanent work.

Taxonomy is so specialized that even recruiters who deal with the field might do so rarely, and thus they don’t really know what taxonomists do. As a hiring manager, you will need to educate the recruiter about the details of the job responsibilities and qualifications.

Social media

There is no doubt that LinkedIn is an excellent way to search for professionals, but its effectiveness depends on the size of your own network. Join the Taxonomy Community of Practice LinkedIn group  and other similar groups to expend your network to include taxonomists. It’s very easy to search on “taxonomist” or “taxonomy” in people’s titles. Keep in mind that only a fraction of the taxonomists out there are available for new work.

You can also find professional taxonomists who have given taxonomy-related presentations and posted them on SlideShare. SlideShare covers all topics, so when searching on “taxonomies” make sure to skip over Bloom’s taxonomy (educational outcomes) and anything biological. Of taxonomists who post slides, a high percentage of them tend to be consultants available for projects, as they know to use SlideShare to promote themselves.

Finally, there is a Yahoo group, Taxonomy jobs, which is a simple distribution list. If you have a taxonomy job, permanent or contract, that you are trying to fill, send the job description to the listowner:

Professional associations

There is no professional association dedicated to taxonomists, but there are two associations with relevant sections or divisions. SLA (Special Libraries Association), an association of corporate librarians, subject-specialized librarians, and information professionals, has a Taxonomy Division for networking and professional development of its taxonomist-members. Its website does not list taxonomists available for contracting, but the main SLA website does. At  you can search for consultants with the area of expertise in “Thesaurus Development.” (Hopefully this will be supplemented or replaced with “Taxonomy Development” in the future.) This consultant database is not well known, even among members, so there are many taxonomist-consultants who are not listed. For a fee, you can also post a job on the SLA website.

The American Society for Indexing (ASI) has a Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies Special Interest Group. ASI and this special interest group are much smaller than SLA and its Taxonomy Division, but the overwhelming majority of ASI members are independent contractors. The Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies SIG website lists its members who are available for contract taxonomy projects.

If you know someone personally who is a member of either of these organizations but is not available or precisely qualified, you can always ask that person for professional referrals.

Other tips

Because the right taxonomist can be difficult to find, be prepared to hire someone who works remotely with only occasional visits to your office. Similarly with a consultant or consultancy, you should not hesitate to contact a consultant in another part of the country. They are accustom to traveling, they may utilize subcontractors in your area, or they may refer the project to another consultant in your area.

As for myself, I have found taxonomy work through all of these means: recruiters, staffing firms, LinkedIn, SlideShare, and professional association member referrals. I am not looking for taxonomy work now, since I am happily employed (and hence dispensing this advice), but I can also provide referrals to other taxonomists.

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