Recruitment

During the life of a search or admissions committee, innumerable decisions are made that impact the final choice of an individual candidate or a list of finalists. Some of the decisions are concrete (for example, candidates shortlisted to be invited to campus), while others are more subtle (for example, a particular candidate “didn’t convey a sense of leadership” during the interview).

Both data driven assessments and more subjective responses to candidates are often appropriate and useful in the decision-making process. However, an unintentional and even unconscious negative response to a candidate can result in implicit bias. Research suggests that height, weight, race, gender, accent, tone of voice, dress, etc., can elicit an unconscious bias for or against a particular candidate. 

The potential for unintended bias impacts the decisions of even the most fair-minded individuals.  Research also suggests that although the processes of conscious and unconscious awareness are related, they operate separately. Therefore, conscious and unconscious attitudes can substantially differ.

It is best practice to periodically review departmental processes used to recruit faculty, staff and graduate students.  It is useful to consult a diverse range of voices within and external to your department to ensure that the recruitment process is both appropriate to your needs and as inclusive as possible.  

The Office of the Dean of the Faculty has developed a Best Practices Guide for Faculty Search Officers and Search Committees. The guide outlines the expected protocols and best practices in faculty searches, providing committees and search officers with the strategic methods to conduct efficient, effective, fair and consistent searches that will yield an excellent pool of candidates.  

In addition, the Office of the Provost offers academic units specific resources on interrupting bias for recruitment of both scholars and students.  You can find all of these academic recruitment guides here in the "Guides" section.  Additionally, any academic unit can request a tailored workshop from the Office of the Provost to advise you and your colleagues on best practices for inclusive academic searches.

Further Reading

Implicit Associations: The Academic Search Process and Letters of Recommendation

Recent research suggests that the influence of bias is reduced when search committee members have a clearer recognition and understanding of the implicit association process.