Winter 2016 Newsletter
Reminders and Resources for Search Committees
As search committees review applications from interested candidates and interview finalists, it is important to remember the principles of equity, affirmative action and inclusion that inform our searches. Key to conducting an equitable search is a commitment to addressing implicit biases that can negatively impact evaluation of candidates who are women, people of color, veterans, and other diverse people. To reduce the potential impacts of implicit biases in searches, consider the following points. Some of these suggestions are drawn from the excellent resource “Reviewing Applicants: Research on Bias and Assumptions,” a publication of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System by Eve Fine and Jo Handelsman (2012). Please also remember the resources listed to the right.
- Create diverse search committees. At institutions like Western, where faculty and staff of color are underrepresented in many areas and where women are underrepresented in multiple science and business fields, this can be challenging. Best practices in such situations include forming committees containing individuals from a related department and inviting community members with relevant expertise to serve on search committees. A diverse search committee benefits from the multiple frames of reference of its members. These different perspectives aid in robustly evaluating candidates and identifying unconscious preferences that may be influencing some committee members’ assessment of applicants.
- Agree from the outset of a search to raise concerns about implicit preferences that may arise. This is shared work, not only the responsibility of underrepresented people serving on the committee. A committee’s agreement to address implicit biases also requires openness to the possibility that another committee member might raise a question about assumptions you are making or conclusions you are drawing.
- Build a diverse pool of candidates for the position. Unconscious biases may have a greater impact on underrepresented people when they make up only a small percentage of the applicant pool.
- Be consistent in the criteria used to evaluate applicants, and in the opportunities afforded to applicants at each stage of the search. Before beginning review of applications, the search committee should discuss the precise meaning of the position qualifications, the relative weight assigned to each qualification, and how the qualifications will be assessed.
- Consider the entirety of a candidate’s application, and review it qualitatively. The best qualified candidate is not necessarily the one with the longest amount of professional experience, the greatest number of publications or externally funded research dollars, or who has taught the most classes. Emphasizing quantity over quality can negatively impact candidates who have experienced barriers to publishing, obtaining research funding, or securing work opportunities due to institutional and unconscious biases.
- Dedicate time to reviewing applications. When we are hurried in making decisions, unconscious biases are more likely to impact evaluative outcomes.
- Remember that committees will need to provide one or more specific reasons that candidates are not being moved forward. These reasons must always relate to the required or preferred job qualifications.
This Guide for hiring authorities and search committees offers best practices to ensure all of Western’s searches are fair and equitable and create the best possible opportunity to attract diverse applicants. Much of this guidance is also relevant to searches for classified staff.
Western offers multiple resources for our diverse faculty and staff. Share this document, which highlights those resources, with all finalists or semi-finalists for open positions.
Multiple laws prohibit asking candidates or their references about legally protected aspects of the applicant's identity. Download this guide as a refresher for people who will be interacting with job applicants.