Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Considerations for Mitigating Implicit Bias in Search and Selection

Our implicit biases are pervasive and impact all aspects of search and selection. This document is intended to support your efforts to mitigate the impact of implicit biases on search and selection processes and practices. Below, please find descriptions of possible impacts and strategies to support your work.

Context and Impact

  • Implicit bias: “Our implicit biases are the result of mental associations that have formed by the direct and indirect messaging we receive, often about different groups of people. When we are constantly exposed to certain identity groups being paired with certain characteristics, we can begin to automatically and unconsciously associate the identity with the characteristics, whether or not that association aligns with reality.” Implicit biases are pervasive, aversive and malleable. (Retrieved from http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias)

  • We are more likely to seek out and select people who reflect our beliefs, practices, academic and professional pathways, and current departmental/programmatic culture and approach. This is called cloning. Working with diverse and inclusive teams to conduct a systemic candidate review process helps to mitigate the effects of cloning. In this context, a diverse committee is one that is populated with people with different social identities/disciplines/roles from one another, while inclusive refers to a setting in which practices and behaviors that support collaboration and mutuality are utilized. 

  • Due to the effects of ideological/structural privilege and oppression, people of color, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (non-binary, agender, gender non-conforming, two- spirit, others), queer or questioning, asexual, intersex (LGBTQAI+), first generation to university people, people with a disability, women and other historically marginalized groups are less likely to pursue and complete doctoral degrees than are people who are white, non-first gen, non- LGBTQAI+, people without a disability and men. Because of this reality, marginalized people who do complete their doctoral degree and who excel in their fields are often exceptional and have important areas of expertise (ex. strategic, resilient, creative, strong networking and collaboration skills, understand the effects of institutional privilege and oppression on university communities, many others) related to navigating a system that produces inequities. This context necessitates that we are creative and innovative in approach when seeking out underrepresented candidates.

  • Due to the effects of structural privilege and oppression, people of color, people with a disability, people who are LGBTQAI+, first generation to university people, people with a disability, women and other historically marginalized groups, university search committees are more likely to undervalue their academic pathways (ex. candidates who do not or did not attend a prestigious research university) and accomplishments (research, teaching and service) while the academic pathways and accomplishments of people who are white, non-LGBTQAI+, non-first generation to university people, people without a disability and men are more likely to be overvalued.

Consultation Questions

  • Does serving on this committee present a conflict of interest for you? It is important that you pose this question at different stages of the search. For example, this might become an issue once candidates begin being vetted. 

  • What are the circumstances around this search? Why has it come to be at this time? 

  • What are the diversity, equity and inclusion vision and goals for the search? How do they align with the strengths and needs of our dynamic and ever-changing community (ex. diversity of student body, faculty and staff; willingness and ability to engage across difference)? 

  • As a committee, what are your practices related to identifying, recruiting, interviewing and selecting candidates? How did you assess and expand those practices for this search? 

  • Throughout this process, reflect on the social identities with which you feel the least familiar or comfortable. How do the candidates align with those identities? How might your experiences with privilege and oppression impact your understanding of the candidates’ strengths and limitations? 

  • As you review applications, reflect on the candidates’, educational pathway and university affiliations, and professional or academic pathway. How familiar are they to you? How might this level of familiarity impact your selection process? How are you ranking these areas of the candidate’s application? How are these rankings impacting the selection process? 

  • Do you need to like the candidate? Why or why not? Do you want to add likability to your criteria? If so, how are you defining this? Strategies? 

  • Discuss and prioritize the criteria that are most important for candidates to possess at the time of hire. 

  • Develop an application rubric to evaluate candidate applications that are based on these criteria. This rubric will help you make decisions about which candidates to interview. 

  • Develop interview questions about candidates’ diversity, equity and inclusion experiences and aspirations. Ask every candidate the same questions. 

  • Remember, some questions about social identities are illegal to ask of candidates. Review those questions. Contact Human Resources to access this information. 

  • Develop an interview rubric to evaluate candidates that are based on the advertised and prioritized position qualifications and interview questions. 

  • Be able to offer examples of the department/program’s/area’s diversity, equity and inclusion experiences and aspirations, as well as those of the University. 

  • Schedule meetings for candidates with representatives from across the university. 

  • Consider using inclusion criteria to choose candidates. In other words, make selections based on the attributes that you would like a candidate to possess rather than those attributes that disqualify a candidate. 

  • Review this Implicit Bias document periodically during the search and selection process. 

Source: Ways to Reduce Bias in your Hiring Process  Fine, E. & Handelsman, J. (2012). Searching for Excellence & Diversity: A Guide for Search Committees. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, Madison.