Even the most well-intentioned person unwittingly allows

Inherent Bias
Overcoming Subjectivity in the
Search Process
• Definition of Inherent Bias
• Job Descriptions/Objective Criteria
• Recruiting
• Interviews
• Steps Forward
Inherent Bias
• Certain inherent biases are present in all human
interactions including hiring decisions:
▫ Assumptions about physical and social
characteristics based on race, gender, and
▫ Assumptions related to the level of position or
field of study.
• “Even the most well-intentioned person
unwittingly allows unconscious thoughts and
feelings to influence apparently objective
decisions.” – Mahzarin R. Banaji
Case Studies
• Using data from actual auditions for 8
orchestras over the period when screens were
introduced, auditions with screens substantially
increased the probability that women were
advanced (within the orchestra) and that women
were hired. These results parallel those found in
many studies of the impact of blind review of
journal article submissions.
Caffrey, M. (1997, May 12). Blind auditions help women. Princeton Weekly Bulletin. Based on Goldin, C & Rouse, C. (2000).
Orchestrating impartiality: The impact of “blind” auditions on female musicians. American Economic Review, 90, 715–741.
Case Studies
• Subconscious decisions are already being made
by an evaluator based on stereotypes about
certain names before an interview has taken
Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan S. (2004). Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on
labor market discrimination. The American Economic Review 94(4), 991–1013; "Employers' Replies to Racial Names." NBER Website.
Thursday, August 31, 2006. http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html.
Case Studies
• A study of postdoctoral fellowships awarded by
the Medical Research Council of Sweden found
that women candidates needed substantially
more publications to achieve the same rating as
men, unless they personally knew someone on
the panel.
Wenneras, C. & Wold, A. (1997). “Nepotism and sexism in peer-review.” Nature, 387, 341–343.
The Search Process
• Inherent Bias at Stages of Search Process
▫ Job Description
▫ Bias in Recruiting
▫ Applicant Evaluation/Interviews
Job Description
• Objective v Subjective Criteria
• Possibility of broadening criteria
▫ Publications
▫ Research Specialty
Reflexive Exercise
• What was the process like on your most recent
search committee?
▫ Did you use the same job description historically
used by the department?
▫ Were opinions about broadening or changing the
job description accepted?
▫ Is there a sense that the ideal candidate should be
identical to the incumbent?
Job Description
• Preferred Qualifications Suggested Language
▫ “Contribute through research, teaching, and/or
public engagement to the diversity and excellence
of the learning experience.”
▫ “Integrate multicultural experience into
instructional methods and research tools.”
Suggested Language Cont’d
• Preferred Qualifications
▫ “Apply understanding of issues such as diversity
and multiculturalism to scholarship.”
▫ “Provide leadership in developing pedagogical
techniques designed to meet the needs of diverse
learning styles.”
• Recruitment Efforts Can Include
▫ Paid Advertisements (online and print)
▫ Listservs and Postings
▫ Postings, letters, and contracts with professional
associations or conferences
▫ Phone calls and letters to professional contacts
▫ All other networking efforts
Recruitment Myths
• “The best candidates shouldn’t have to be
convinced to apply.”
• “People from certain groups/backgrounds would
not be interested in UConn.”
Reflexive Exercise
• Recruitment
▫ Where/how does your department normally
▫ When was the last time this recruitment strategy
was updated?
▫ Is recruiting ongoing even when there is no active
Suggested Recruitment
• The WISE Directories
• The Minority and Women Doctoral Directory
• Ford Foundation Fellows
• IMDiversity.com
• Please see ODE’s website for links and additional resources
• Core set of Interview Questions to be asked of all
• Ensure all interviewers are aware of what
questions are appropriate/inappropriate
• Provide opportunities for underrepresented
members of the department to meet all
candidates not just candidates from those
Recognizing Bias and Reducing its
• Recognizing and accounting for these internal
biases can help reduce their impact on the
search process and review of candidates.
• Openly discussing bias and stereotypes among
search committee members. Consciously strive
to minimize these influences on the evaluation
Steps Forward
• Recruit to increase women and minorities in the
applicant pool.
• Apply criteria consistently to all applicants. All
candidates should start with a blank slate.
• Spend substantial time evaluating each
Steps Forward Cont’d
• Evaluate the complete application.
• Provide qualification related defenses and
justifications for eliminating (or advancing) a
Final Reflexive Exercise
• What have you learned?
▫ Do changes need to be made to your department’s
hiring culture?
▫ What concerns will you bring up the next time you
are on a search committee?
▫ What are your personal/professional steps

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