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Six Tips to Ensure Unbiased Searches

Like it or not, you’re biased in some way, shape or form. All of us are. Study after study has proven this time and again. Given this fact, and the urgent need for diversification of the higher ed workforce, how can we keep unconscious bias from creeping in to our search and selection processes? Bottom line is, in order to combat bias (both intentional and unintentional), recruiting and selecting diverse talent requires different approaches, tools and techniques.

In his session “The Diversity Advantage: Incorporating Diversity Principles Into the Selection Process” at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2014, Chris Lee, associate vice chancellor for HR at Virginia Community College System and author of Search Committees: A Comprehensive Guide to Successful Faculty, Staff and Administrative Searches, offered some tips for keeping personal bias out of the search and selection process.

Policies need to support diversity strategy. Having a diversity statement is not enough. Your serach and selection policies need to support that strategy.

Do an organizational analysis. Who are you serving? Does your workforce look like your student population? Where are you now and where do you want to be in terms of diverse faculty and staff? How will you get there?

Define the position in terms of required diversity competencies. If the position serves diverse clientele — and almost every position does — highlight the need for such things as cultural competence, familiarity with gender issues, or knowledge of the literature on multicultural counseling techniques as a part of responsibilities.

Make sure your search committees are diverse – both culturally and in terms of perspective.

Train your search committees around diversity principles. As mentioned earlier, there are countless studies on personal bias. Share these studies with your committees. Train them on diversity awareness and sensitivity, assumption, how to ask the right questions, how to determine fit, etc.

Evaluate “fit.” Ensure “fit” is not an excuse for bias. Fit should be observable, measurable, stated and use previously agreed upon objective criteria.

The business case for diversifying the higher ed workforce is strong. Greater diversity in higher ed positively impacts student outcomes, student development, college satisfaction, intellectual engagement and growth of students, student retention and persistence … the list goes on. If we begin to think about recruitment of diverse talent in different parameters, and if we properly equip our search committees and hiring managers with the tools and techniques they need to keep personal bias out of the search and selection process, we can affect change in our higher ed workplaces.

Are you training your search committees and hiring managers around diversity principles? Have you made an impact?

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