Designing to Overcome Bias in Hiring

Five takeaways from a recent workshop

August 24, 2018

I recently attended a workshop on diversity in hiring in education with Eden-Reneé Hayes. Here are my key takeaways.

1. Bias distorts hiring process.

Bias is a self-fulfilling prophecy and a “prophecy fulfilled by the self.”

Everyone has bias. And that bias creeps into every part of the hiring process. We may unconsciously deploy systems to steer towards a biased choice. For example, interviewers sit farther away from candidates that are viewed as different, and that distance can inhibit a successful interview. This is just one example of the myriad of ways that the hiring process can distort a meritocracy. Indeed, representation in higher education is significantly skewed towards men and white people.

2. We need carefully designed systems to overcome bias.

Approach each step of the hiring process with intentionality and awareness. Review job announcement (check yours with the gendered decoder), culling applicants, interviews, and campus visits, as well as the discussions with candidates along the way. Make sure you are being fair and consistent.

3. Create a hiring committee

The hiring committee should have diverse representation. And at least one person on the committee should be thinking explicitly about diversity. Avoid tokenism—people with privilege need to show up and advocate for diversity.

4. Agree on criteria for evaluation of candidates

Consider what are the required job responsibilities, personality, experience, and any other factors you may use to judge a candidate. Consider if any of those factors could hinder diversity. Also be careful to treat all candidates with the same standards.

5. Create an explicitly inclusive environment

Take steps to make people feel comfortable and demonstrate that candidates can bring their whole selves. This can include:

  • Make an explicit reference to diversity in the job announcement
  • Ask the candidate if there is anyone they would like to speak with during their visit.

These five tips will help get you started in designing a better hiring process - good steps toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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