Improving the hiring process

October 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

Amy Olberding of the University of Oklahoma writes:

Our department has recently been taking steps to organize our search procedures for tenure-track hires in order to 1) minimize implicit bias in the search processes; 2) give each candidate invited to campus performance conditions that avoid perils such as solo status or stereotype threat inducing situations; and 3) enhance recruiting. While our efforts in this direction are more detailed than can be easily summarized, here is a partial list of the steps we’re taking:

1) Since haste in evaluation increases the risks of implicit bias, we’re protecting search committee members from any additional service where possible and setting earlier deadlines for applications to maximize the time the search committee has for careful review of candidates’ materials.

2) Since uniform application and weighting of clearly established criteria is key to minimizing bias, our search committee will develop a list of criteria for the job and have these ready-to-hand in evaluating applicants’ dossiers. Our search committee and all faculty have also been given basic information about how implicit bias can operate in dossiers (e.g., in letters of recommendation) and will strive to be alert to this in reviewing candidates’ materials.

3) Our Recruiting & Diversity Committee is screening applications for potential triggers to implicit bias and seeking to ensure that any applications with such potential triggers will receive careful consideration (e.g., each getting a second look, keeping criteria ready to hand while these are read, etc.).

4) When our search committee has an initial list of a dozen or so top applicants, we’re creating anonymized versions of these applicants’ writing samples for faculty to review independently of the full non-anonymized dossiers.

5) Since campus visits can bring all sorts of nebulous social factors into play in evaluating applicants, we’re seeking to have a ranked list of candidates before the visits. There may of course be good reasons for re-ordering the candidates’ rankings after the visits, but the initial ranking, based solely on the dossiers, will provide an important stimulus for the department to query just what in the visits has prompted any revised evaluation of the candidates and better guard against inadvertently giving way to any biasing elements produced by the visits.

6) When we invite on campus interviews, we’re having faculty unaffiliated with the search committee ask candidates if they have any special concerns or needs we can accommodate so that any candidates who is, e.g., disabled, pregnant, or nursing is not put at a deficit by a schedule of activity insensitive to her needs.

7) During campus visits, we will have an open interview session in which each candidate will be ask questions from a pre-fixed list. The aim of this is to ensure uniformity and consistency in both what the candidates are asked to address and in what we then use in evaluating them. We’ll take whatever steps our current departmental demographics allow to protect candidates in these interviews from solo status. Among the questions all candidates will be asked will be at least one regarding diverse student populations and the recruiting and retention of diverse students in the discipline.

8) We’ll be routinely giving all candidates our department and university family leave policies, and trying to ensure that our presentation of these does look routine so that, e.g., women candidates will not feel specially singled out to receive this information.

9) We’re making sure that all job talks are carefully moderated so that tone and pacing in the Q & A in particular is conducive to candidates’ good performance.

10) For meals and such with candidates, we’re making sure to remind all involved about what conversational subjects are verboten. We’re likewise keeping attendance at such events relatively low so that candidates are not overwhelmed.

11) After campus visits, we’ll be carefully reviewing dossiers again, seeking to keep these the principal body of data in the search so that nebulous social elements of the campus visits don’t overwhelm evaluation.

12) After the campus visits, we’ll seek feedback from graduate students involved in elements of the campus visits with special attention to any red flags that might indicate a candidate will not be effective in department efforts to recruit and retain a diverse student population.

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