Monday, April 20, 2009

Suggested Inclusiveness Training For Hiring Committees, Spring 2009

Suggested Inclusiveness Training for Hiring Committees-Sp09

Suggested Inclusiveness Training For Hiring Committees, Spring 2009

I. Unconscious Bias

Participating in the hiring process for staff, faculty, and administrators is one of the most important ways we can serve our students and the larger college community. It is a responsibility and an obligation and we take it very seriously. Las Positas College is committed to processes that encourage and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion – all essential to a healthy, vibrant, and dynamic institution.

These processes should assure perspective employees that their appropriately completed applications are appreciated and valued and that they are given full, fair, and impartial consideration by the hiring committees.

In order to guarantee that fairness and impartiality are maintained throughout all phases of the process, there are a number of things committees should be cognizant of and monitor for as they work - individually and together as a committee. First and foremost, committee members must recognize the potential for the unconscious bias that often influences them as they proceed. All of us have natural, built-in biases. We are biased about the things that make us feel comfortable. Biases are not necessarily bad unless they prevent us from being open to “new and different” perspectives or prevent us from discarding the stereotypes and prejudices we have held about others – notions and apprehensions that have no basis in reality. These biases are most often unconscious and they have the power to negatively affect relationships – long and short term, formal and informal. Recognizing and understanding these biases are essential to building the kind of college community we seek and to hiring employees who can contribute to it.

Many feel most comfortable interacting with people who are just like themselves. They look for and favor applicants who will be a “good fit”, that is, those that help to create a seamless homogeneity. For instance, on an application: a person’s name, where a person lives, the schools a person attended, the places a person has worked or taught previously – one or all of these might cause someone to wonder if this person would be a “good fit”. Likewise, during an interview, committees might be uncomfortable with the way candidates dress, or speak, or how much time it takes them to answer a question, or how they regard the committee, or how formal or informal candidates may appear or, even, their physical appearance. Few would say that these things caused them concern, but they are concerns for them, nonetheless.

All of us must be willing to be honest in reviewing applications and in interviewing candidates. We need to address unconscious biases directly and with conviction. We must be able to verbalize the concerns we have, not ignore them or pretend that our concerns don’t exist. By addressing the concerns “head on”, everyone benefits; everyone learns and grows from these experiences and our students and our institution benefit most of all.

II. Roles and Responsibilities of a Hiring Committee Member Regarding Unconscious Bias

Committees are formed with the belief that the views and perspectives from different individuals can make better decisions than a single person. As committee members we bring forth the input from both our constituents group as well as our personal perspective. In this way, committees take into consideration a variety of needs, values, and frames of reference and balance those with the needs of the College. One of the most advantageous aspects of hiring committees is the increased ability to recognize and reduce unconscious bias. We all have unconscious bias. A properly functioning committee will help its members recognize and face bias in a collegial and productive manner. In essence, we help to check each others' blind spots.

Recognizing and facing unconscious bias in ourselves or in our colleagues can be an uncomfortable process. Best practices suggest committees formulate internal guidelines or processes before screening, interviews, and deliberations begin so that members can professionally and productively raise the issue when they sense unconscious bias. It’s not only your right but your responsibility as a committee member to address issues of bias if you feel it is inappropriately affecting the hiring process.

III. Tips for Open and Professional Discussion of Bias In the Hiring Committee Setting

Committee members should develop an environment of trust and cooperation so that they can work together. The committee Chair is important in setting and maintaining the climate of a committee.

If possible, the committee should collaboratively develop ground rules for the expectations/ responsibilities of members, how they will raise contentious issues and handle disagreements.

Keep deliberations about candidates “skills based” rather than “feeling based”.

When pointing out potential bias try to avoid an accusatory tone or aggressive words. The idea is to create a moment of reflection; not to have a confrontation.

Be open to the possibility that someone on the committee may point out biases you might have.

Be cautions with assessing a candidate for “fit”. This can often be used to validate bias and is not the purpose of 1st level interviews. First level interviews are to assess skill level.

***This completely voluntary resource was developed by members of The Campus Change Network. We hope you find it useful. If you have any feedback, suggestions, comments please post them to the CCN blog. We will be soliciting feedback as we develop/refine this resource.***


  1. Great resource and I like the list of suggestions. Can you provide examples of each of the tips? What are "fit" questions that should be avoided? What if I am looking for an energetic or motivated individual? How do I get at this in a "skill-based" interview? Is this allowed in first level interviews?

  2. Here is a link that discusses the impact of unconscious bias:

  3. Sophie RheinheimerApril 21, 2009 at 3:51 PM

    The perfect example of unconscious bias and the stunning impact it has when we are caught making unfounded judgement is the now-famous you-tube video of Susan Boyle. It is a must-see for everyone, and a good (and entertaining) starting point for discussion.

  4. While reading the suggested training, I kept going back and reflecting on actual committees I have chaired or participated on. I think the training document speaks to those open to personal reflection. The experiences I have had with a few people not so open to personal reflection come to mind and I struggle with appropriate responses to their behavior. My only suggestion would be to use a few actual scenarios and suggestions for how to "professionally and productively" raise the issue of unconscious or conscious bias. Perhaps these could be written down as well to be used as a reference when briefing a new committee. Breaking down actual comments used in committee settings that are not only unproductive but probably illegal might be helpful.

  5. I like how the recommendation acknowledges unconscious bias (without judgment) and emphasizes the benefit of having committees to address bias. The examples are helpful. I think the overall approach of the document is a positive and empowering message.