Confidentiality

Confidentiality preserves the integrity of the selection process and protects the privacy of the candidates. All members of a search committee, including students and individuals outside the department or school, have access to confidential search information on a “need to know” basis. All members of the search committee with access to search records are ethically bound to the utmost level of confidentiality. Specifics of the committee deliberations should not be discussed with anyone outside the search committee, with the exception of the department chair, dean of the school, or the Office for Faculty Equity & Welfare. The requirement for confidentiality extends to all aspects of the search, including written and verbal communications. Discourage discussions about candidates that do not focus on the established criteria for the position. Demographic characteristics, family status, spousal/partner issues, or other non-job related information or rumors should not enter into deliberations about the candidates.

Guidelines for applicant evaluation

  • Review the written materials submitted for each candidate who meets the minimum qualifications, ensuring that sufficient time is spent on the initial review of each application to provide a thorough assessment. Rushing or spending too little time can increase the influence of unconscious bias.

  • Each candidate’s file should be reviewed by more than one search committee member.

  • Evaluate each candidate’s entire application using established selection criteria; don’t depend too heavily on only one element.

  • Be careful not to subject women or minority candidates to different expectations. The work, ideas, and findings of women or minorities may be undervalued or unfairly attributed to a research director or collaborators despite contrary evidence in publications or letters of reference.

  • Be careful not to make assumptions about possible family responsibilities and their effect on the candidate’s career path that would negatively influence evaluation of a candidate’s merit, despite evidence of productivity. Considerations of potential spouse/partner hiring needs should not be taken into account when evaluating the candidate.

  • A candidate may be selected for his/her track record in diversity‐related research or working with diverse students, but State law prohibits use of characteristics of the individual (e.g., race, sex, color, ethnicity, disability, veteran status, or national origin) as a basis for selection. This constitutes preferential treatment.

  • Candidates should not be selected based on University/college/graduate advisor’s reputation. This is hard to justify as job‐related, and it may discriminate by race or gender.

  • The search committee should not rank the finalists too early in the process; instead summarize the strengths, weaknesses, and likely contributions to the department or school and the campus for each candidate.

  • The search committee should consider creating several ranking lists for the top candidates, with each list focused on one particular criterion. This allows the department or school to understand their priorities and contemplate several different “top choice” options.

  • Consider creating a “medium” list prior to the creation of the short list to evaluate whether there are women or minority candidates on it. If there are not, consider intensifying the search before choosing the short list.

Provide disposition reasons for applicants who will not move forward for serious consideration

Applicants who are reviewed and determined not to merit serious consideration or a campus visit should have at least one disposition reason assessed to them at that time (refer to section on disposition reasons for more information).

Countering Selection Bias

Regardless of the social groups we belong to, we all perceive people differently based on their demographic characteristics (race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, politics, etc.). However, and importantly, most people try to overcome their stereotypic preconceptions. In searches for academic personnel at UC Berkeley it is unacceptable to act on biases, conscious or unconscious. There are many successful strategies for overcoming the tendency we all share to fall back on preconceptions and stereotypes in decision-making.

Diversity offers significant advantages

Recent research reveals advantages of diverse groups in academia and industry. People who are different from one another bring unique information and experiences, and diversity promotes creativity.

One study found that female representation in top management leads to an increase of $42 million in firm value (Deszo and Ross, 2012). Another study found that papers written by diverse groups have more citations and higher impact factors (Freeman and Huang, 2014). And diverse groups also share more information, while being similar with others makes people believe they all have the same information (Neale, Northcraft, and Philips, 2006).

Assumptions influence the review process

 We all like to think that we are objective scholars who judge people based entirely on their experience and achievements, but research on bias in selection shows that every one of us brings a lifetime of experience and cultural history that shapes the review and evaluation process.

The results from studies in which people were asked to make judgments about subjects demonstrate the potentially prejudicial nature of the many implicit assumptions we can make. Examples range from physical and social expectations or assumptions to those that have a clear connection to hiring, even for faculty positions. Consider taking the Implicit Association Test(link is external) developed by researchers at Harvard to develop a better understanding of how implicit assumptions operate.

It is important to note that in most of these studies, the gender of the evaluator was not significant, indicating that both men and women share and apply the same assumptions about gender. Recognizing biases and other influences not related to the quality of candidates can help reduce their impact on your search and review of candidates.

Findings on bias in academic evaluations

  • Professors at top Universities were contacted by a fictional prospective graduate student. Faculty ignored requests from women and minorities at a significantly higher rate than requests from Caucasian males, particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions (Milkman, Akinola, & Chugh, 2014).
  • Research participants redefined the job criteria as requiring credentials that matched those of the desired gender. Commitment to hiring criteria prior to disclosure of applicant gender eliminated discrimination (Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005).
  • A study of postdoctoral fellowships awarded by the Medical Research Council in Sweden, found that women candidates needed substantially more publications (the equivalent of 3 more papers in Nature or Science, or 20 more papers in specialty journals such as Infection and Immunity or Neuroscience) to achieve the same rating as men, unless they personally knew someone on the panel (Wenneras and Wold, 1997).
  • “Blind” auditions can explain 30% to 55% of the increase in women winning orchestral jobs (Goldin & Rouse, 2000).
  • A study of over 300 recommendation letters for medical faculty at a large American medical school in the 1990s found that letters for female applicants differed systematically from those for males. Letters written for women were shorter, provided “minimal assurance” rather than solid recommendation, raised more doubts, and portrayed women as students and teachers while portraying men as researchers and professionals. All letters studied were written for successful candidates only (Trix and Psenka, 2003).
  • Another study showed that the preference for males was greater when women represented a small proportion of the pool of candidates, as is typical in many academic fields (Heilman, 2001).
  • Evaluators who were busy, distracted by other tasks, and under time pressure gave women lower ratings than men for the same written evaluation of job performance. Sex bias decreased when they were able to give all their time and attention to their judgments, which rarely occurs in actual work settings (Martell, date).
  • When a male instructor mentioned a male or female partner, the “straight” instructor received 22% more positive comments, while the “gay” instructor received 320% more critical comments (Russ, Simonds, & Hunt, 2002).
  • In a national study, 238 academic psychologists (118 male, 120 female) evaluated a resume randomly assigned a male or a female name. Both male and female participants gave the male applicant better evaluations for teaching, research, and service experience and both were more likely to hire the male than the female applicant (Steinpreis, Anders, & Ritzke, 1999).

Mitigating the effects of bias

  • Be systematic about evaluation criteria – select them ahead of time, discuss their meaning and how they will be used, and then be diligent about applying them equally to every applicant.
  • Allow sufficient time to evaluate each candidate so reliance on snap judgments and stereotypes has less influence.
  • Seek advice from individuals who are different from you when evaluating candidates.
  • Always have at least two individuals separately evaluate each candidate, and consider using an agreed-upon rating scale to independently weigh each selection criteria.