At a time when colleges are under fierce pressure from students to diversify their faculty and staff members, higher ed leaders are discussing ways to banish bias from campus and grow a pool of diverse applicants, writes Zach Demby for EdSurge.
But many higher ed institutions still struggle with diversity, despite setting clear goals to hire diverse candidates. So EdSurge sat down with Allison Wyatt, co-founder of higher ed executive search and talent consulting firm Edgility Consulting, to learn how colleges and universities can improve their hiring processes.
1: Start looking for candidates before posting a position. Wyatt points out that committing to diversity isn’t a short-term project. Rather, it’s a process that requires regular improvement and self-reflection. Wyatt suggests starting the process by looking at candidates already within the organization and cultivating a network of talented applicants before you begin your next search. “Organizations who do this well start to build relationships with individuals before a job opening arises,” explains Wyatt.
2: Break down barriers to cultivate a pool of diverse applicants. Many higher ed institutions blame a shortage of diverse candidates for their lack of diversity on campus. But in reality, “there’s an abundance of talented leaders from all different backgrounds,” says Wyatt.
However, for some candidates, your hiring process might unintentionally create barriers that other candidates don’t encounter, such as unconscious bias or an absence of proactive sourcing strategies. “What we’ve found is that when we start to eliminate those barriers, we have a much higher percentage of placements for people of color because we’re leveling the playing field in the selection process,” adds Wyatt.
3: Invest in human capital and the tools needed to support it. Higher ed institutions can’t expect to grow diverse leaders if they aren’t investing in their existing faculty and staff, Warren notes. “There needs to be a mind shift in what it takes to have a diverse organization,” she says. “You can’t do it on the cheap.” Commit to investing in the tools and tech platforms it takes to build diverse candidate pools and hire diverse applicants.
4: Be consistent with your hiring process. Don’t create shortcuts for some candidates and not others, advises Wyatt. Similarly, “avoid using proxies, such as where someone went to school to assess quality.” Instead, focus on a candidate’s competencies by, for example, testing her performance on a task related to the position. That way, you’ll ensure you’re hiring a candidate for her for proven skills and qualifications rather than her privileged background.
5: Get input from diverse stakeholders. Gather feedback about each step of the process, from the job description to the interview setup to the candidates themselves. Wyatt recommends asking questions such as: “What are we looking for? What should the job look like? Who should be involved in the interviews? What are some of the core competencies required for success?”
6: Recognize unconscious bias. Most importantly, Wyatt recommends learning to recognize and reduce unconscious biases. She suggests kicking off each search with unconscious bias training for the hiring committees. This will help search committee members recognize “any sort of preconceived biases that they may be bringing to the process and help them strategize around how to mitigate them,” Wyatt says (Demby, EdSurge, 9/5/18).