Screening Candidates

  1. Practicing affirmative action means practicing inclusion. Race and ethnicity should be considered as positive qualities which enhance a candidate’s opportunity to be considered for a position. It may broaden the concept of the “best” candidate.

  2. Search committee chairs should resist strongly the impulse to label one or more candidates the “most promising” because this may make it difficult for other candidates to be fully considered.

  3. Do not make assumptions about candidates. Assumptions that a member of a particular racial group would not feel welcome in the community, or would not be able to relate well to others of different groups are damaging to candidates of color and will work against your diversity efforts. Also, do not make assumptions about a person’s willingness to move; their spouse’s willingness, etc. Let candidates decide these issues for themselves.

  4. Committee members need to examine continually whether their judgments on a person’s character, types of experience, or accomplishments are being affected by subjective factors, stereotypes, or other assumptions.

  5. Candidate “fit” – into the campus and in the community – generally means finding a person who will blend in easily with the existing structures, someone who will not alter dramatically the status quo. People of color, and most particularly people of color who come from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, may be presumed not to “fit” as well as white candidates. Beware of these sorts of presumptions; make every effort to show candidates that they will fit, and then let them decide for themselves. This may also occur with women in cases where a faculty may be primarily male.

  6. Be aware of the trap of measuring everything against one standard. Candidates who received their degrees later in life or from historically Black institutions, who worked part time when their children were young, or whose experience is off the beaten path may bring rich experience and a diverse background to the campus.

  7. Screen to include candidates. Screening with the primary purpose of narrowing the pool may cause you to miss very attractive candidates.

  8. Do your homework. Read the files of candidates thoroughly before offering opinions.

  9. Select someone on the committee to take minutes when the committee meets. Documenting your process will serve you in many ways as the selection process goes on. First, meeting minutes will serve as reminders regarding time lines, votes and discussions. Secondly, if another party outside your committee asks your committee to document or discuss efforts that have taken place to ensure affirmative action is a priority to the committee, it will be in the meeting minutes.

  10. Think about the new dimensions that diverse candidates will bring to the department.

  11. Other than professional reasons, a candidate’s motivation for applying for a position is simply not the business of the search committee, screening committee, or interviewing committee. Unless a candidate offers other reasons in a letter of interest, the committees should operate with an understanding that professional interests motivate the application. To go further invites assumptions and those assumptions frequently lead to negative judgments.

  12. All candidates should have adequate advance notice that you expect them to do a group interview, provide work or writing samples, make a presentation, etc.

  13. Subtle messages from an interview committee to a candidate can have devastating effects. Consequently, judgments about a candidate’s performance may be biased as much by the effect the committee had on the candidate’s performance in and of itself. A search committee that is viewed by a candidate as “going through the motions” being hostile to candidates of color, or being generally cold and uncaring is very likely to create the self-fulfilling prophecy of not being able to find any good candidates of color. Conversely, a search committee that exhibits warmth, flexibility, supportiveness, and genuine interest is likely to bring out the best in all of its candidates.

Compiled from the Department of University Human Resources at Oakland University.