Academics & Research

Health Equity & Inclusion Hiring Toolkit

Search Committee

Composing the Search Committee

Faculty should use the following guidelines when creating a search committee:

  • Committees should have at least four members (including chair)
  • Chair should actively facilitate input from all members
  • Include individuals from diverse backgrounds if possible
  • If there are too few women/URM members, consider including faculty from another department/college and training an “inclusion advocate”
  • Train search committee members/all who evaluate candidate (like IRB certification)
  • Think of diversity as a “plus factor”
  • Explain why a particular diverse candidate was not moved forward
  • Explicitly address possible bias
  • Consider bias/barriers in publication/funding (NIH)
  • Watch for and address unconscious bias

Letters of Recommendation

Members of the search committee should receive training on how to write and evaluate letters of recommendation. Before the search committee reviews candidates’ letters, you should remove all references to gender or ethnicity.

Letters should also:

  • Include a record of accomplishments
  • Describe personal characteristics only if they predict growth/job performance
  • Close with a summary recommendation

Unconscious Bias

We can all have biases regarding gender, race, age, accent, and different physical abilities. During the candidate search process, we should minimize our biases and assumptions by using these techniques:

  • Decide criteria prior to search process and apply consistently
  • Have active discussions to increase objectivity of selecting the best candidate
  • Review each applicant for at least 20 min
  • Review all aspects of application
  • Be able to recap rationale for each decision
  • Make sure there is equity in negotiations: salary, research support, relocation/moving expenses
  • Evaluate the process

Search committees should also actively examine areas of possible bias by asking these questions:

  • Are women and minority candidates subject to different expectations regarding numbers of publications, name recognition, or personal acquaintance with a committee member?
  • Are candidates from institutions other than the major research universities that have trained most of our faculty being undervalued? (HBC, HSHI, government ,or industry might offer innovative, diverse and valuable perspectives.)
  • Have the accomplishments, ideas, and findings of women or minority candidates been undervalued or inappropriately attributed to a research director or collaborators despite contrary evidence in publications or letters of reference?
  • Is the ability of women or minorities to run a research group, raise funds, and supervise students and staff of different gender or ethnicity being underestimated?
  • Are assumptions about possible family responsibilities and their effect on a candidate’s career path negatively influencing evaluation of a candidate’s merit, despite evidence of productivity?
  • Are negative assumptions about whether women or minority candidates will “fit in” to the existing environment influencing evaluation?

Addressing Unconscious Bias

Search committees must prepare to address both the professional and personal life of an applicant. When seeking to hire URMs, this may require additional information gathering on the part of committee members.

A strong tool is to remove references to gender or ethnicity before reviewing applications.

By placing themselves in the position of an URM applicant, committee members can gain the applicant’s perspective and begin to explore issues, raise questions, and seek out information to better prepare themselves as recruiters for the applicant’s campus visit.

Learn more about unconscious biases by taking these short quizzes.