ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Hiring Rubrics Don’t Ensure Objectivity

Candidate assessment rubrics are helpful in conducting objective faculty searches but do not adequately mitigate bias according to two recent studies. One four-year-long study of the searches in an Engineering department evaluated whether hiring rubrics countered biases. The study found that search committees consistently scored women candidates lower than men on rubrics about research although women were higher on contributions to diversity. More troubling was the finding that women candidates may be penalized on the basis of gender: The paper says female candidates face an 18 percent penalty for being a woman.

In the other study, the criterion of “fit” used in faculty selection was found to be used to justify assessments biased in terms of race or gender. Both studies argue that while hiring rubrics cannot eliminate search biases, these measures are most useful as a basis for collective discussions about what matters in a candidate selection and why. Michigan Tech has instituted strong measures to ensure that implicit biases do not systematically taint faculty hiring processes including a multi-phase HR hiring process with built-in equity and bias checks, the Diversity Literacy and Legal Aspects faculty workshops, and senior faculty search committee observers. Nonetheless, recognizing and countering biases in what can often seem like objective criteria and processes is up to everyone involved in faculty hiring.

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