Check the Biases in Your Teacher Hiring Process
Explicit and implicit biases may exist throughout your teacher hiring process. Learn how to understand, identify, and mitigate them to build a stronger team.
When it comes to hiring for your team, pressures can run deep. Every person you hire impacts the daily experiences of your staff and students. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the pressures – and increase your confidence in choosing your school’s next hire. The tips below will help you better understand, recognize, and minimize the biases present in your current hiring process.
This article is based on a Selected School Leader Workshop of the same name that took place in October 2018 (see video below). Here is a link to the presentation materials.
What is bias?
For this article, we will look at implicit and explicit forms of bias more generally:
- Explicit bias is much easier to recognize and less likely to rear its head during the hiring process. It is conscious but often concealed in order to maintain political and/or social correctness. When you hear this bias, you may even catch yourself thinking that shouldn’t be said. It would include comments, such as, “I would never let my child date someone of that religion.” While you might socially reject any sort of explicit bias, or feel ashamed for thinking a certain thought (maybe even deny having thought it) – the truth is, you may still hold the implicit version of the bias somewhere deeper.
- Implicit bias is subconscious. They are subtle. And they are often automatic. Consider the idea of being surprised when a person of color speaks English well or when a white person has an accent or non-English native language. The very fact that surprise is present points to an underlying, implicit bias. These are formed based on where we are from, how we were raised – and they become our default social behavior. As hiring managers, it is critical that we position ourselves to not only recognize the biases we carry, but figure out how to minimize their impact on interactions with potential candidates.
What are the costs associated with hiring biases?
It is very human to like what feels familiar. Most of us are creatures of habit, and nothing feels more familiar than ourselves. But when it comes to forming a team of adults who hold both the power and responsibility to educate and inspire our students – you want to avoid hiring a homogenous staff. When a group thinks too much alike, it can lead to flawed decision making, a lack of creativity, and an exclusionary school culture. When diverse perspectives are not only permitted but encouraged and nourished, we begin to see innovations in thought and practice. We are better able to address the diverse needs of diverse student bodies – and we start to recognize when perspectives may be missing. This leads to more thoughtful, successful problem solving and a culture that feels inclusive of all ideas.
How can you identify and mitigate biases in your process?
Reflect. Think of your habits – your initial instincts – even ask yourself, “What do I think of people who are X?” As you do this, consider why you lean the way you lean and acknowledge the fact that your perception is limited. Who might see things differently than you, and are they a part of decision making? Then, consider the ideas below as you think through each stage of the hiring process:
- Sourcing: Identify the requirements of each open role. Consider the strengths of your current team, and target the skills that are missing. Be sure to review the position description to ensure gender-neutral language and inclusive themes are present. Then, think through ways to attract a diverse applicant pool and identify pipelines that represent your student population.
- Resume Screen: Consider removing some of the key identifiers in a resume as you and your team work to find the best candidates. Much of what is in a resume can unintentionally trigger implicit biases (e.g., ageism from dates for degrees and racism or sexism from candidate names)
- Phone Screen and Sample Lesson: Use a hiring scorecard to help you focus on what matters most in this next hire. This will help you steer clear of biases associated with sound of voice, the candidate’s size, etc.
- In-Person Interview: Standardize questions and incorporate them into your hiring scorecard. You might even consider using a panel, as diversity in perspectives will lead to a broad range of questions and impressions. This ultimately allows you to reflect on the candidate’s potential impact more holistically. If you do choose to move forward with a panel, make sure you have thought through any influencer effects that may be present — our perspectives are often shaped by our colleagues’.
- Offer Phase: Understand and recognize that people need to provide for themselves and their families. Salary should be discussed much earlier on, ideally during the phone screen or even application phase. This allows candidates to opt-out and eliminates a sense of wasted time for both the candidate and the hiring team. If compensation comes up at this point in the process, always assume the best as you probe to understand more completely.
In the end, know that we are all biased. And we are all responsible for recognizing and minimizing the biases we hold. Identifying our personal and team biases is a process — it is never easy, but it is critical. As you work to strengthen your school’s team, consider using a hiring scorecard or an exercise like the blind resume to help you minimize biases in your hiring process.
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