How to Mitigate 5 Common Biases in PK-12 School Recruitment

Understand some of the most common biases in recruitment and how to build a less biased hiring process.

How to Mitigate 5 Common Biases in PK-12 School Recruitment

Biases are assumptions — negative or positive — about something or someone. Every single one of us has them, and at the foundation of our biases lie stereotypes and lived experiences, not facts.

When it comes to making decisions, big or small, we use what we know — or what we think we know — and we tend to believe that our decisions are the best option given our circumstances. But all too often, our decisions are simply being supported by our prejudiced thoughts.

Understanding that we all make biased decisions may be a surprise for some, but shouldn’t be taken lightly. While it happens even to the very best of us, the responsibility is on each of us to do something about it.

And sure, in a perfect world, biased hiring wouldn't exist. But our world isn’t perfect, and neither are we. We must recognize that our brains will make biased decisions. This will happen whether we want it to or not. But our brains are within our control, and our goal is to help you recognize and minimize biased hiring decisions to diversify your teaching staff and strengthen your school culture.

The Benefits of Less Biased Hiring

Eliminating biases altogether, if even possible, will take your team some time. But minimizing biases can happen by making some solid adjustments to your recruitment and hiring plans.

To get started, let’s understand a critical aspect impacting not only school culture, but student and staff achievement. When we hire school staff that thinks like us or looks like us, we're building a homogeneous team, leading to a lack of diversity in culture, skills, experience, and knowledge. In the long-term, it limits our growth because we lack diversity of thought in our decision making, and we miss seeing things from different perspectives.

Schools made up of a broad range of experiences and perspectives are better positioned to meet the needs of a diverse student body and promote critical thinking and diverse thought — regardless of the student-body makeup. Because diverse teams make their decisions with varied perspectives, their decisions are also stronger. The more diverse our team, the more effective our team.

Table comparing the costs of biased hiring and the benefits of (less biased) hiring.

To identify how our decisions are affected by our opinions, we must better understand what types of biases we'll encounter.

Types of Biases

There are two main types of biases — implicit and explicit.

Like the captain of the Titanic meeting the iceberg — we often only see what’s above the water’s surface and are unaware of what’s below. We can think of this as we explore the different types of biases, as well.

On the surface, we can see ourselves, and we are aware of the prejudices and attitudes we hold toward others. For example, we are able to recognize racist comments and sexist jokes — these are explicit biases

But if we dive deeper into our implicit or unconscious biases, we’re far less aware that our thoughts and opinions are based in stereotypes. Quite often, we see them as fact, or just the way the world works. It’s only after something or someone calls out our predisposed opinions that we’re able to see prejudiced attitudes or decision making.

When it comes to recognizing our biases, we must step away from what might otherwise seem like empowering comments, such as, "This is just who I am,” or “That’s my truth,” as excuses for our biased beliefs and attitudes. It is our responsibility to reflect and try to correct our thoughts and behaviors. We have to be willing to work on our decision-making process — especially in the recruitment space.

5 Biases That Sway Recruitment Decisions

Familiarity / Affinity Bias

When choosing sourcing channels, we often favor groups with similar experiences to our own. For example, it’s quite common for recruiters to source candidates who graduated from their alma mater — or who are alumni of the same program.


  • Think through the strengths and weaknesses of your current staff.
  • Identify where your best teachers are not quite the "perfect" candidate.
  • And when interviewing candidates, look for ways they can fill some of the gaps on your current team.

Halo & Horn Effects

  • Halo: Focusing too heavily on one exemplar characteristic and missing significant skill gaps or even red flags.
  • Horns: Focusing too heavily on one negative trait and glazing over someone's potential.

To avoid the Halo and Horn Effects, get a second opinion. Ask your team if they can identify any positive qualities or red flags you did not see initially. How will this individual benefit the students or staff? What are some potential damages to our community and learning environment?  

Pro Tip: Use a candidate scorecard and stick to evaluating candidates based on predetermined criteria.

Attribution Bias

We often attribute our own accomplishments to our skill and personality, but we attribute our failures to external factors, even just a stroke of bad luck. On the contrary, we tend to attribute the achievements of others to being  lucky or knowing the right person while attributing their faults to personal qualities, skill gaps, or a lack of education and training.

Most times, the attribution bias appears during interviews. Oh, your students increased two reading levels? You probably had a good group of kids.

To avoid attribution biases, try asking how they achieved their accomplishments or ask what steps the candidate is taking to improve a particular area of their work.

Conformity & Authority Biases

  • Conformity bias: When our views are swayed by others (this is different from a unanimous view).
  • Authority bias: Believing an opinion is more important or accurate because it is held by an authority figure.

To avoid confirmation and authority biases:

  1. Challenge your team's opinion. Cultivate an environment where your team takes turns playing the devil’s advocate when making hiring decisions to get the full picture.
  2. Always ensure you gather feedback at the individual level and encourage your team to find evidence to support their responses.

Confirmation Bias

This occurs when we only watch and listen for evidence that supports our initial opinions of a candidate (also known as selective observation). Confirmation bias leads to the rejection of information that contradicts your initial evaluation or assumptions.

Whether your initial opinion is positive or negative, if you come into an interview with your mind made up about a candidate, you’ll only listen for cues that support that original opinion.

Instead, try recording your interviews and listening to them with other team members present. Ask what they think about the candidate and ask for supporting evidence.

Pro Tip: Creating an ideal candidate rubric with standardized questions that look into the qualities and potential of a candidate can help avoid confirmation biases.

About Selected

At Selected, our mission is to improve schools’ access to qualified, diverse, and relevant teachers — and we’re trusted by more than 1,600 PK-12 public and private schools who use Selected to optimize their hiring process and get discovered by right-fit candidates. View your candidate pool