Carnegie Mellon University

Understanding Implicit Bias Research and Its Implications

1. Each committee member is responsible for gaining an understanding of how implicit biases can impact their own and others’ evaluations in order to keep the search process fair and inclusive. Before the first committee meeting, it is recommended that all members of search committees either attend implicit bias training (see below) or review at least two of the following overviews of research on the unconscious biases in assessments that can affect decision making in the search process:

2. It is recommended that the search committee discuss the implicit bias research and related search committee strategies during the first search committee meeting before reviewing applicants to reinforce these concepts and their implications for the committee’s procedures. Search Committee Chairs are encouraged to contact Courtney Bryant who can help facilitate these discussions and can suggest additional training resources.

3. Developing ground rules for the committee’s work can be quite helpful to set the tone for following procedures consistent with the implicit bias research. For example, the search committee chair is encouraged to consider a combination of the following:

    • Engage all committee members in participating actively and maintain a climate where diversity can be discussed.
    • Discuss evaluation criteria prior to evaluating applicants and periodically throughout review to avoid shifting the criteria based on particular candidates.
    • Distinguish between the brief review that must be done for all applications and the thorough review required for those who are under consideration for interviews. For example, chairs can suggest retention of the excellent diverse candidates on the “long short list” or “medium list” for the thorough review.
    • Focus on reasons for including applicants for further consideration rather than reasons for excluding them since research has shown this promotes a more careful, deliberate process that reduces bias.
    • Encourage committee members, to the extent possible, to minimize distractions and allow sufficient time for their thorough review of the candidates under consideration for interviews.

Recommended Resources

Searching for Excellence and Diversity: A Guide for Search Committees, 2012 [.pdf] (U. Wisconsin Madison).

See two sections:

  • Tips and guidelines: Running an effective and efficient search committee (pp.11–16)
  • Raise Awareness of Unconscious Assumptions and their Influence on Evaluation of Applicants (pp. 43–50)