Eastern Michigan University
The office of Diversity & Affirmative Action is responsible for coordinating the University's Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity programs, monitoring the University's compliance with federal and state laws and regulations, and the investigation of discrimination and harassment complaints against University employees.
A vacancy presents an opportunity for the university to re-think a position and the type of person needed now and in the future. The position should reflect support of the institution's mission and strategy and pervade all of your thinking about the attraction and selection of talent. Greater diversity in Higher Ed positively impacts college satisfaction, intellectual engagement, growth of students, and retention. If we begin to think about recruitment of diverse talent in different parameters, and if we properly equip our search committees and hiring managers with the tools and techniques they need to recruit a diverse workforce, we can affect change in our Higher Ed workplaces and our institution as a whole.
- Delay filling positions until you have had an opportunity to carefully analyze your programmatic needs and develop an up-to-date job description. Desired criteria for the right candidate should be agreed upon in advance, and should be observable, measurable, and objective. This promotes long-range planning, fairness, and counters the tendency of current department members to inadvertently hire “clones”, or people who are very similar to themselves and others.
- Define the position in terms of required diversity competencies. If the position serves diverse clientele, highlight the need for such things as cultural competence, familiarity with gender issues, or knowledge of the literature on multicultural counseling techniques as a part of employee responsibilities. Write position descriptions to ensure that they attract the widest possible range of candidates. Think broadly rather than narrowly about the types of experiences candidates might bring to you.
- Start thinking a bit like an athletic coach. Coaches go out and find the talent they need. They don’t put ads in the paper and then sit back and wait; do not let the University’s brand recognition keep you from actively pursuing and sourcing the talented diverse candidates the department or division needs.
- Reference most current Division Action Plans to get an assessment of the diversity numbers in the overall division or specific area for which you are hiring. Any areas that are underutilized according to market availability should be emphasized when searching for a new, qualified candidate. Discuss these hiring goals with your Employment Representative prior to any hiring or recruiting activity. The profile of the department, the availability figures for women and minorities, and any affirmative action goals should be reviewed and understood by all members of the committee.
- Have women and people of color on search committees. If that is absolutely impossible, assign the role of affirmative action liaison to one of the committee members with a diverse perspective. The chief advantage of a search committee is multiple perspectives where greater expertise in decision making exists. A diverse search committee makes a true multidimensional and multicultural analysis of candidate application materials possible. These elements also help to mitigate any natural bias found in individual decisions.
- Treat every vacancy as if it is the only shot you’ll ever get to find and hire a candidate who will increase your department’s diversity. This means that if you don’t get enough good candidates of color or females in the initial pool, consider reposting and using outside advertising or other options.
- Diversity needs to be framed as an essential component of excellence without which the University cannot hope to achieve greatness. That message should be clearly understood and each committee member should be comfortable articulating the University’s commitment to diversity, particularly the themes defined in the Strategic Plan of the University.
Expanding the Pool
- Always tell people about the great things going on at EMU. Our success ranges from new partnerships formed in various disciplines to ground breaking research to new initiatives in staff areas. Being an advocate for the great things going on at the University in general and in specific departments increases the attraction of new candidates and the “stickiness” of the message that EMU is a great and desirable place to work.
- Diversity success does not require extra effort, but only right, fair, and appropriate effort. For example, it just makes sense to not only to contact sources that have given you good candidates in the past, but to also use some new, well-researched sources that are relevant to the position in question. That is to say, one cannot keep fishing in the same waters and expect to catch a different kind of fish. Therefore, produces a diverse search does not require any additional effort, but only what is appropriate.
- Always be in a recruitment mode—do not wait for searches to announce vacancies. This means keeping an eye out inside and outside the University for potential staff members of color and women. Establish friendly relationships with them so that if you call and ask them to be a candidate for an open position they’ll likely be willing to agree. Networking is an ongoing activity that needs to be done to maintain and grow the amount of interested possible candidates.
- Seize the opportunity to recruit and network at national meetings even if you don’t have open positions. Take their information back to the office (a resume would be best) and keep it on file. Then when openings occur, you can reach out to them with details on the position and to encourage them to apply.
- Find out if the professional organization(s) of your discipline has a committee for women or minority groups, or if there are other professional organizations for these groups.
- Weigh your options on how the committee should source for candidates; sourcing includes recruiting, networking, and advertising. Different methods have broader and narrower scopes of focus when it comes to unearthing the best diverse candidates.
- Advertising should include announcements in minority journals and publications; some experts indicate there are nearly 500 higher-education related sources available. A major source is the Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine, which features diverse people and organizations in your field.
- Create student internships and/or part-time positions for people of color or women until regular positions open for which these individuals can be actively considered.
- Utilize faculty, administrators, women, and professional staff of color to help uncover the available pool.
- Recognize that minority candidates will probably need to be quite aggressively recruited. Competition can be intense and candidates must be “courted” as you would any other outstanding candidate.
- Minorities need to feel that they will be truly welcome at the institution; that they will find a place in the University community. Frequently it helps to have other staff of color meet informally with candidates to give them a sense of the institution. It also helps if higher level administrators make themselves available to meet with these candidates during the recruitment process. The personal touch can make a great deal of difference in recruiting success.
- Address family issues, including maternity/paternity leave, tenure clock stoppage, family care leaves, etc. with all candidates, not only women. Conversations with candidates could be included to discuss quality of life issues such as housing, schools, and the nature of the minority community.
- Different kinds of recruiting methods, techniques, and locations must be used to change the composition of recruiting pools from those that the organization usually produces. This expands the reach of the search to identify candidates whom the institution has not traditionally engaged, aiding the search to find the best possible candidate by searching far and wide into every available community.
Interviewing and Selecting Candidates
- Train your search committees around diversity principles and how personal bias can effect selection. Share some published studies on personal bias with your committees and train them on diversity awareness and sensitivity, assumption, how to ask the right questions and determine fit, etc.
- When interviewing, practicing affirmative action means practicing inclusion. Race and ethnicity should be considered as positive qualities which enhance a candidate’s opportunity to be considered for a position. This may mean broadening the concept of the “best” candidate to one that would bring new dimensions to the department and help foster creative solutions and innovative ideas.
- Reference checks are a good opportunity to verify candidate claims that they have experience working with multicultural populations or have had diverse professional experiences. Emphasizing the importance of this experience as a necessary competency for the position helps encourage and increase the attitude of inclusiveness among all employees across campus.
- Using Google searches as an unofficial background check can be discouraged and perceived as unethical, as it often invites opportunities to discriminate or create a bias based on personal information that is protected by federal and state laws in employment practices.
- Do not make assumptions about candidates. Assumptions that a member of a particular racial group would not feel welcome in the community or would not be able to relate well to others of different groups are damaging to candidates of color and will work against your diversity efforts. Also, do not make assumptions about a person’s willingness to move or their spouse’s willingness, etc. Let candidates decide these issues for themselves.
- Committee members need to continually examine whether their judgments on a person’s character, types of experience, or accomplishments are being affected by subjective factors, stereotypes or other assumptions. Having your affirmative action/diversity liaison or representative head these exercises or conversations might be a healthy practice for your search committee.
- Stay aware of the trap of measuring everything against one standard. Candidates who got their degrees later in life or from historically Black institutions, candidates who worked part time when their children were young, or have experiences that are off the beaten path may bring rich experience and a diverse background to the campus.
- Screen to include instead of exclude candidates. Screening with the primary purpose of narrowing the pool may cause you to miss very attractive candidates.
- Select someone on the committee to take meeting minutes when the committee meets. Documenting your process will serve you in many ways as the selection process goes on. First, meeting minutes will serve as reminders regarding time lines, votes and discussions. Secondly, if another party outside your committee asks your committee to document or discuss efforts that have taken place to ensure affirmative action is a priority to the committee, it will be in the meeting minutes.
- All candidates should have adequate advance notice that you expect them to do a group interview, provide work or writing samples, make a presentation, etc. If an interviewing process or agenda is used for one candidate, that same process must be applied and used for all candidates for that position search.
- Subtle messages from an interview committee to a candidate can have devastating effects. Consequently, judgments about a candidate’s performance may be biased as much by the effect the committee had on the candidate as by the candidate’s performance in and of itself. A search committee that is viewed by a candidate as “going through the motions”, being hostile to candidates of color, or being generally cold and uncaring is very likely to create the self-fulfilling prophecy of not being able to find any good minority candidates. Conversely, a search committee that exhibits warmth, flexibility, supportiveness, and genuine interest is likely to bring out the best in all of its candidates.
- Candidate “fit” – into the campus and in the community – is frequently interpreted as finding a person who will blend in easily with the existing structures, someone who will not alter dramatically the status quo. People of color, and most particularly those who come from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, may be presumed not to “fit” as well as white candidates. Beware of these sorts of presumptions; make every effort to show candidates that they will fit, and then let them decide for themselves. This may also occur with women in cases where faculty members may be primarily male, or with LGBT candidates. Ensure the concept of “best fit” is not an excuse for bias. Just as the first tip said, best fit should be observable, measurable, stated and use previously agreed upon objective criteria to reduce tendency to select those who are similar to search committee members or employees currently working at the University.
Best of luck in your searches!
Achieving Faculty Diversity: A Source Book of Ideas and Success Stories, University of Wisconsin, 1988
The University of California in the Twenty-First Century: Successful Approaches to Faculty Diversity, U. Cal., 1987
Six Tips to Ensure Unbiased Searches, CUPA-HR Higher Ed Workplace blog, 2014
Search Committees: A Comprehensive Guide to Successful Faculty, Staff, and Administrative Searches, Christopher D. Lee, PhD, SPHR, 2014.