Conducting Affirmative Searches

  • Author
    Linda Kasper, M.Ed.
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It is the responsibility of a hiring manager to set up an interview experience where all candidates are evaluated on a level playing field, and set up to do their very best. Doing so broadly across all aspects of the interview process will not only help bring out the best in your candidates, but will also allow candidates to experience all that your campus has to offer.

Recognize cultural bias. Discuss cultural bias with your team before you invite candidates to campus to interview. When candidates arrive on campus, they meet all members of your team, more than those selected to be a part of the recruitment team. It is important to discuss cultural bias in ways that allow your team to recognize where they have biases, so they can prevent those biases from being an evaluative measure in interviews. An example is eye contact. In some cultures looking someone in the eye is interpreted as being a sign of respect, someone with good eye contact may be perceived as being trustworthy. There are also cultures where looking someone directly in the eye for too long is disrespectful. If your team only evaluates eye contact through one of these approaches, and doesn’t leave room for their observation to have different meanings, your search process will suffer. Other examples to discuss with your team to identify potential bias would be definitions of professional dress, talking with one's hands, accentism (how one speaks English, whether their first or second language), etc.

Remove potential triggers that candidates may experience on your campus. For a candidate to know they can see themselves working at an institution, there is a need for them to feel a certain amount of security with the environment they experience at any stage of the interview process. It is important to train candidate hosts and interviewers to avoid interactions and comments that communicate negative viewpoints about others or the individual interviewing. In many instances we can call those microaggressions, which may be intended or unintended but still denigrate an individual based on identities they hold (race, gender, citizenship status, etc.). Training staff to use inclusive language is a great start to an interview process that keeps candidates engaged throughout the entire process, and helps them feel valued and welcomed. This kind of training can be an essential component to your department at all times, since dismissive attitudes and making assumptions about others is an unhealthy practice in any organization.

Personalize the interview day for each candidate. Consider giving candidates the opportunity to meet with a group or individual of their choosing during the interview day. Set this up for them in advance, building in an open time slot in the interview day, and asking if there is an office that they would like to meet with during their time on campus. This recognizes that candidates may have a need to know more about the institution than you have offered to show them in an on campus interview. This office doesn’t have to be the same office for each candidate, and likely will be different. The employer will need to set up the time with this office in advance, and explain the purpose to your colleagues on campus. This is not an aspect of the interview where the candidate will be evaluated.

Show them your cards. Be honest with your candidates about successes and challenges in your department and the institution. It is important for candidates to know how they can contribute to the organization. They can only do that if they can see themselves in the department’s successes and opportunities

We showcase our values through all parts of the recruitment process. Being intentional in setting up an interview experiences that demonstrates care to your future team members is important. Doing so also provides professional development for your current team, and helps build a healthy organization.

Linda Kasper, M.Ed.

Ms. Kasper currently serves as the Executive Director of University Housing at the University of Georgia. Her primary roles have been in housing & residence life, along with experiences in international programs, study abroad, orientation and academic advising.  Linda received her bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University and her master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of Vermont.

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