5 Signs of Bias in Hiring Practices—and 7 Strategies to Mitigate Them

Tap into the passion that first brought you to the job.

Topics: School Management

As schools enter hiring season, it is essential to critically examine the potential biases that might exist within the recruitment process. By recognizing and addressing these biases, schools can foster a more equitable and inclusive environment for both educators and students.

Recognizing Bias

Everyone has implicit biases, unconscious attitudes, and stereotypes that influence their perceptions and decisions—which can significantly impact school hiring practices. A video from Marshall E-Learning identifies five potential signs of bias to watch out for when evaluating candidates for academic positions.

  1. Going With Your Gut: Often people advise you to just “go with your gut,” and in a lot of situations, that’s a good idea. But subjective gut feelings can mask discriminatory biases against candidates’ age, gender, accent, or personal circumstances. Relying too much on vague feelings like “she doesn’t seem quite right for the job” instead of clear qualifications can allow discrimination to sneak in.
  2. Favoring Alumni: Favoring candidates who are school alumni or have existing connections to the school is a form of in-group bias. While institutional knowledge can be valuable, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor over objective qualifications and merit.
  3. Overvaluing Prestige: Overly focusing on a candidate’s academic achievements, such as where they obtained their degrees, can overlook their actual capabilities and potential to excel in the role.
  4. Dismissing Different Backgrounds: Rejecting candidates for having different experiences, perspectives, or upbringings can signal a lack of commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive academic environment.
  5. Succumbing to Confirmation Bias: Succumbing to confirmation bias decision-makers should be wary of selectively interpreting information to confirm preexisting beliefs or preferences about candidates. Objective evaluation of all relevant qualifications is crucial.

By remaining vigilant for these signs, school leaders can work toward more equitable and merit-based hiring practices that promote diversity, inclusion, and excellence.

Mitigating Hiring Bias

Schools are increasingly acknowledging the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion within their hiring practices. Teachaway article “Inclusive Hiring: Removing Bias in Teacher Hiring,” identifies six actionable strategies school leaders can use to help reduce hiring bias.

  1. Eliminate Biased Language in Job Descriptions: Carefully review job postings and remove gender-specific or biased language that might discourage diverse candidates from applying. Terms like “native-English speaker” can inadvertently create barriers and limit your talent pool.
  2. Leverage Technology for Unbiased Screening: Advancements in technology offer opportunities to minimize bias in the initial screening stages of the hiring process. Automated systems can help anonymize applications, removing identifiable information such as names and demographics. This approach allows schools to focus solely on candidates’ qualifications, skills, and experiences.
  3. Ask Situational Interview Questions: Instead of relying on behavioral questions like “Tell me about a time when… ,” which can disadvantage candidates with less experience, ask situational questions that assess how a candidate would handle specific scenarios relevant to the role.
  4. Be Transparent and Accountable: By clearly defining the criteria used to evaluate candidates and ensuring that all decisions are based on merit, schools can mitigate bias. Involving multiple stakeholders and creating diverse hiring committees can help foster a more inclusive decision-making process.
  5. Conduct Multiple Interviews with a Diverse Panel: First impressions can be deceiving, and we often unconsciously favor candidates like us. Combat this by having candidates interview with multiple people from diverse backgrounds over several rounds.
  6. Adopt Structured Interviews and Rubrics: To combat bias in the hiring process, schools these types of tools to provide a standardized set of questions and evaluation criteria, ensuring that candidates are assessed consistently. Structured interviews minimize the influence of personal biases, leading to more objective and fair evaluations.
  7. Provide Bias Training for Hiring Teams: Continuous learning and training are essential for recognizing and addressing unconscious biases. Ongoing professional development is crucial to address bias in school hiring practices. Through workshops and training sessions, educators and administrators can develop a deeper understanding of unconscious biases, learn strategies to mitigate them, and create a more inclusive hiring culture.

Now’s the time to bring your hiring team together to identify potential biases and take actions that will lead to a more fair and unbiased hiring process, attract and retain a diverse and talented pool of educators, and, ultimately, benefit all students.

Krysia Gabenski is editorial director at NAESP.