Recommendations for Interviewing Job Candidates

Photographs of a Brown University community member sharing their experience with racial microaggressions and microaffirmations.
http://www.brown.edu/race
https://flic.kr/p/oPUPYg

I teach a PhD Job Market course on a biennial schedule, and we always talk about ways to combat gender and race microaggressions during interviewing. Over the past year or so, it has also come up in my family development course when we discuss the motherhood penalty, and in talks I gave to the Fisher Women in Business organization at Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business. Given this, I decided to write an email to my colleagues and graduate students when we were interviewing for a new faculty colleague last year. I think there are recommendations in here for everyone. Check it out and follow this advice! I would love to hear your additional recommendations in the comments.

Dear colleagues and students,

As we bring our faculty candidates to our campus, we aim to set the tone that we are a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive community. In my role as the diversity representative on the our search, I want to offer some guidance to highlight our community and avoid challenges that can occur in an employee selection process.

First, a list of legal and illegal questions:

TOPIC LEGAL  QUESTIONS DISCRIMINATORY QUESTIONS
Family Status Do you have any responsibilities that conflict with the job attendance or travel requirements?
*If this question is asked, it must be asked of all applicants.
Are you married?

What is your spouse’s name? What is your maiden name?

Do you have any children or plans to have them?

What are you childcare arrangements?

What is your spouse’s job?

Pregnancy Status None. Are you pregnant? When are you due?
Race None. What is your race?
Religion None. What is your religion?

What religious holidays do you observe?

Sex/Gender Identity None. Are you male or female?
Age None. How old are you?

What is your birthdate?

Sexual Identity None Are you gay?
Citizenship or Nationality Can you show proof of your eligibility to work in the United States? Are you a U.S. citizen? Where were you born?

What is your “native tongue”?

Disability Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodation?

Show the applicant the position description so he or she can give an informed answer.

Are you disabled?

What is the nature or severity of your disability?

What is your condition?

Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations?

Military What type of training or education did you receive in the military? If you’ve been in the military, were you honorably discharged?
Source: Advance, University of Michigan, Handbook for Faculty Searches and Hiring http://sitemaker.umich.edu/advance/files/HandbookforFacultySearchesandHiring.pdf.

Note that these questions can also come much more informally. For example, in talking about my own children, maybe I ask “do you have children?” That would be illegal. Or, in talking about how Columbus is a great city for your partner to also find a job, I inquire as to whether they have a partner, or even worse, I assume that they are married and in a different-gender relationship, and I ask them about their husband (if they identify as a woman). This question would be illegal. Rarely are questions asked as directly as those listed in the table above. Often times, it is in casual conversation at a meal, or on a campus tour, that these illegal questions come up. If you accidentally ask an illegal question, and you realize it before they answer, you can say “oops, never mind, you do not need to answer that” and then change the subject. It is easy to slip up when chatting, so just be cognizant. If you hear someone else ask an illegal question, you can again say “oops, never mind, you do not need to answer that” and talk to the person about why the question was not appropriate later.

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Fighting Back: Implicit Bias, Micro-aggressions, and Micro-resistance

I have been planning to do a post on diversity in graduate education, but it requires me being vulnerable and I wasn’t even sure how to even do it. On Tuesday, in my first-year graduate proseminar, we had a session on implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and micro-resistance, and ironically, 2016 was the first year that I have included this session. I thought as I taught that class that the glass ceiling would be shattered that night and that the need for a class on these topics would become less necessary over time. How wrong I was. Now, more than ever, the necessity of promoting diversity, and strategies for dealing with implicit bias in the academy and life, have never been more important.

What is implicit bias?

Implicit bias is a major pathway through which privilege is enacted. Using the definition from Ohio State’s Kirwan Institute: “implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.  Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.”

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