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Higher Ed Hiring Challenge: Promoting Diversity and Minimizing Risk

Jann Gillingham
By Jann Gillingham, Higher Ed Industry Specialist at SkillSurvey
October 29, 2015
Interview Diversity
Part II – This post is part of a blog series on “Challenges in Higher Ed Hiring”

Creating an inclusive and diverse community is one of higher education’s greatest responsibilities and gifts. To truly feel welcome and thrive on a campus, students of all walks need to see themselves reflected in the people around them. And that diversity should be pervasive – from the front line recruitment and admissions staff to faculty in the classrooms and administrators. According to the U.S. Department of Education, diversity in college populations will increase over the next decade, elevating the importance of fostering an inclusive learning environment.

Additionally, institutions need to demonstrate that they are both fair and consistent in their hiring practices. Organizations that fail to prove their compliance with state or federal rules and guidelines can spend millions of dollars settling lawsuits.

While your institution might have good intentions, your hiring processes may fall short of treating everyone equally. Let’s do a check of common pitfalls that are likely keeping you up at night:

  • Do you worry about conversations being compliant?Hiring managers and selection committees communicate with candidates and their references. Inappropriate questions asked during an interview or on a reference call can be cause for alarm.
  • Are your assessment tools free of bias and adverse impact? Gender, age, race, ethnicity, and Americans with disabilities are all protected classes. Can you demonstrate that your processes meet EEOC standards and support OFCCP compliance?
  • Is your candidate data stored electronically and easily accessible? Are you able to access and run historical reports on all candidates in the case of an audit or legal inquiry?

Accounting for the human factor

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that, like it or not, just about everyone harbors unconscious prejudice that can come in to play during the hiring process. You need to be sure your hiring managers and selection committees are overcoming any hidden biases. Providing them with structured tools for interviewing, reference checking, and selecting candidates can help with compliance.

The possibility of selection committee members asking inappropriate questions was a concern at Waukesha County Technical College. Laquitha Terry, manager of talent relations and recruitment at the college, also recalls that although reference checking was required, the guidelines were not being followed consistently, and some selection committees were not conducting reference checks at all. This lack of consistency in the process left the college without reference data on some candidates.

Ace compliance

Questions asked of candidates and their references must be appropriate, with evidence that what’s being asked is related to job success. General questions and assessments can make your process vulnerable. Institutions intent on “acing” compliance rely instead on job-specific questions developed by professional industrial and organizational psychologists that meet industry standards for reliability, validity, and compliance.

Additionally, each reference for a particular candidate should be asked the same questions and in the same manner. Online reference checking tools provide this needed level of consistency. Equally important, the quantifiable feedback provided from multiple references lets you make your hiring decision based on objective measurements of a candidate’s past performance. This reduces the potential for bias with respect to gender, age, and race/ethnicity.

An article published in the International Journal of Selection and Assessment cites a study that tracked and observed 34,054 new hires over a 21-month period after they were hired. Information captured pre-hire using an online reference checking tool was compared to the candidates’ on-the-job performance. The results substantiate that web-based, multi-source reference checking is proven not only to predict turnover, but also to be compliant, as there are no statistical differences in results based on race, gender, or age. Powerful scientific studies like this give institutions confidence that their hiring processes are compliant.

Additionally, the feedback you receive about your candidates’ past behaviors sheds light on which candidates share your values for inclusion. For example, a candidate’s former co-workers and supervisors can give you insight into whether a candidate has important soft skills like treating people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and genders with fairness and respect.

Score high with staff and auditors, too

When every department has its own way of conducting reference checks, there are doubts about whether compliance standards are being consistently met. Add to that a lack of a central repository of reference information, and your institution is at a greater risk of being challenged legally. The absence of centralized processes and documentation also makes audits and accreditations slow and frustrating.

Clemson University, South Carolina’s highest ranked national university, was concerned whether HR compliance standards were being met during the reference checking process because there was not a consistent method of checking references, and there was no central repository of reference information. Relying on Pre-Hire 360® has put these concerns to rest. Their auditors love that Clemson now has a repository that demonstrates that reference checking is being done consistently.

Learn more

Providing opportunities for students from all types of backgrounds is one of the greatest challenges facing higher education today. To help students succeed, institutions need to provide them with a welcoming environment and supportive staff and faculty. Learn more about meeting this and other hiring challenges in higher education. Join Sharon Ewles, staffing manager at Mott Community College, and me for a webinar to discuss this further on Nov. 12. Register today!

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