Specific information on characteristics that should be avoided when evaluating candidates. Ideas on how to recognize perceptions based on assumptions.
A Guide for Search Committees
The Non-Discrimination/Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy of Indiana University states:
Indiana University pledges itself to continue its commitment to the achievement of equal opportunity within the University and throughout American society as a whole. In this regard, Indiana University will recruit, hire, promote, educate, and provide services to persons based upon their individual qualifications. Indiana University prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, color, disability, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
As required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Indiana University does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its educational programs and activities, including employment and admission. Questions specific to Title IX may be referred to the Office for Civil Rights or the University Title IX Coordinator.
Indiana University shall take affirmative action, positive and extraordinary, to overcome the discriminatory effects of traditional policies and procedures with regard to the disabled, minorities, women, and veterans.
It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating candidates for positions at Indiana University Northwest. Although it is unlikely search committee members would overtly discriminate against candidates based on the characteristics above, discrimination may nevertheless occur. Search committees may set criteria or make inquires that screen out otherwise qualified candidates because of characteristics such as those above. They might also make assumptions about candidates based on such characteristics, which would therefore exclude the candidate from consideration. Interviewers might ask questions or make comments that would lead a candidate to believe one or more of the above characteristics will be a factor in their evaluation either negatively or positively. This may lead the candidate to “voluntarily” remove him or herself from consideration. The effect of these situations is the same as overt discrimination and is not in keeping with Indiana University’s non-discrimination policy.
In addition to finding the best qualified person for the position, search committees are often concerned with finding someone who will fit in well in their department. Nobody wants to hire a candidate who subsequently feels uncomfortable in the department. But whether a candidate will be comfortable in the department is an issue for the candidate to decide. This can best be accomplished if candidates have the opportunity to meet and interact with a large number of the faculty, staff, and students in the department. They can then form their own opinion about what the department is like and if they would fit in. A candidate should never be asked if he or she thinks they would fit into the department given an arbitrary characteristic unrelated to his or her administrative.
Specific information on characteristics that should not be used to evaluate candidates and ideas on how to avoid possible perceptions to the contrary is listed below.
Persons aged 40 and over are legally protected from discrimination on the basis of age. Questions that would reveal age should be avoided. Additional comments or questions that might indicate age as a factor should be avoided.
“Our staff is young and on the cutting edge of research.”
“We are interested in getting new blood or new energy into the department.”
Some positions at Indiana University have a mandatory retirement age. This part of the position should be made known to all candidates, not just persons suspected of being close to the retirement age. If a position requires a specific term such as five years, then all candidates should be asked if they can fulfill that term.
All candidates should be asked only if they are currently eligible to work in the United States. This question should be asked of all candidates not just those suspected of being citizens of another country. After an offer is made, he or she will be required to produce documentation of eligibility.
A search committee should not use race or color as a decisive factor in evaluating candidates. While departments should take affirmative steps to ensure they evaluate and strongly consider a diverse pool of candidates, the best qualified person should always be selected.
Questions or comments such as the following should be avoided.
“Our department is actively trying to diversify its staff.”
“Would you like to meet minority staff in another department?”
Information about diversity, cultural centers, or minority related programs should be included in all candidate packets.
Religion or religious beliefs cannot be a factor in evaluating candidates and neither should assumptions about these beliefs. For example, search committees should not assume that because a male candidate is Muslim, he will have a difficult time working with women or that because a candidate is wearing a religious symbol their beliefs will dictate their performance.
Questions or comments about any religion or religious belief should be avoided when speaking with candidates.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, as well as persons who have a record of disability or are perceived as disabled. It is of course not permissible to ask individuals if they have disabilities or about their disabilities. When requesting interviews, search committees should ask all candidates if they require an accommodation to participate in the interview.
When providing directions to candidates it is important to include information about accessible entrances and parking. If necessary, schedule interviews in a more accessible building.
Candidates should not be asked about their ethnicity or national origin and this information should not be used as a factor in their evaluation. For example, search committees should not evaluate a person of Middle Eastern decent differently given the current political climate. Neither should they dismiss a candidate based on the belief that there are already a lot of faculty and/or staff members of similar ethnicity or national origin in the department.
Avoid the following lines of discussion with candidates:
“We certainly do have a lot of Australians, such as yourself, already in the department.”
“Where is your family originally from?”
“That is quite the Irish accent you have.”
“Mueller. Is that German?”
Discrimination based on veteran status is illegal. It is permissible to ask questions about the skills and duties performed during service. However, search committees may not ask the type of discharge the candidate received. This may require the candidate to divulge private information, such as a medical history, which cannot be used as a factor in their evaluation.
Additionally, search committees should avoid questions that ask about the candidate’s current military status such as:
“Did you remain in the reserves after your service? Are you still in the reserves?”
“How likely is this to affect your service to our department?”
“Did you serve in combat?”
Information received from these types of questions is irrelevant to the candidate’s evaluation as service to the reserves or National Guard must be honored by employers and cannot be a factor in a person’s evaluation for hire, promotion, or termination.
Do not use marital status as a factor in evaluating candidates. Neither should any known or perceived family responsibilities be a consideration. Questions which would require the candidate to divulge this type of information should be avoided. When speaking with candidates, avoid questions or comments such as:
“Do you have children? This department is very family oriented.”
“Are you married? How would your spouse feel about moving?”
Search committees should avoid making assumptions about a candidate’s ability to relocate because of their spouse or partner. These are issues to be worked out between the candidate and their spouse or partner, not the search committee. At the offer stage it is permissible to inquire if the candidate has any criteria that would make the offer more appealing.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits sex discrimination based on pregnancy. The current pregnancy status of a candidate or her impending pregnancy status cannot be used as a factor in her evaluation. Search committees should not ask women if they plan to have children or what their childcare plans are.
It is not permissible to use sex or gender as a factor in evaluating candidates. All questions or comments related to gender should be avoided. If information about gender specific services (ex: Women’s Affairs) is included in candidate packets it should be included in all candidate packets, not just those of that gender. When speaking with candidates avoid comments such as the following:
“How would you feel about working in a department of mainly men/women?”
“It is rare to find a woman/man doing this type of work.”
Additionally, courts have ruled it is illegal to hire women for less pay than men, simply because the market will bear it. The financial implications involved with a person’s gender should not be a factor in his or her evaluation.
Indiana University policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. A search committee cannot use sexual orientation as a factor in evaluating candidates. Search committees should not make assumptions about a candidate’s sexual orientation based upon mannerisms, appearances, volunteer work, or research interests. Questions which may require the candidate to divulge private information such as their sexual orientation should be avoided, as well as comments about anyone’s sexual orientation.