Assemble a diverse committee with an expressed commitment to diversity, equity, and excellence (Kang et al., 2012). Studies show that the presence of people of color and women results in more careful and positive assessment of the evidence presented in candidates’ materials (Kang et al., 2012; Sommers, 2006) and decreases discrimination against candidates (Heilman, 1980). Additionally, research has shown that socially diverse groups are more innovative, incentivize group members to better prepare, encourage group members to anticipate alternative viewpoints and expect that reaching consensus will take effort (Phillips, 2014).

Increase the committee’s sense of accountability for engaging in intentional, equitable processes. Charge the committee to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in its process and encourage committee members to avoid common cognitive errors that result in biased assessments (Blair & Banaji, 1996).

As you enter the search process, engage the committee in discussion of the importance of diversity in achieving academic excellence and the departmental mission. Use the existing research that shows that diversity advances institution excellence and challenge the assumptions in statements such as, “I’m all for diversity, but I'm most interested in excellence.”

Understand whether the charge of the committee is to provide an unranked list of the top three finalists or to rank order the committee’s preference. An unranked list may provide more flexibility to the final negotiator and less stigma toward successful candidates who were not identified as the “top” choice.

Review the literature on unconscious bias together, increase committee members’ “bias literacy,” explore evidence-based strategies for minimizing its influence, and agree as a committee what strategies you will employ (Carnes et al., 2015). Schedule a presentation on unconscious bias and/or facilitate a committee discussion about the research and potential mitigation strategies. Studies have shown that heightened awareness of the discrepancies between one’s ideals of impartiality and actual performance, together with strong internal motivations to respond without prejudice (“chronic egalitarianism”), can effectively reduce biased decision-making and behavior (Fine & Handelsman, 2012a).

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Be prepared; review the applicant’s materials.
  • Ask questions directly pertaining to the position, LITS, or Hamilton.
  • Ask the same questions of each candidate - be consistent.
  • Answer questions asked by the candidates in the same way.


  • Make assumptions about the applicant based on any of statuses listed below.
  • Ask any question pertaining to the applicant's race, gender, gender identity, religion, age, marital/family status, sexuality, country of origin, or arrest record. (See chart below for illegal and legal questions.)

    • Have you ever worked under a different name? Is any additional information relative to change of name or use of an assumed name or nickname necessary to enable a check on your work record? If yes, explain.

    • What name(s) are your work records listed under?

    • Inquiries about the name that would seek to elicit information about the candidate’s ancestry or descent (e.g., what nationality is your last name?).

    • Inquiries about name change due to a court order, marriage, or otherwise.

    • Maiden name of married women.

    Age • An employer may ask whether an individual meets the minimum age requirements set by law, e.g. Are you over the age of 18?

    • Asking about an applicant’s age, date of birth, or for records to prove their age.

    • What year did you graduate from high school/college?

    National Origin/Citizenship • Are you authorized to work in the United States?

    • Are you a U.S. citizen? / Do you plan to become a U.S. citizen?

    • Where were you/your parents born?

    • What is your “native tongue”?


    • NONE! There are no acceptable questions.

    • (Voluntary submission of Equal Employment Opportunity [EEO] information may be made directly through HR - search committee will not see individual responses.)

    • Any question regarding a person’s race/color are deemed illegal under state and federal laws.
    Gender Identity

    • NONE - no acceptable question for any LITS position!

    •(Inquiry or restriction of employment is permissible only when a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) exists - not applicable to LITS.)

    • Applicant’s gender identity cannot be used as a factor for determining whether an applicant will be “satisfied” in a particular job.

    • Any inquiry that would indicate gender identity of applicant.

    Marital/Family Status

    • Would you be willing to relocate if necessary?

    • Would you be able and willing to work overtime as necessary?

    • Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

    • With whom do you live?

    • Do you plan to have a family?

    • What are your child-care arrangements?

    Pregnancy • NONE! There are no acceptable questions.

    • Any question concerning pregnancy, birth control, or capacity to reproduce.

    • Advocacy of any form of birth control or family planning.

    Organizations • Inquiry into applicant’s membership in organizations that the applicant considers relevant to his/her ability to perform the job. (e.g. professional organizations such as ALA or EDUCAUSE)

    • Asking what organizations, clubs, and societies the applicant belongs to that are not relevant to his/her ability to perform the job (political, social, religious, etc.)

    • List all clubs, societies and lodges to which you belong.


    • NONE! There are no acceptable questions.

    • After an individual is hired, an employer may inquire about religious accommodations.

    • Any question with regard to an applicant’s religious beliefs, denomination.

    • Any questions that indicate religious customs or holidays observed.

    Disabilities / Physical Characteristics

    • Are you able to perform the essential job functions?

    • Can you demonstrate how you would perform the following job-related functions?

    • Do you have any disabilities?

    • Complete a medical history.

    • How is your family’s health?

    • Do you need a reasonable accommodation?

    • How tall are you?

    • How much do you weigh?

    Language • Inquiry into languages applicant speaks and writes fluently if needed for the position.

    • What is your native language?

    • Inquiry into how applicant acquired ability to read, write or speak a foreign language.

    Photograph   May not be requested prior to hire.
    Arrest Record

    • Have you ever been convicted of -------? (a crime related to job qualifications.)

    • No applicant will be denied a position because of a conviction for an offense unless there is a direct relationship between the offense and the position, or unless hiring would be an unreasonable risk.

    • Have you ever been arrested?
    Driver’s License/Travel

    • Do you possess a valid NYS driver’s license? (if necessary to perform duties of the position)

    • This position requires travel. Are you willing to travel?

    • Requirement that an applicant produce a driver’s license.

    • Since you have children will you have trouble getting the time to travel?



    (If military is listed on application:)

    • In what branch of the Armed Forces did you serve?

    • What type of training or education did you receive in the military?

    • If you were in the military, were you honorably discharged?



Nhora Lucía Serrano, Ph.D.

Director of Learning and Research Services

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