Inclusive hiring: A checklist to build strong & diverse university IT teams

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Diversity is critical to team success,

By U2B Staff 

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The need for innovation in higher education has never been greater.

With pressure to provide more meaningful, targeted, and responsive learning opportunities for 21st-century students, higher education professionals are being challenged to envision and enact models of teaching that are fundamentally different than anything we have seen before.

At this transformational moment, ensuring that the best thinking is brought to bear is critical.

David Komlos and David Benjamin, authors of Cracking Complexity: The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just about Anything Fast, explain in a recent opinion piece that diverse teams are better at tackling complex challenges than are teams that lack diversity.

In the article, Komlos and Benjamin provide a framework for developing diverse teams. And yet, it is no secret that IT leaders struggle to increase diversity among their teams.


EDUCAUSE has begun addressing this challenge head-on by championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at its conferences and in its publications.

EDUCAUSE is also engaging directly with organisations such as the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) and the Center for Higher Education CIO Studies, Inc. (CHECS) to provide resources and disseminate knowledge about how to increase diversity in the higher education IT profession.

Most recently, the 2019 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference spotlighted the importance of inclusive hiring and diverse teams for innovation and business success.

The opening and closing keynote sessions focused on the roles inclusion and diversity play in enabling transformative innovation. The keynote sessions specifically emphasised the very practical side of opening up the playing field to groups that have traditionally been marginalised from IT roles—especially IT leadership roles.

In addition to the keynote and multiple conference sessions, the thread of DEI was woven throughout the special conference offerings, such as the New IT Managers Programme, the Senior Directors Seminar, and the Hawkins Leadership Roundtable.

Key takeaways for inclusive hiring

During the Hawkins Leadership Roundtable, participants shared practical steps that CIOs and hiring committees can take to be deliberate about inclusive hiring.

The discussion included the multiple dimensions that are important to building a strong, diverse team, including demographic diversity, skill set variety, and experience.

  1. Job description: Review the job description for gendered language that could be off-putting to female candidates and that may imply characteristics or traits that may be stereotypically associated with the IT field but that are not, in fact, required. For example, Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron Kay identified “challenge,” “lead,” “boast,” and “active” as terms that may dissuade women from applying.
  2. Explicit statement of DEI values: Be sure the job description explicitly states that the institution values diversity. Likewise, the CIO and the search chair should speak with the committee members about the importance of having a diverse applicant pool and a diverse team.
  3. Recruitment strategy: Find ways to expand the reach of your announcement; for example, through social media, special professional organisations, or special interest groups for different professional populations, and by proactively recruiting candidates.
  4. Search committee: Ensure that the search committee is made up of members from a variety of units and technical and non-technical backgrounds. Have someone outside the IT department or in the specialised area on the committee.
  5. Implicit bias training: Have a discussion with members of the search committee about implicit bias or ask them to read a related article or view a video. Then, ask them to take one of the Harvard implicit bias surveys for self-awareness. The results do not necessarily need to be shared.
  6. Human resources (HR) support: Conduct equity reviews during the search process. HR departments administer these reviews to ensure that the pool of candidates invited for interviews meets equity criteria. If this service is not automatic, CIOs can ask their HR office if it is available.
  7. Résumé review: Conduct a blind review of résumés—that is, have the candidates’ names and dates of degrees removed from their résumés before the search committee reviews them.
  8. Rubric: Have the search committee members use a rubric to evaluate key skills and experiences for each candidate.
  9. CIO Commitment: Sign the CIO’s Commitment on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Only the beginning

These suggestions focus primarily on the pre-interview stage of recruitment.

There are certainly many more inclusive hiring strategies to consider once the candidates are identified and invited on campus for interviews.

Best practices suggest using a competency-based interview processes and standardising the interview agenda so that each candidate has as close to the same experience as possible.

Additionally, once you have hired a more diverse team, equal attention must be paid to how you support those new team members; inclusivity begins with hiring but must extend into the workplace as well, especially as an institution becomes more diverse.

Only then will higher education professionals be able to maximise the diversity of thinking to solve the complex problems that universities are faced with today.

This article has been republished from EDUCAUSE Review under a Creative Commons license.

It has been adapted to suit U2B’s editorial house style. Readers may access the original version here.