A Checklist for Inclusive Hiring

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During the Hawkins Leadership Roundtable at the 2019 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, higher education IT leaders discussed practical steps that CIOs and hiring committees can take to be deliberate about addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion during the hiring process.

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Credit: Pure Imagination / Shutterstock.com © 2019

The need for innovation in higher education has never been greater: with pressure to provide more meaningful, targeted, and responsive learning opportunities for twenty-first century students, we, as 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.1

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.2 EDUCAUSE is also engaging directly with organizations 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.3

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 emphasized the very practical side of opening up the playing field to groups that have traditionally been marginalized 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 Program, 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 addressing DEI during the hiring process. 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.4
  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 organizations, 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 specialized 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.5 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 standardizing 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 maximize the diversity of thinking to solve the complex problems that universities are faced with today.

For more information about enhancing your skills as a higher education IT manager and leader, please visit the EDUCAUSE Review Professional Development Commons blog as well as the EDUCAUSE Career Development page.


  1. David Komlos and David Benjamin, "How Highly Diverse Teams Can Help Untangle Complexity," Knowledge@Wharton, September 5, 2019.
  2. "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources," EDUCAUSE (website), n.d., accessed November 1, 2016.
  3. Keith McIntosh, Jeff Pomerantz, Helena Rodrigues, Craig Smith, and Melissa Woo, "Expanding Your Recruitment Pool through Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion," EDUCAUSE Review, June 5, 2017; Adam Pritchard, Keith McIntosh, and Jasper McChesney, Diversity in Higher Education Information Technology: From Today's Workforce to Tomorrow's Leaders, research report, (Knoxville, TN: CUPA-HR, July 2019).
  4. Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay, "Evidence that Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101, no. 1 (2011): 109-128.
  5. For example, Gail Tolstoi-Miller, "Unconscious Bias: Stereotypical Hiring Practices," filmed May 4, 2017, at TedXLincolnSquare, New York, NY, video, 10:32.

Heather McCullough is Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

© 2019 Heather McCullough. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.