University of Oregon

Screening Applications

Having established clear selection criteria, the search committee is ready to screen applications with an agreed upon understanding of what will constitute a strong candidate.  Gaining a commitment from search committee members to rely on the established criteria during the screening process can greatly reduce the influence of unintended bias (Isaac, Lee & Carnes, 2009).

Recommended Practice Associated Challenges
Search committee members evaluate candidates on each criteria individually as opposed to starting with a holistic assessment of the candidates When candidates are evaluated without  the selection criteria as a clear reference point, the chances of unintentional bias influencing the screening process is increased
Use a screening matrix to keep track of strengths, shortcomings and questions Without a screening matrix, search committees can lose sight of the specific screening criteria
Search committee members hold each other accountable for showing evidence of their evaluations that is directly related to the established criteria (Moody, 2010) Comments that are unrelated to or several logical steps away from the established criteria (e.g. “I just don’t think they would be a good fit in the department”) can reflect assumptions that are inaccurate and/or unrelated to the criteria
Remain aware of research on implicit bias that identifies the tendency to look for and favor people like ourselves or those we are accustomed to seeing in similar positions Without awareness of the ways in which implicit bias operates, search committees can miss opportunities to recognize outstanding candidates who do not represent what the search committee is familiar with (i.e. research areas,  identities, values, communication style)
Suspend judgments about candidates based on the institutions from which they come until more information is gathered Quick judgments can be made based on the institution affiliation, yet these judgments are often an unreliable method for evaluating individuals
Pay attention to and invite every perspective, especially when there are differences of opinion about the strength of a candidate.  These differing perspectives reflect the benefit of a diverse search committee Downplaying less popular perspectives may contribute to the committee yielding to the momentum of the group (Moody, 2010) and result in less  conscious and deliberate screening
Schedule adequate time for evaluation so that the process is not rushed (Moody, 2010) “When people are distracted or put under pressure to respond quickly, they become far more vulnerable to cognitive errors and faulty decision making” (Pinker, 2002)
Record detailed reasons as they are discussed for non/advancement in the selection process for each applicant.  This will facilitate the preparation of final hire paperwork and also assures that the decision-making process can be reconstructed should the process be questioned It is difficult to recreate the specifics of the decisions for each candidate at the end of the process if they are not recorded along the way.  Inaccurate or incomplete information can slow the final review of hire paperwork.  It can also put the search committee in a vulnerable position if the specific, job-related reasons for non-selection are not clear


Sample Candidate Evaluation Tools

University of Michigan [.doc format]

Law School Criteria Sheet [PDF]

What if a candidate is known to one or more committee members?

The following are important points to consider when a candidate is known to a committee member(s):

  • A member who knows a candidate should disclose this to the committee at the beginning of the search process.
  • If the committee member feels that their prior knowledge of the candidate will make it difficult for them to act as a fair and effective evaluator, they should share this concern with the search committee chair and hiring authority.   The committee member can consider abstaining from their evaluation of the known candidate, or in extreme cases, step down from the search committee.
  • If the committee member feels they can effectively and fairly evaluate all candidates, they should refrain from sharing details about their knowledge of the candidate unless and until that candidate makes it to the short list.
  • If the known candidate does make it to the short list, it is appropriate for the committee member to share their prior knowledge as long as it is first-hand knowledge that is relevant to the candidate’s ability to carry out the responsibilities of the position.
  • If there are questions, contact the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity at 541-346-3123.



Bilimoria, D., Buch, K. (2010).  The search is on: engendering faculty diversity through more effective  search and recruitmentChange. July/August 2010.  [PDF]

Isaac, C, B. Lee and M. Carnes. (2009). Interventions that affect gender bias in hiring: A systematic review.  Academic Medicine. 84(10): 1440-1446. [PDF]

Moody, JoAnn. (2010) Rising Above Cognitive Errors:  Guidelines to Improve Faculty Searches, Evaluations, and Decision-Making. (Publication can be ordered directly from Joann Moody).

Pinker, S. (2002).  The Blank Slate. New York: Viking Press.

Sotello Viernes Turner, C. (2002).  Diversifying the faculty:  A guidebook for search committees.  Association of American Colleges & Universities.


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