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EDI in academic hiring

Inclusive excellence and academic hiring at Concordia

Concordia University is committed to employment equity within its community and aims to recruit diverse staff and faculty. The notion of inclusive excellence asks us to consider the ways in which diverse experiences contribute to an enriched academic environment in ways that may not be captured by the traditional measures we default to in conversations about merit, excellence, and accomplishment. The consideration of inclusive excellence should act as a starting point for taking into account the role of equity principles in our processes and systems.

This page outlines best practices and guidelines and offers resources for the equitable and inclusive recruitment of tenure track faculty members at Concordia University. It will be updated periodically to reflect the university’s expanding commitment to diversity in the professoriate.

As always, the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic is always available to consult on any aspect of the recruitment process.

Best practices — From Department Hiring Committee (DHC) composition to posting the job ad

In general, the best practices discussed on this website address the principles of including diverse perspectives in the decision making process, broadening the applicant pool, giving candidates of all backgrounds a fair opportunity to make their best case for the position in question, and reducing the potential impact of unconscious bias.

As a first step, departments and faculties are advised to first consider the formation of their respective Department Hiring Committees (DHCs).

Departments and faculties should seek to include colleagues on the DHCs who are themselves members of groups that are underrepresented in the relevant discipline(s) and within Concordia’s professoriate. Achieving equity and diversity in the composition of DHCs includes, where possible:

  • Ensuring gender parity in DHC membership;
  • Ensuring representation of underrepresented groups;
  • Being aware of the service-burden of probationary members, especially those from underrepresented groups; and,
  • Relieving the representational burden of DHC members from underrepresented groups by ensuring that all DHC members espouse a commitment to inclusive excellence and to the institution’s equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

Once constituted, please email the list of DHC members to

Finally, each DHC member will be contacted to complete the required and recommended EDI training. In addition, it is highly recommended that DHC members also complete the Tri-Council’s unconscious bias training module (English / Français) and the Harvard Implicit Association Test prior to the first DHC meeting.

Participation in training on the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion, and on the potential negative impact of unconscious bias on the career paths of individuals from underrepresented groups is an important part of our strong commitment to recruit diverse faculty and conduct an equitable and inclusive hiring process. While not sufficient in and of themselves, the workshops play a vital role as part of larger plans to embed inclusive excellence throughout Concordia and are a direct way in which participants can contribute to these plans.

Participation in mandatory training on the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion, and on the potential negative impact of unconscious bias on the career paths of individuals from underrepresented groups before starting the hiring process is required of all Department Hiring Committees involved in the search process. For questions and to RSVP for a session, please email

An EDI Advocate is an individual who may accompany a search process for a particular faculty position in order to facilitate the full consideration of equity matters by the DHC throughout the search timeline. In general, they would assist the DHC in ensuring that equitable and inclusive practices are used in all aspects of the recruitment process.

For additional information or with any questions, please contact Dr. Mark Andrew Galang Villacorta, Senior Equity Advisor, Equity Office.

Some specific ways that the EDI Advocate can contribute to the process include:

  • Make recommendations on DHC composition, taking into account both representation and commitments to inclusive excellence
  • Review job ads for inclusive language and content
  • Support the DHC in identifying possible outlets and networks within which to circulate job postings
  • Help with the design of standard evaluation forms that include the criteria developed by the DHC
  • Advise the DHC on how to include contributions to diversity as part of the evaluation criteria for all applicants, and on how to evaluate the responses received
  • Gather and disseminate resources such as research reports and summaries and sample evaluation rubrics and interview questions
  • Engage in discussions with the DHC on research on multiple facets of the search process such as unconscious bias in evaluation, the role of applicant pool diversity, and the gendered dynamics of recommendation letters, and their potential impact
  • Review the data on the diversity of the applicant pool for the position and the disciplinary area’s availability pool, and if required, make suggestions on proactive measures to enhance the diversity of the applicant pool
  • Support the DHC in establishing long lists and short lists that consider diverse representation and commitment to inclusive excellence
  • Advise on the creation of and/or review drafts of reasoned reports prior to submission to the Department Personnel Committee (DPC)

Some considerations for the EDI Advocate’s participation include:

  • The DHC sets the parameters for the EDI Advocate’s participation
  • The EDI Advocate solely advises on EDI matters
  • The EDI Advocate may on occasion consult with additional Office of the Provost staff on questions which cannot be answered immediately or that require additional information and authority
  • In general, it may be optimal for the EDI Advocate to not participate directly during interviews and solely advise on the process
  • Final decisions on all matters related to hiring are solely the purview of the DHC

This section outlines the major considerations with respect to EDI when developing the selection criteria. Some general examples are included; for additional examples from Concordia see Examples of hiring criteria under the Resources section below. For examples of evaluation templates from different institutions see Examples of evaluation templates under Resources.

  1. Upon selecting the hiring committee members, schedule a first meeting in order to develop the evaluation criteria and write the job posting

    The meeting should take place well in advance of the application deadline in order to allow sufficient time to develop the criteria and post the position.

  2. Discuss the meaning of “excellence” in the context of the position in question

    Have an open discussion on the required qualifications of the position, addressing not only the needs of the committee members and specific department, but of Concordia as a whole. All members of the hiring committee should articulate their views and understanding of the criteria.

    Resist the urge to come up with a set of vocabulary without ensuring that all members are in agreement about the meaning thereof. Does everyone mean the same thing by words like “productive,” “collegial,” “distinguished,” “versatile”? It is important to be very specific.

  3. Develop inclusive evaluation criteria via consensus through consideration of the full range of needs of the department and university community as a whole

    In developing criteria for the position, go beyond the major categories of research, teaching and service and define what about these categories is most important for the position. In addition, discuss instances when it is necessary to go beyond conventional metrics of excellence, and to consider experiences of engaging diversity as contributing to the goals of the academic environment.

    In the end, discussing and deciding upon selection criteria by consensus supports the effectiveness, integrity and equity of the search process. It decreases the probability that applicants will be favoured due to reasons unrelated to the departmental and institutional needs, such as vague notions of “fit.”

  1. Have an equity advisor/advocate review the job posting (including the established criteria) prior to publication and circulation

    It is recommended that the selected EDI Advocate review and approve the job posting prior to posting.

  2. Non-traditional and unconventional research

    Academic and professional excellence remain the principle criteria for recruitment. However, the meaning of excellence should not be restricted to overly narrow or traditional metrics. As such, committees should take steps to ensure that the evaluation process places sufficient value on and gives consideration to non-traditional or unconventional research and scholarship, including those based on Indigenous ways of knowing, focused on underrepresented populations, or outside of conventional disciplinary boundaries.

The goal of the job ad is to appeal to the broadest possible range of potential applicants, thereby building a broad, deep, diverse applicant pool. As such, not all sections will be pertinent to every applicant. However, certain sections may impact the decision of applicants to apply. With sections that are clearly delineated, different applicants should be able to identify the information that is most pertinent to them.

The following are some general recommendations for crafting the job ad. Note that when authorization is given to post a faculty position, the department and Faculty will work with the Office of the Provost to ensure that the advertisement includes all required information within the Concordia-approved template.

  1. Keep language as broad as possible while meeting specific department needs
    • First and foremost, departmental need should be assessed and the required skills should be listed in the job ad
    • Simultaneously, the use of overly narrow language in defining the disciplinary area, such as focusing on a single research area or the use of particular methods when not essential to the position, discourages qualified candidates from applying
      • The specificity of language in the ad should not be confused with the specificity of the evaluation criteria; while the evaluation criteria should be precise, the position description should be drafted broadly
    • Include potentially related subdisciplines
    • When relevant, indicate interest in non-traditional, interdisciplinary, and emerging fields which tend to attract more female and other underrepresented minority candidates
    • In instances where a specific departmental need must be filled in a narrowly defined area, continue to communicate that the recruitment of underrepresented groups is a priority throughout the job ad
    • Request evidence of candidates’ past efforts and future plans for engaging diversity.
  2. Describe the institution, including location
    • Emphasize opportunities for collaboration within Concordia and the greater Montreal region
    • Emphasize Concordia’s commitment to cultivating a diverse academic community 
  3. Describe the department, including commitments to building a diverse faculty complement
    • Include commitment to building diverse faculty that values equity and encourages underrepresented candidates to apply
    • Clarify why your department in particular seeks diverse talent
  1. Include Concordia University official Territorial Acknowledgement, Employment Equity Statement and immigration status declaration.

    When posting in outlets external to Concordia, include the above elements in the stated order. Job ads posted on the Concordia Jobs website will automatically include these elements.

  2. Invite candidates to disclose career interruptions or personal circumstances that may have had an impact on productivity

    Examples of career interruptions include but are not limited to: maternity or parental leave, extended sick leave, and barriers related to a disabled condition.

Recruitment is an active process and we must build our applicant pools, as opposed to only posting job ads and hoping that excellent, diverse applicants apply. Having a diverse applicant pool is perhaps the most important stage in an equitable search as it allows the possibility of considering diverse candidates for faculty positions. Further, ensuring that as many qualified applicants as possible are considered protects the integrity of the search process.

Beyond the requirements of the CUFA collective agreement regarding posting of job ads (CUFA CA Article 12.02 f), the main recommendation is to circulate the job as broadly as possible: within our and our colleagues’ networks, on outlets targeting diverse populations, on social media in addition to print and online journals. Note that this is the responsibility of the entire committee and department, not only that of faculty from underrepresented groups. Departments are encouraged to identify outlets specific to their discipline and, over time, build a list of outlets that can be accessed for targeted outreach. This information can be obtained through professional associations, conferences, invited talks, personal contacts, and other activities. 

Building relationships with colleagues and institutions is crucial. This increases visibility of the department and Concordia within diverse networks. It may enable the DHC to focus on particular areas of underrepresentation by soliciting the aide of well-connected, knowledgeable, and influential colleagues. Finally, active recruitment enables the DHC to reach those who otherwise may not have been given an opportunity to consider applying to Concordia, such as those who are not engaging in an active job search and those who are outside the conventional academy.

The concept of upstream recruitment signifies that we are constantly building our networks to include diverse scholars, administrators, and community members who can help us draw attention to positions that become available in the future. The main recommendations using this strategy include:

  • tracking prospects from conferences and disciplinary events, including collecting and storing information on promising candidates and seeking out professional opportunities that are frequented by diverse candidates;
  • each faculty member developing their own long-term recruiting relationships with diverse graduate programs, and periodically visiting those departments and bringing value to the relationship in return;
  • tasking specific department members to use open-access resources such as journals, publications, and discipline-related websites to identify potential candidates;
  • engaging with advanced graduate students in professional development and meaningful, on-campus interactions with faculty.

In order to set diversity targets for the applicant pool as a whole, it is helpful to have an idea of the representation of different designated groups in your field and department. The following are a few examples of resources which may be used as benchmarks for discussion of representation in departments and disciplines. The first five focus on the Canadian Academy. The final three focus on U.S. academy, which may have parallels with Canadian higher education, with the final two focusing on specific disciplines. Departments are encouraged to identify similar resources in their disciplines when available.

Finally, when circulating postings, it is essential to keep language very neutral and to focus on scholarship. Candidates should not be given any inclination that they have any advantage by applying simply because they have been contacted. Similarly, no mention of the candidate’s self-identification should be made when inviting them to consider applying for positions as the primary criteria by which all applicants want to be judged by is their research excellence and professional experience.

The following is sample language that may be modified when contacting potential applicants and/or requesting assistance in circulating the job ad:

Best practices — From the applicant survey to drafting the Department Hiring Committee (DHC) reports

To support departmental efforts to diversify their applicant pools, the Office of the Provost will continue to survey all applicants to tenure-track positions by sending them an email inviting them to complete a survey, in which they may indicate their membership in federally and provincially designated groups — as well as their sexual orientation and gender identity minority membership.

The results of this survey will be confidentially compiled into aggregate, anonymous data that will be made available to the DHCs at various points of the search timeline to assess the diversity in the pool of applicants and long/short lists.

In order to ensure that applicants are contacted in a timely manner and to enable DHCs to consider the results of the data, departments should provide a list of applicants to all relevant postings on a weekly basis throughout the application period, as well as a final applicant list at closing, to

Participation in the applicant survey is voluntary and no identifiable data derived from any single survey participant shall be provided to the hiring committees. Hence, the applicant survey is not a means by which applicants may self-identify as a member of one or more designated groups to the search committee. As noted in the Employment Equity statement, applicants who wish to self-identify to the hiring committee may do so in their cover letter or by writing directly to the contact person indicated in the posting.

Departments involved in hiring must document their recruitment processes in a clear and systematic fashion. Keep clear and consistent records throughout the recruitment process, such that we can demonstrate that our recruitment processes were transparent, open and fair. Please note the following examples of documentation that may be recorded:

  • membership details of the recruitment and nomination committee;
  • a description of the equity, diversity and inclusion training provided to individuals who participated in the process (including training on unconscious bias);
  • a description of the role of the equity and diversity officer or designated equity, diversity and inclusion champion;
  • a description of the strategy and proactive efforts made to identify a diverse pool of potential applicants;
  • a description of the measures used to ensure that individuals who required accommodation or who experienced career interruptions were not disadvantaged during the nomination process;
  • evaluation criteria and assessment grids;
  • copies of relevant internal policies and guidelines (e.g., equity policies, tenure-track hiring practices/policies, collective agreement or equivalent); and
  • a description of the best practices used to collect data on the participation of individuals from the four designated groups.

This information may be of particular value when drafting the DHCs reports. Finally, the work product of hiring committees is accessible by third parties upon submission of an access to information request after vetting by legal prior to release.

Just like the entire process itself, the on-site interview should be semi-structured. That is, it should contain standardized elements that place a container around discretion, but should be flexible enough to allow authentic and engaging scholarly discussion.

As a reminder, candidates are continuously evaluating us as well. During on-campus visits, we are hosting candidates in addition to interviewing them, and they will likely remain colleagues in our discipline regardless of whether they join us or not. It is our responsibility to be courteous, respectful, helpful and kind to them, and to be positive about Concordia. Doing so upholds our reputation for inclusive excellence and moves us towards our vision of becoming the Next Generation University.

  1. Develop a core set of questions

    All candidates should be asked the same core set of questions by the DHC. Questions should be based on the full range of evaluation criteria required for the position and developed in advance by the hiring committee. Include questions regarding inclusive excellence, especially if they are a part of your criteria. Follow-up questions based on each candidate’s responses are permitted and encouraged after the core set of questions are asked. For examples of interview questions concerning inclusive excellence, see Examples of interview questions under the Resources section.

    In addition to developing core questions, determine standards for engaging each candidate, including amount of time permitted per question, who will keep track of time, how they will indicate that time is up, whether candidates may go beyond their allotted time, and whether interruptions will be permitted.

    Departments should focus the interview on the professional qualifications of each candidate. For specific questions about the details of the hire, including but not limited to salary, housing, schooling for children and other family members, and spousal appointment policies and possibilities, candidates should be encouraged to bring forward such inquiries during their meeting with the Dean. If there is something specific you want shared with each candidate, make sure the Dean’s Office has the information.

  2. Develop an agenda for the interview

    The schedules should be similar in format and have as many identical components as possible, including transportation to and from campus, where the candidates stay, with whom candidates will meet, an accessible location for each meeting, and regular breaks. Certain candidates may require breaks in their schedules as an accommodation, so ideally these would be scheduled for all candidates as a matter of course. Internal candidates should receive the same treatment as external candidates, with the additional recommendation that internal candidates be invited for on-site interviews and job talks first so that they are not advantaged by their ability to observe the other candidates

    An exception to having candidate schedules be identical is when candidates request to meet particular members of the campus community. Personalizing the visit for a candidate in this way communicates responsiveness to their needs and a recognition that all members of the Concordia community should feel like they have a place here.

    Provide a list of people with whom candidates will be meeting in advance. 

    Members of the DHC may only meet with candidates when all DHC members are present. All contact with candidates is considered part of the interview process, so it is essential that each DHC member receive the same information from the candidate.

    Decide on the purpose of meals in advance. If they are designated meetings in which candidates are being evaluated, all members of the DHC should be included. If the purpose is to share information with the candidate about the department, campus and Montreal, then a larger group including graduate students, administrators and faculty members from outside the department, may attend. If the candidate must engage questions throughout, build in time for them to eat at the beginning or end of the meal and by engaging others present at the meal.

    Ensure that there are opportunities for candidates to seek out information about your campus and community. This can take the form of printed information, online resources shared in advance, and particular meetings which are geared towards providing information on campus and Montreal and are not deemed as part of the interview process, such as meals.

    Finally, do not leave candidates alone with faculty members who are known to be hostile to interviewees or not be supportive of inclusive excellence. Ensure there is a process in place to deal with the expression of hostile or discriminatory comments should they arise and that all involved in the search, including the candidates, are aware of it.

  3. Prepare the candidate for the interview.

    Identify a clear point of contact for the logistics of the visit, including air travel, ground transportation, lodging, dietary restrictions, reimbursements, any documentation and accommodations. Be clear on the procedure for reimbursements and other transactions, expenses that will and will not be covered, and maintain contact throughout the search process. Reimbursements should be processed as soon as possible. Develop and share the agenda for the interview with each candidate well in advance of their interview (see #2 above).

    Candidates who require accommodations throughout any stage of the recruitment process may also contact Dr. Nadia Hardy, Deputy Provost and Vice-Provost, Faculty Development and Inclusion. See #5 below for sample email language regarding inquiring about accommodations. In addition, departments who have questions on accommodations during the interview process are encouraged to contact Dr. Hardy in advance.

  4. Prepare the department for the interview

    Ensure that the details (dates, times, locations) of each candidate’s visit is communicated with sufficient notice to the entire department and any additional units of interest. This increases the chances that colleagues will be able to consider participating in the process in some way.

    Similarly, ensure that each candidate’s materials are available for review, and encourage colleagues to read them. In addition, provide access to the job posting, the criteria on which they are being evaluated, and the form to be used to evaluate each candidate (see Examples of evaluation templates under the Resources section).

    Remind department members that they are evaluating each candidate’s scholarly record, potential and skills and not to tokenize any of the candidates by emphasizing their demographic characteristics. Though diversification is one of many considerations in the process, it is counterproductive to point out the need for the department to hire women or people with disabilities, for example. Please refer to the Guide to Screening and Selection in Employment by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which includes questions to avoid asking during job interviews. If candidates volunteer information or ask questions about topics that interviewers are not permitted to ask themselves, such as childcare, you may provide a helpful resource if you have one and then encourage them to bring this up in the meeting with the Dean. Importantly, ensure that the inquiry and their response does not enter into deliberations about their qualifications.

  5. Ensure that all candidates meet a diverse group of people

    It is important that department members outside of the DHC meet the candidates and attend the job talks. In addition, diverse candidates occasionally desire to meet with members of their community in order to explore possibilities for community should they end up working here. Inquire via email whether each candidate would like to meet with particular groups of people during their visit. You may use or modify language contained in the sample email amended from the in-person EDI workshop:

  1. Provide standardized opportunities for providing departmental feedback and clearly communicate the process and expectations

    Develop a standard form on which department members may provide feedback on each candidate. See the standardized form example in Examples of evaluation templates under the Resources section.

    There are no policies preventing the gathering of anonymous feedback. However, note that accountability and visibility can hedge against discrimination — so anonymous comments should be weighed accordingly. Consider asking reviewers to indicate how much exposure they had to each candidate; these should be taken into consideration in weighing their input, particularly in the case of anonymous feedback.

    Finally, clearly communicate how feedback will be gathered and the type of feedback that should be provided (i.e., feedback on specific facets of the candidate’s qualifications and not generic feedback about preferences) in order to be most helpful to the committee.

  2. Evaluate final candidates

    Evaluations must be based on evidence provided by the candidate in reference to the required criteria for the position. Bias may enter at any stage of the process. At all stages, including the final stages of evaluating short-listed candidates, advice on minimizing bias and the guidelines for evaluating candidates should be reviewed.

    The committee should meet immediately after each candidate's visit. This protects against bias and maximizes recall of each candidate’s actual performance. Focus on the strengths and concerns of each candidate.

    DHC members should view each on-campus interviewee equally and not rank or compare them until all visits have been completed and each candidate has been discussed in a post-interview meeting. Whereas committee members may have had their preferences prior to the short list, once candidates make it to this final stage they should be given an equal opportunity to make their case for joining the department. Going into interviews viewing candidates as “my favourite” or “least favourite” increases the chances of confirmation bias and precludes us from learning new information about candidates that is important in consideration of their suitability for the position. 

    Ensure that the information used to evaluate each candidate is relevant to the range of criteria developed. Only information provided to the entire DHC should be considered in deliberations. Do not consider personal circumstances or characteristics in your evaluations. These include but are not limited to whether candidates have partners or children, need accommodations, have been to Canada, are too young or too old, speak with an accent, will attend informal, non-required social events outside of business hours, have ever seen snow or will get along with particular faculty members.

    Relatedly, exercise caution in regards to strong emotional reactions, whether positive or negative, to candidates. Many factors may influence our partiality or disapproval toward candidates on an emotional level, such as culture, shared life experiences, in-group favouritism, stereotypes and bias. When strong emotions are present, it is important that we reflect and examine the reasons for them as opposed to acting on them prematurely.

The goal of the reasoned reports, from an EDI perspective, is to highlight the procedural fairness of the search process. In other words, the result of the recruitment initiative should not necessarily be the emphasis, but rather the extent to which the process itself was equitable.

To aid in drafting reasoned reports that allow the reader to access the procedural fairness of the hiring in question, we list guiding questions and principles below to inform the preparation of those elements required by the collective agreement.

Report #1 – The Compare and Contrast Report, CUFA CA Article 12.02q

Considerations by section:

  • A description of the position;
    • What were the EDI considerations that informed the content of the ad?
    • Was the job ad reviewed by an external advocate for EDI?
  • A statement detailing where the advertisement was posted (as well as the advertisement publication information table);
    • Was the job ad circulated within diverse networks?
    • Was the ad distributed through outlets targeting diverse populations and, if so, which ones?
    • Were other members of the department and / or other colleagues asked to circulate the job ad and provided with instructions on diverse recruitment practices?
  • Conflict of interest check (CUFU CA Article 7.07);
    • Upon the initial review of the applicant pool and prior to starting their evaluation process, did DHC members disclose any conflict of interest?
    • If conflicts of interests were disclosed, how were they managed throughout the process?
    • Did the DHC need to consult on the particulars of any conflicts of interest?
  • A gender and citizenship breakdown on the total pool of applications, the pool of short listed candidates, as well as the Department i.e., current CUFA members;
    • What measures were used to gauge the diversity of the applicant pool? At which junctures / stages of the search process?
    • Did the DHC address considerations of EDI regarding the federally designated groups i.e. women, Indigenous persons, members of visible minorities, and persons with disabilities?
  • A list of the hiring criteria set by the DHC and detailed in the advertisement;
    • Did the evaluation criteria take inclusive excellence into consideration? If so, how?
    • Were career interruptions, such as those required for parental, family or medical leave, taken into account?
    • Were non-traditional, non-conventional scholarly metrics, e.g. publications in non-peer reviewed journals that carry significant impact by meet pressing community needs, taken into account?
    • Were non-traditional professional trajectories (i.e., experience gained outside the academy) considered?
    • Were research proposals in emerging areas considered?
    • Were research proposals including a focus on issues of EDI considered?
    • Were terminal degree equivalents taken into account?
  • A detailed account of the process (assessment of applicant pool; short-listing; interviewing) and how the recommended candidate was chosen;
    • Did the DHC participate in workshops on equitable hiring practices?
    • Was an EDI advocate part of the search process? How did they participate or contribute?
    • Was a standardized evaluation matrix used?
    • Was feedback collected from other members of the bargaining unit? If so, how?
  • A reasoned statement about each of the short-listed candidates, how they compared to the chosen candidate and to the criteria for selection used in the hiring as well as why they were ranked or eliminated (note that a statement must also be made about the recommended candidate);
    • How was EDI considered in the interview processes, for both the short list and, if applicable, the long list?
    • Were standardized interview questions developed?
    • How were accessibility considerations taken into account?
    • Were efforts made to personalize the visit for each candidate?
    • Did the DHC meet as soon as possible after each candidate?  If not, how were the different forms of recall bias mitigated?
    • Were efforts made to ensure a faithful record of deliberations, including the citing of evidence used to support decisions made?
  • Results of any vote and description thereof (i.e., secret ballot, etc.); and,
  • A statement to justify the selection of a non-Canadian candidate, if applicable

Report #2 – Recommended candidate only, CUFA CA article 12.02p


  • A detailed description of the recommended candidate’s merit and qualifications with regards to the hiring criteria, as well as an account of their interview, job talk, etc.;
    • How will the recommended candidate’s research, teaching and service interests contribute to inclusive excellence at Concordia, based on their dossier and interview responses?
    • What departmental needs will the recommended candidate help to meet with respect to EDI?
    • Does the recommended candidate’s research plan address EDI issues?

General points for consideration

In drafting your reports, please consider best practices aimed at limiting the effects of letter writer bias. Specifically:

  • Focus on comparing the nominee with the specific requirements of position;
  • Avoid using stereotypical adjectives when describing character and skills, especially when providing a letter for a woman (e.g., avoid words like nice, kind, agreeable, sympathetic, compassionate, selfless, giving, caring, warm, nurturing, maternal, etc.);
  • Consider using ‘stand-out’ adjectives for both men and women, where appropriate (e.g., superb, excellent, outstanding, confident, successful, ambitious, knowledgeable, intellectual etc.); and,
  • Use the nominee’s formal title and surname instead of their first name.


The hiring process is governed by the CUFA Collective Agreement, the Policy on Research Chairs (VPRGS-7) and accompanying guidelines.

As such:

  • The DHC is responsible for reviewing applications and recommending the appointment to an academic position to the Dean;
  • The DHC must forward a recommendation and reasoned report regarding the academic appointment and a recommendation and reasoned report regarding the position to the Department Personnel Committee (DPC) and the Dean, together with the hiring dossier of the recommended candidate(s);
  • The DPC shall forward its reasoned recommendation to the Dean; and,
  • Any conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest between an applicant and a member of the DHC or DPC or between members of these committees must be disclosed immediately. The Chair of the DHC or DPC (when not in conflict, or perceived conflict, of interest) in collaboration with the Dean’s and the Provost’s offices will discuss and implement appropriate accommodations to remove the conflict.     

Relevant articles of the CUFA CA: 12.01, 12.02, 12.03, 12.08g) to k).

Unconscious bias

Our brains are continuously processing enormous amounts of stimuli, necessitating the action of sorting and grouping, much of which is done effortlessly and without conscious direction. Schemas are templates that sort examples into broad categories based on experience, are activated automatically, outside of conscious awareness, beyond our control and are therefore referred to as implicit or unconscious. There schemas are essential to daily functioning and are not in and of themselves negative.

However, the application of schemas to people, including the sorting of individuals into social categories such as gender, race and ability status, may lead to behavior which conflicts with our intention to judge individuals on their own merits. Social categories are accompanied by a host of associations based on experience, including experience with stereotypes and general evaluative reactions. These associations are considered biases as they are not neutral, and can be either favourable or unfavourable. Unconscious biases are those stereotypes and attitudes that we do not have direct conscious access to, are based on broad messages that are ever-present in society that cannot be filtered out from our sensory processes, and may influence our interactions with and evaluations of people from different social groups.

The following are a few key characteristics of unconscious biases according to the Kirwan Institute

  • Implicit biases are pervasive. Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs. They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.
  • The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favour our own in-group, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our in-group (sometimes referred to in literature as implicit anti-in-group bias)
    • Importance of both diverse representation and commitment of all members of an institution to inclusive excellence
    • Some key papers on implicit anti-in-group bias
      • Ashburn-Nardo, L., Knowles, M. L., & Monteith, M. J. (2003). Black Americans’ Implicit Racial Associations and their Implications for Intergroup Judgment.
      • Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2002). Harvesting Implicit Group Attitudes and Beliefs From a Demonstration Web Site.
      • March, D. S., & Graham, R. (2014). Exploring implicit ingroup and outgroup bias toward Hispanics.
  • Implicit biases are malleable. Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a variety of debiasing techniques.

With respect to recruitment, considering diversity in our processes gives us an opportunity to challenge the potential role of unconscious bias in those processes. When doing so, it is important to consider both diverse representation and commitment of all members of an institution to inclusive excellence.

Of course, unconscious bias is not the only barrier to an equitable search process. Other challenges include structural barriers to access all along the educational and career pipeline, restricted and conventional definitions of merit, and rigid adherence to traditional modes of operating. By thoughtfully applying evidence-based best practices we make efforts to counter unconscious bias and the systemic barriers which maintain hiring inequities.

The following is are a list of biases that may influence the recruitment process derived from the University of Lethbridge Best Practices for Hiring with a focus on Diversity & Equity and other sources, which the best practices cited throughout this website are intended to address.

  • Halo effect – the tendency to allow one positive (or negative) quality to dominate judgment of all other qualities.
  • First impressions – drawing immediate conclusions that overlook and ignore any additional relevant information, leading to a snap judgment.
  • Cloning – favour those who think, look, or act as you do.
  • Stereotyping – grouping people together based on oversimplified categories.
  • Assumptions – taking for granted the attribution of characteristics and behaviors without evidence.
  • Ethnocentrism – belief that your own culture and ethnic group provides the only right way and all others are inferior.
  • Confirmation bias – favouring information that confirms your previously existing beliefs or biases.
  • Reactive devaluation – devaluing a proposal if it appears to originate from an antagonist.
  • Mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle – tendency prefer things merely due to familiarity.


There are particular circumstances that can increase the chances of unconscious bias exacting an effect on our decision making: times of high stress, time pressure, feeling tired, being engaged in multiple tasks, having a lack of critical mass in terms of representation, and ambiguity and/or lack of information. All of these circumstances can become part of the recruitment process, therefore they are addressed in the following recommended strategies to mitigate bias.

Minimize distraction and allow sufficient time for applicant evaluations

The first and most basic strategy is to minimize distractions. When our attention is divided between multiple tasks, unconscious bias may serve as one of the shortcuts used to help us accomplish those different tasks. Similarly, scheduling sufficient time to review will minimize the risks of similar shortcuts being used.

Familiar strategies such as reviewing dossiers in a quiet place where one is unlikely to be disturbed, turning off electronic notifications, scheduling blocks of time for the review process, and taking one’s time to go through each assigned dossier thoroughly will go a long way in supporting the integrity of the search process.

Minimize discretion

Unmitigated discretion present in the process leaves us susceptible to the influence of unconscious bias. Hence, a semi-structured process is recommended, i.e., one that simultaneously has standardized elements embedded throughout but at the same time is flexible enough to allow for open discussion and free exchange of scholarly ideas. Details on such practices such as standardized evaluation criteria and forms, questions and schedules are found in the Best practices sections above.

Counter-stereotype imaging

Exposure to images of highly successful, competent and well-regarded people from diverse backgrounds has been shown to reduce the influence of unconscious bias. This can be done in variety of ways, such as ensuring that there are photographs of diverse scholars throughout the department, showcasing the accomplishments of diverse scholars on websites and newsletters, having diverse representation on committees and simply by taking the time to think about examples in one’s institution or field. Conversely, note that the absence of images of accomplished people of diverse backgrounds may reinforce bias.

Inclusion strategies

Using inclusion strategies, i.e., keeping qualified applicants in the pool, as opposed to exclusion strategies, i.e., removing unqualified applicants from the pool, has been demonstrated to not only be more accurate but to also reduce the potential influence of bias in evaluation. This is due to the application of more stringent standards when applying inclusion strategies which also focuses attention on the qualifications of each individual as opposed to stereotypical group characteristics.


Implicit Association Test
Project Implicit
  • Project Implicit investigates thoughts and feelings that are largely outside of active awareness or control
Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) Unconscious bias training module
UCLA videos on Implicit Bias for Faculty Search Committees


  • Banaji, M. R. & Greenwald, A. G. (2013). Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York, NY: Bantam Books.


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