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Breaking the Stereotype: How Hiring Managers Can Help to Increase Diversity and Battle Hiring Bias in Libraries

By: Julia Davis, Branch Manager II, Orange Park Library

We’ve all seen the statistics- library science is a field desperately lacking in diversity. As of 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that librarians are 83.1% white and 83.2% female. While there are countless initiatives on a national and state level to help draw new, diverse professionals into the field, one of the best places to start is by examining your own hiring practices and how they may be contributing to this ongoing static. Not sure where to start? Here are three great ways to begin the journey.

  1. Start with the Job Description
    One of the most often overlooked, yet arguable most essential pieces of hiring is creating an accurate and up-to-date job description. Oftentimes, we find ourselves putting out the same boilerplate language that has been used for decades. However, this does you and your candidate a huge disservice. In order to be set up with an objective list of what you need and want in a candidate, you need to think about it ahead of time.

    A best practice may be reexamining your job listing each time it is posted, especially if you’re able to solicit feedback from the previous employee who held the role and ask their perspective on how to more accurately convey the true day-to-day reality of the role. When you update that job posting, you then give candidates, especially those without insider or industry connections (which tends to be those of different social circles, races, and socio-economic statuses than the typical librarian), the opportunity to show exactly how well they would fit the role. By forcing candidates to guess or tailor their resumes in the wrong direction due to an out-of-date job posting, you’re doing both yourself and your talent pool a disservice.
    Black woman sitting at a desk speaking to a white woman who is looking down at papers
  2. Use a Rubric
    A 2003 study published in the American Economic Review found that identical resumes with minority-sounding names like Lakisha and Jamal were 50% less likely to receive a call back for an interview than those with white-sounding names like Emily and Greg. This clearly demonstrates that hiring managers have implicit biases and may prejudge applicants based on a variety of factors other than their experience and education.

    One way to combat this is a rubric. Decide what you must have in an applicant, then weed out every resume without those qualifications. From there, have a pre-determined list of “nice-to-have” qualifications. Ideally, you developed these when you were writing your job description. Then, rank each resume with the number of qualifications they have in this category. From there, choose your highest-ranked applicants to move on with interviewing. If possible, consider doing this with names blacked out during the ranking process- the more objective you can be, the more inclusive your hiring pool can become. While simply being aware of bias while hiring is a great first step, taking active steps towards objectivity is even better!
    Two Back men sitting across from each other in an office. The man closest to the forefront is speaking animatedly while the other man is looking down at a notebook
  3. Avoid the “Culture Fit” Mindset

    Once you’ve moved past resumes, being objective with hiring can become trickier. One of the biggest pitfalls managers fall into is determining who they hire based on cultural fit. The Society for Human Resource management describes this phenomenon as “hiring decisions that are based on personality traits.” What this often means is hiring based on who is the most alike to the manager or member of the team and thus they are most readily able to relate with. Oftentimes, that becomes in practice hiring people of the same race, gender, age, or socio-economic level.

    While this may not be a conscious decision, it certainly is a result of implicit bias and can be highly detrimental to bringing in new ideas and perspectives to your organization. Being aware of this tendency to hire those like us and actively seeking to bring new perspectives onto the team can be a struggle, but is essential for ensuring equity and inclusion in your hiring process.

References

Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2004). Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination. The American Economic Review, 94(4), 991–1013.

Hennigan, M., & Evans, L. (2019, August 16). Does Hiring for 'Culture Fit' Perpetuate Bias? SHRM. .

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, January 22). Employed Persons by Detailed Occupation, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.