Although we all like to think that we are objective scholars who judge people based entirely on merit and on the quality of their work and the nature of their achievements, copious research shows that every one of us brings with us a lifetime of experience and cultural history that shapes our evaluations of others.
Studies show that people who have strong egalitarian values and believe that they are not biased may nevertheless unconsciously or inadvertently behave in discriminatory ways (Dovidio 2001). A first step toward ensuring fairness in the search and screen process is to recognize that unconscious biases, attitudes, and other influences not related to the qualifications, contributions, behaviors, and personalities of candidates can influence our evaluations, even if we are committed to egalitarian principles.
The results from controlled research studies in which people were asked to make judgments about human subjects demonstrate the potentially prejudicial nature of our many implicit or unconscious assumptions. Examples range from physical and social expectations or assumptions to those that have a clear connection to hiring, even for faculty positions.
It is important to note that in most of these studies, the gender of the evaluator was not significant, indicating that both men and women share and apply the same assumptions about gender. Recognizing biases and other influences not related to the quality of candidates can help reduce their impact on your search and review of candidates. Spending sufficient time on evaluation (15–20 minutes per application) can also reduce the influence of assumptions.