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a strong workforce sitting in an office or workroom not being held back by unconscious bias in recruitment

About The Author

Jane has considerable experience in the world of international education. She first became involved in teacher and educational leader recruitment while working in Abu Dhabi. Over eight years, Jane worked with colleagues and agencies organizing extensive recruitment campaigns around the globe. Today, Jane uses her knowledge and experience to support schools and organizations in the design and fulfilment of their recruitment goals.

Taking Time for Difficult Conversations

It’s that time of year when recruitment teams commence planning for their upcoming recruitment campaign. Working as a team, organization, and school leaders are busy setting goals and targets, reviewing candidate descriptions, assessing organization and school needs, identifying priorities, and establishing timelines just to name a few. In the world of international education recruitment, preparing for a successful campaign requires careful attention to policy, procedures, and processes. Given the demands, is it any wonder that teams often find themselves overlooking or deferring the time and space for the recruitment team’s all-important difficult conversations?

There is no argument that recruitment teams need clarity on each candidate’s demographic information. Whether you are seeking teachers with experience and expertise in learning readiness, mathematical literacy, physical education, or fine arts, today’s technology allows teams to ready and easy access. With the help of the right software, recruitment teams can objectively analyze candidate qualifications and experience.

However, as many experienced international teacher recruiters will affirm, the real challenge is in looking beyond a candidate’s stated history, qualifications, and achievements and ensuring that you get the right fit. So the question remains, how do you do this in a way that assures that the entire process is transparent and bias-free? This is where the need for difficult conversations comes in; those that allow us to surface any implicit or unconscious biases that may influence our decision-making.

Worries about the negative impact of unconscious bias in the recruitment process are not new. Studies over the years confirm that unconscious bias, typically shaped by an individual’s background and culture, can seriously hinder recruitment efforts. Further, recent research How To Minimize Unconscious Bias During Recruitment underscores the importance of acknowledging and addressing one’s inner, and often well-hidden, values, beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions prior to, throughout, and after the recruitment process.

The reality is that bias exists everywhere and can influence everyone. Unconscious bias can surface in relation to culture, age, gender, socio-economic status, academic background, linguistic ability, and even political opinion. The bias iceberg theory illustrates the many origins of unconscious bias.

Iceberg Theory. Concept originally developed by anthropologist Edward T. Hall in 1976.

Some recruiters have learned that unconscious bias can actively work against an organization’s recruitment goals because recruitment teams tend to underestimate candidates due to implicit bias, typically stemming from social or cultural assumptions.

As team leader for a number of extensive recruitment campaigns over approximately 10 years, I’ve learned that there are basically two audiences for such difficult conversations – those with yourself and those with your recruitment team as a group. Both require personal reflection, careful listening, commitment, courage, and strong leadership.

As a recruitment team leader, an important first task is to understand your own biases. Take some time to reflect upon and answer questions such as:

  • What are my assumptions about an ideal primary/secondary/drama teacher? Push yourself here by considering attributes such as age, gender, ethnicity, personality, etc.
  • What are my assumptions about community/organizational expectations for the new teacher?
  • What could be my trigger points or blind spots? What kinds of behaviors, attitudes, comments, etc. can influence my opinion, either positively or negatively?
  • Similarly, what kinds of behaviors, comments, and attitudes do I gravitate to?
  • What can I do when I notice that I am making a rash judgment?
  • What can I do when I notice that others on my team could be making a rash judgment?

The next step is to engage your recruitment team in a similar reflective process. In cases where the team reflects the diversity of the organization (often the case in an international school setting), this process is particularly important and requires careful planning in relation to meeting norms and dialogue protocols. Team leaders must allow team members to reflect, discuss and consider questions such as the ones above. Allow sufficient time for team members to share their responses before inviting them to discuss the potential of how individual unconscious bias might negatively impact their decision-making as individuals and as a group.

Wrestling with questions such as these can be difficult. However, research tells us that awareness of our biases, and the potential and problematic impact of unconscious bias is a critical first step in creating an equitable recruitment process. Today, recruiting teams, especially international education teams, must ensure that their processes are transparent and equitable treatment for all candidates. Our schools and our students deserve nothing less.

Upcoming article – Practical ideas and strategies a recruitment team can use to ensure the interview process, either face-to-face or virtual models an organization’s commitment to equity and diversity. 

Have you registered to attend Teach Away’s inaugural Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice Symposium + Job Fair?

Teach Away is hosting its inaugural DEIJ Symposium and Job Fair virtually on Sunday, February 12, 2023 from 8am-1pm EST

Teach Away’s DEIJ Symposium and Job Fair is a great chance for schools to introduce themselves and show how much this issue matters to you and your school. 

The Symposium will feature a panel of DEIJ advocates in education, followed by a panel discussion. During the Symposium, you’ll learn from DEIJ experts, participate in a Q&A, and walk away with actionable ways to level the playing field in education. 

During the Job Fair portion of the event, schools will have the opportunity to network and connect with hundreds of like-minded teaching candidates, including qualified educators, administrators, and other education professionals from around the world.

How To Register

Teach Away member schools are invited to attend for free.

Register on our official DEIJ job fair page. You’ll receive an email with credentials and a link to log in after registering. See you there!