For jobs involving such open competition, the second screening usually entails an interview involving multiple persons (perhaps in a group, perhaps a series of one-on-one encounters).23 But what is asked of the applicant during the interview varies. In many cases, the interview is unstructured. Unstructured interviews are easy to conduct, but by definition they do not ask the same questions of an applicant and do not use a common scoring system. In other cases, the applicant is asked to provide a work sample in real time. For example, candidates for software engineering positions might be required to take a series of software design and coding tests, the results of which are evaluated by other, experienced, technical personnel. The advantage of such an approach is that it can examine the overall approach that the candidate uses, as well as the specific skills the candidate applies.

Accounting for Unintended Bias

Even among the most well-intentioned of individuals, the possibility of unintended bias is present. That is, without knowing that he or she is doing so, those responsible for hiring may favor someone that “looks like us” (for whatever definition of “us” is relevant). The hiring managers may select a superbly qualified person who looks different in contrast to an adequately qualified person who looks the same, but the bias is most likely to come out in a choice between two nearly equally qualified individuals.

Steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of unintended bias—as a general rule, these steps involve separating the dimensions on which an individual is evaluated from personally identifying (and irrelevant) characteristics. Of course, such a separation is not always possible (e.g., when an individual's ability to work in a team is being evaluated), but it is possible more than it is practiced.

The impact of such steps can be quite significant. For example, in hiring musicians, symphony orchestras require applicants to audition. All auditions are “live,” but some orchestras conduct them with the appli-

23  

This phenomenon was widely reported to the committee in site visits and regional open testimony in Santa Clara, California.



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