4 ways to control unconscious bias when recruiting radiology faculty, trainees

Unconscious bias exists in all of us, developing over time. But that doesn’t mean it should go unchecked. A new analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology examined both conscious and unconscious bias, noting the differences between the two and how they can impact the recruitment process.

“Unconscious bias controls our decisions and actions unconsciously—that is, without awareness, intent, or self-reflection,” wrote author M. Elizabeth Oates, MD, with the department of radiology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “For example, you might favor another who shares your own name or that of a family member or friend, or automatically dismiss another who just happens to share the name of a bully who made your life miserable growing up.”

The analysis also provided insight into how leaders in radiology can control their unconscious bias when recruiting faculty and trainees. These are four ways Oates suggested leaders can control their unconscious bias during the recruitment process for faculty and trainees:

1. Selection committees should have appropriate representation.

Selection committees should consist of members who represent various ages, genders, opinions, personalities and so on. Even the way members are seated can help control unconscious bias.

“Members should be seated randomly around the room or table to avoid unconscious bias alliances that might influence decisions,” Oates wrote.

2. Agree on the ideal qualifications of the job candidate in advance.

Before the selection committee begins to meet candidates—before they even select candidates they want to invite for a meeting—everyone should agree what they are looking for from the position. This keeps committee members from changing what they say they want based on a certain candidate’s attributes.

3. Interviews and candidate visits must be consistent across the board.

If one candidate meets with several high-ranking members of the radiology department while another only meets whoever happened to be available at that time, for example, it isn’t a truly fair process.

“Who meets with the candidates?,” Oates wrote. “Who is in the audience for the faculty candidate’s lecture? Does the process unfairly favor certain candidates? The committee must pay attention to these details to be successful.”

4. Hold “frank and transparent” discussions after each candidate visit, focusing on preestablished recruitment goals.

Is one committee member dominating the conversation or pushing extra hard for a specific candidate? Is the conversation losing its focus? These can have a negative impact on the process.

“Each member’s opinions should be valued and given careful consideration by all committee members,” Oates wrote.