Three Best Practices for Hiring Diverse Faculty and Staff in Higher Education

Diverse group of people working together at a computer

Search committees for colleges and universities have often expressed frustration when it comes to hiring diverse faculty and staff. As of 2018, the U.S. Department of Education reported that faculty at post-secondary institutions were 79% white. This number increases even more within the higher reaches of education – with 84% of college professors being white. 

With diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging on the forefront of many higher educational institutions’ agendas, being set up for success when it comes to recruiting diverse candidates is a must. A great example of a higher-ed institution taking steps towards more diversity among faculty and staff on campus is Temple University. They have created a program called Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL) with existing faculty, graduate externs, and diverse peers working together towards the goal of creating a vibrant and inclusive culture on campus through various community programs, trainings, and more.   

The case for diversity within organizations is only becoming more compelling and relevant as more research is done. Educational institutions must do more to invest in their hiring practices when it comes to attracting and retaining diverse leaders.  

Why does having diverse faculty and staff on campus matter?  

Higher levels of student engagement and retention. Students that feel seen and represented on college campuses tend to be happier in general. Diversity on campus fosters a sense of belonging for students and ensures that individuals from all different backgrounds feel included. With a stronger feeling of community on campus, students are more likely to engage with campus initiatives and complete their degree coursework with the institution they chose to attend.   

More loyalty from faculty and staff. When your employees believe that diversity and inclusion efforts are a priority at work, innovation and commitment to the organization increases significantly. These feelings often lead to longer tenure within jobs, less turnover, increased responsiveness, and higher levels of collaboration.  

Superior profitability for the institution. Studies done by McKinsey & Company have found organizations that have more racial and gender diversity within executive teams tend to perform better financially than those that don’t. In the latest results from their 2019 study, they found that organizations with top-quartile ethnic and gender diversity were 36 percent and 25 percent, respectively, more likely to have above-average profitability.  

Better preparation for students entering the working world. Being a part of a diverse student population provides new perspectives and situations that the future workforce may not have encountered at a less-diverse institution. Students who can bring this knowledge with them into their first job search experience post-college will be set up for success in ways that could be a big advantage over other applicants for the same types of roles.  

Three ways search committees can find diverse candidates  

1. Ensure a broad applicant pool. Do you find that your applicant pool tends to lack diversity? It’s hard to hire a diverse candidate if they don’t even know about a job opening at your educational facility and haven’t applied in the first place. To avoid a roadblock like this one, consider posting open positions at your institution in places that you may not have normally done so, such as job boards at historically Black colleges and universities or other minority-focused sites hosted by the Professional Diversity Network. is another great place to promote open positions when seeking out female applicants. You’ll also want to be sure to define the position in broad terms, but accurately – if it’s too narrow or seems overly specialized, it will likely deter a wide array of job seekers.  

2. Involve diverse interviewers. Having broad expertise and an array of interviewer backgrounds on the search committee helps with reviewing candidates from different perspectives. There are many opportunities within this realm to train staff in creating a more inclusive workplace, too. Consider implementing the practice of removing names, genders, and other identifying information to help with dismantling unconscious bias when it comes to screening applicants.  

3. Prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as key values of the institution. One of the first things a potential applicant for a faculty or staff position will do is check out your school’s website. If you haven’t made your DEI&B initiatives clear enough online, you may want to consider working with an outside consultant to strategize and evaluate the best way to portray your institution in this area. It’s also smart to use outside consultants to be sure that you are not depicting your institution in a way that could be unintentionally discriminatory or exclusive.  

Encouraging diversity and belonging on campus is incredibly important when it comes to creating an environment that everyone feels welcome in. College and university leaders must act with a sense of urgency when it comes to strengthening diversity initiatives across their campuses – and it starts with hiring fantastic educators from different backgrounds.  


Learn more about recruiting diverse faculty and staff for your institution:  

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