Download a PDF version of this tip sheet.
This tip sheet was developed with the help of Kathryn McNamee, Director of Human Resources for the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and is based on practices from several organizations committed to fair hiring, including AAM.
With the right approaches, museums and other organizations can develop recruitment practices that mitigate bias and focus on relevant skills and qualifications. Creating consistency and fairness in the process will ensure that all applicants have an equal opportunity to showcase their skills and talents. The following tips describe how to identify needed resources, write job descriptions, find and evaluate candidates, conduct interviews, select finalists, and track results with equity in mind.
- Assess who will need to make changes and decisions in the hiring process, such as:
- Support from the organization’s board and management.
- Budgetary funds to support temporary assistance during staff turnover.
- Budget funds to support procurement through various methods — fees for permanent accommodation, internships, etc.
- Legal counsel for advice on how to stay compliant with Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI) objectives that intersect with employment law.
- HR professionals to develop/direct the recruitment process, track and seek continuous improvement in results, orient staff to practices and facilitate candidate assessment discussions with hiring teams.
Writing job descriptions
- Build qualifications around specific skills needed for the position, rather than assumptions about minimum credentials that can discourage candidates with relevant experience from applying.
- Include the hiring salary, evaluation criteria, and expected timeline for the process so applicants understand the process in advance.
- Consider asking applicants to omit identifying information—such as names, email addresses, and dates of education and employment—from the application documents that screeners will see in order to follow blind screening techniques.
- Instead of a cover letter, consider asking applicants to answer two or three job-specific questions so that hiring teams have specific criteria against which to evaluate applicants early in the process. An example question might be “Please share how your lived experience relates to or enhances your ability to contribute [the museum]work of.”
- In addition to major job boards like AAM’s JobHQ, advertise your position in sources that primarily serve underrepresented groups (such as com, Museum Hue, or the websites of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or minority-serving colleges and universities).
- Use a digital tool like LinkedIn Recruiter to conduct profile matches of passive job candidates who may have relevant experience but are not looking in your specific field.
- Consider partnering with support organizations that can connect you with marginalized job seekers, such as people with disabilities.
- Consider partnering with staffing firms for a more stable and diverse candidate pool.
Evaluation of candidates
- Whenever possible, have at least two people review the initial application materials independently of each other to avoid bias towards one person’s opinion at an early stage.
- Use a standard rubric to evaluate and rank applicants.
- Refrain from independently researching candidates outside of the established hiring process, such as searching for them on the Internet or asking for feedback from mutual colleagues.
- Have someone outside the hiring team moderate the debriefing after the initial screening to help reduce groupthink and potential bias.
Assembling a hiring team
- Recruit members of multiple departments, not just the one the position is in, to participate in panel interviews and create screening questions.
- Ensure that all team members:
- Can present the museum’s mission and work in a professional and engaging manner.
- It can create a welcoming and inviting atmosphere for applicants.
- Understand the job requirements and evaluation criteria.
- Find out their role in the process and what key information they are listening for in the interviews.
- Have considered and expressed their own personal biases when reviewing cover letters and CVs and conducting interviews and considered how personal experiences may have shaped these beliefs and views.
- They are familiar with the legal concept of protected classes and understand that conversations with job applicants should only include questions and topics directly related to the job position.
- May process confidential information about applicants.
- As they begin the process, encourage the team to recognize that:
- Soft or people skills such as people management, negotiation, coaching, facilitation, mentoring and communication are as important as technical skills and know-how for a position.
- No candidate will be “perfect” and all will have both strengths and areas for improvement.
- Candidates can be qualified in different ways for a position, such as having transferable skills or coming from other fields and industries.
- All new employees will need support and training, even if they have performed similar job duties in other organizations or know people in our own networks, so needing these things is not a valid reason to turn someone away.
- Use the same list of interview questions for all candidates.
- Consider sharing interview questions with candidates in advance to give them time to think about their answers. (This can help candidates who don’t feel comfortable mid-interview feel confident to showcase their abilities.)
- Create opportunities for candidates to directly demonstrate their skills. For example, you can ask a candidate to:
- Sell us a membership at [your organization]highlighting features and benefits.
- Tell us how to read and interpret a financial statement.
- Briefly outline why the funder might want to donate to [your organization].
- Conduct virtual instead of in-person interviews in early rounds to be more flexible and reduce demands on candidates’ time. Consider in-person interviews for finalists if necessary.
- When requesting an in-person interview with a candidate who does not live in your region, pay for any travel expenses they have incurred, including air or rail fares, fuel and hotel expenses.
- Consider paying applicants a stipend for their interview time.
Selection of finalists
- When selecting candidates to move forward with an offer, ask the hiring team the following questions:
- What assumptions are we making about this candidate?
- What will we be “missing” if we don’t hire this candidate?
- Are we putting too much emphasis on the technical skills of the job?
- Are we open to hiring a candidate who can offer additional skills?
- Are we open to hiring a candidate who can help shape our workplace culture, or do we simply want a candidate who can fit into our existing culture?
- And if this hire is expected to help shape our workplace culture, how are we willing to change to accommodate this culture change?
- What are our perceived risks of hiring this candidate and are they justified?
- Will we truly live our values about DEAI and racial equality by hiring this candidate? If so, how? If not, why not?
- Invite all applicants who apply to complete a voluntary, anonymous demographic self-disclosure survey.
- Collect anonymous demographic self-disclosures about current staff members.
- Track numbers and demographics for internal promotions.