Unconscious Bias: An Investigation of the Impact of Applicant Race on Curriculum Vita Review

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Virginia Tech


Diversity efforts have a long history on college campuses but faculty diversity efforts have experienced limited success (Smith, Turner, Osei-Kofi & Richards, 2004; Turner, 2002). While there is an abundance of literature exploring the challenges in achieving faculty diversity, there have been very few empirical studies exploring the actual search process. The limited research available regarding race suggests that traditional search processes do not result in hiring applicants of color (Smith et al., 2004) but there is no research that identifies factors that might be addressed to produce a more equitable search process. The purpose of this study is to identify which factors come into play when reviewing a vita. Of particular interest is the influence applicant race, as indicated by applicant name, has on the evaluation of the curriculum vita.

A national sample was identified using the membership list of the Council of Industrial Engineering Academic Department Heads. A between subjects design was utilized. Participants were sent the curriculum vita of a Black applicant or a White applicant, a brief survey questionnaire and a self-addressed stamped envelope. All responses were anonymous. Data were analyzed using analysis of variance to determine if there is variance in responses to survey items based on applicant race. Demographic characteristics of the participants influenced the evaluation of the fictitious candidate. Participate age and participant race influenced candidate evaluation. There was evidence of same-race rating effect in which Black participants favored the Black applicant and White participants favored the White applicant. Findings suggest applicant race does influence the evaluation of a curriculum vita when the eligibility criteria is valued by the evaluator and candidate qualifications are ambigious.



bias, discrimination, hiring