A Selection Committee is a group of people entrusted with evaluating applicants for a specific role or position. They are meant to provide diverse perspectives on the applicant pool based on gender, functional expertise, and other variables that can help mitigate implicit bias. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that every person on the committee will have a neutral or positive opinion of each candidate.

Selection committees face the challenge of trying to avoid the tendency of members to subconsciously favor or dislike certain candidates based on factors like appearance, accent, race, or education level. A number of studies have shown that this kind of bias, called implicit bias, can have a significant impact on judgment in many different contexts.

This type of bias is particularly evident in the selection of prize, fellowship, and other scholarship winners, where committees often struggle to find candidates that satisfy the stated purpose of the award or fellowship – the ones that best fulfill a set of established criteria. In an effort to address this issue, a number of studies and guidelines have been developed on how to improve the effectiveness of Selection Committees in selecting the most deserving candidates.

One of the most important things is that committees should maintain open dialogue throughout the process. This can be done in a variety of ways, from in-person meetings to teleconferences. Regardless of the meeting format, committees should make sure they are taking the time to evaluate each candidate thoroughly and give them the attention they deserve.

Keeping the discussion open can also prevent the selection committee from becoming divided. This is more likely to happen if a committee has not firmly agreed on the competencies that their ideal candidate profile should contain or if they have not weighted those competencies appropriately. In this case, it may be helpful to conduct multiple rounds of evaluation with brief structured exchanges in between to increase the chance that each member will have an opportunity to influence the decision making of another committee member.

In addition to these practical tips, committees should also ensure that they do not allow themselves to become distracted during the discussion. One way to do this is to use a random ordering for both evaluating and discussing nominees. This will help to avoid presentation bias where candidates that have been evaluated or discussed earlier receive more attention than those who are presented later. Similarly, committee members should only be allowed to speak for a fixed amount of time (say 30 seconds) per nominee.

It is also recommended that a committee should have an explicit conflict of interest policy and that it keep detailed records of its deliberations in order to be transparent with the applicant pool. In the event that a member does have a significant conflict of interest, they should be removed from the committee. However, this should only be done when the chair believes it is appropriate to do so in the interests of achieving an objective decision.