Tour Team implements blind application to avoid exclusive ‘leadership culture’

The process assigns each applicant a number and prohibits applicants from mentioning specific Greek affiliation.
MU alum Chris Spurlock explains the history of the Columns to a group of prospective students and their families. Tour Team gives public tours to help explain the history and resources of campus. Maneater File Photo

MU Tour Team introduced a blind application system to eliminate any potential bias and unfair treatment toward applicants.

About 150 students applied for 15 to 20 tour guide positions this year, said Director of Visitor Relations LeAnn Stroupe, who makes all final hiring decisions for Tour Team. She said this year’s protocol of assigning a number to each application instead of name was aimed at addressing applicants’ common perception that campus connections influenced the hiring process more than what they brought to the table. The new process also prohibits applicants to mention their affiliation with a specific Greek chapter but allows general mentions like “Greek Life” or “Greek chapter.”

“Over the years, we’ve continued to tweak the (hiring) process to try to make it more balanced, more fair and more inclusive,” she said. "I think taking their name out of the process made us look more specifically at the individual characteristics and the skill sets they were bringing (without) necessarily carrying over potential knowledge of them from some other activity.”

The idea for this new process came from senior Poonam Sheevam, a member of Tour Team and the student coordinator for the Office of Visitor Relations. Sheevam said the idea originated from a discussion among her friends and colleagues about MU’s prevalent “leadership culture.”

“Ever since my freshman year, the pool of leaders on campus have gotten smaller and smaller as fewer people are taking on more roles,” she said. “As my friends and I were discussing this, we felt as if this culture became more and more prominent as the hiring groups would select people they already knew to fill those leadership roles.”

Sheevam said she had considered blind applications for some time because she believes the system would allow for a “more true” representation of campus.

“I really wanted to implement blind applications for Tour Team because we represent a large amount of the student body: We represent students who are out of state, in state, minorities, different majors, different backgrounds, et cetera,” she said.

Freshman Lindsay Hornecker applied to Tour Team this year. She said she believes the blind applications eliminate the possibility of a “big shot on campus” having preferential consideration when applying to campus positions.

“In the real world, a lot of times, you get hired based on who you know and what kind of connections you have,” Hornecker said. “In this process, you’re relying on the things you’ve done in your life other than who you know … The only disadvantage of the blind application would be to the people who are relying on who they know to get the job.”

Stroupe said she had seen the benefit of blind applications firsthand, when a colleague on campus contacted her to give feedback on an applicant.

“I said, ‘Great, but at this point, I don’t know if that person applied or didn’t apply,’” Stroupe said. “In our old process, that might give that person a slight advantage because someone that I know is also recommending this person.”

Sheevam said one of the challenges to implementing the new system was the large pool of applicants to Tour Team each year.

“With such a large applicant pool, it seemed like a pretty ominous idea to (get) rid of the names from the application,” Sheevam said. “Once we figured out the logistics, the response was rather positive from the group of tour guides.”

This year’s Tour Team hiring process includes three rounds: the blind application, group interviews and individual interviews with the pool getting smaller at each stage. Two student coordinators and two senior team leaders are on the front line of assessing the blind applications, Stroupe said.

Sheevam said the scores applicants received on their blind applications were “clean” scores with no baggage attached.

Sheevam said she is satisfied with the way the new process was implemented.

“As far as the implementation, I know it went very well,” Sheevam said. “The logistics could not have gone better and it was nice knowing that we were going in without a bias.”

Stroupe said while Tour Team has yet to see the full benefit of blind applications, she believes the process will help broaden the pool of applicants.

“My end goal for Tour Team is to be as representative of the campus as best we can,” Stroupe said. “Anything I can do to increase that is a good thing and thus far, I believe that’s what this blind process has done for us.”

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