Blind recruitment: cutting out the bias

Blind recruitment - cutting out the bias

Guest author: Nathan Dengle – A freelance writer, tutor and educational organizer, Nathan is an advocate for people in the current and future workforce. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, he seeks to highlight and encourage discussion of cutting edge HR practices.

In a global marketplace, flourishing companies tap the potential of applicants from all over the world, and in order to thrive, you need to hire the best person for the job. To do that, your recruiting process needs to get that person in front of you for an interview.

Imagine you suddenly had the ability to see ultraviolet light. Your world would be awash with vibrant new patterns and you’ve added a layer of depth to your world that was lacking before. Whatever obstacle had been between you and a richer worldview was gone, and you suddenly had the ability to see a world that you previously had missed.

All-too-often, the recruitment practices lead by human resource managers have failed to cultivate a process capable of truly transforming how their organization attracts, recruits and engages with the very talent they so sorely need. Of the many obstacles which may be hampering the HR process, unconscious biases are often an invisible yet powerful barrier impacting HR’s ability to ensure that the best candidates get an interview.

Blind recruitment works to minimize the effect of those biases

Everyone has unconscious biases (it’s just part of being human) and we tend to revert to our comfort zones when accessing new information. At cocktail parties, it’s normal to be drawn to people like ourselves as one’s social group is likely to be comprised of people of similar age, socio-economic standing, and experience of the world. However, when it comes to business and networking events, we know that the merit of an employee doesn’t come from their name, their age, or their socio-economic background.

The now famous US Bureau of Economic Research study “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that just the applicant’s name alone was a significant factor in their getting a call back for an interview. Applicants with black sounding names were 50% less likely to get a call back for an interview. Additionally, the researchers found that an applicant with a black sounding name required an additional eight years of relevant experience to have the same odds of getting a call back as an applicant with a white sounding name.

Not only race, but gender has also been found to adversely influence the recruitment process and found to impact the likelihood of getting an interview. A study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (link) focused on applicants for a lab manager position at a research university. Female applicants (with otherwise identical qualifications as male applicants) were rated as likely to be less competent and therefore less hirable than male applicants by the Faculty participants.

The gender of the individual reviewing the application didn’t have a significant impact; both male and female reviewers rated the female candidate as less hirable than the otherwise identical male candidate. Reread that last sentence; it should blow your mind. It’s “Us versus Them”; it’s everyone against themselves.

This is clearly a problem. And, it’s a problem with a solution: blind recruitment.

Blind recruitment is simple. The applicant’s personal details, including their name and gender, aren’t shared with the people involved in the selection process. In essence, some information that can cause unconscious distortion is removed from the application before it enters the screening process.

A recent Cornell study (link) found that industry leaders like Deloitte, KPMG and HSBC have also established programs using blind recruitment for new staff. Deloitte and KPMG have been working to implement types of a game-changing recruiting process, known as blind recruitment. Blind recruitment is a groundbreaking technique you can incorporate in your HR system that better enables you to get the best possible hire from your pool of applicants.

Famously used by orchestras auditioning new members, blind recruiting is becoming more widely used to great effect. However, with blind recruitment being a relatively recent HR innovation, the long-term effects are still unknown. But, it is certain that high quality applicants who otherwise wouldn’t have made it through the sifting phase and now more likely to get a fair go.

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