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Blind Recruitment: Remove Bias From Your Hiring Process

In Hiring Strategy — by Dave Anderson


In a perfect world, people would get hired based strictly on their work experience and the skills they bring to the table. However, that’s unfortunately not the reality. The biases recruiters and hiring managers have can cause decisions to be made based on other details unrelated to role fit.  

What is blind recruitment?

Blind recruitment is the process of removing any and all identification details from your candidates’ resumes and applications. It helps your hiring team evaluate people on their skills and experience instead of factors that can lead to biased decisions. Here are some common identification details that are blacked out with blind recruitment because they can cause unfair hiring practices:

  • Ethnic background – Most candidates don’t share their ethnicity when applying for a job but a LinkedIn profile photo or even the country they previously worked or attended school in provides plenty of hints. Racial prejudices of course differ from person-to-person but it would be naive to say ethnicity never influences hiring.
  • Gender – Research overwhelming shows that sexism and gender inequality persists in the workplace. Some hiring managers prefer to work with people of their own gender or believe certain jobs are meant for either a male or female.
  • Names – Research also shows that people with common, easy-to-pronounce names have an easier time getting hired. Some recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to struggle to say someone’s name or make unfair assumptions because of it.
  • Education – The academic reputation of a candidate’s school can lead to speculation about their intelligence or work ethic. However, companies like Google no longer only hire applicants from top-tier universities because they’ve found it doesn’t equate to job success.
  • Age – You’ll get some idea of a candidate’s age from their years of experience. But you don’t necessarily need to know the exact time frames worked for particular companies (e.g. 2000 to 2004) or when they graduated from college.
  • Personal interests – Some people list their hobbies and interests on their resume but that information can also interfere with hiring. For example, hiring team members can make assumptions (e.g. “this person likes reading so they must be smart”) or identify with a candidate who has shared interests.

Learn to make fair hiring decisions with our “Bias-Free Hiring Guide”

What is unconscious bias?

You might think you and your colleagues are open-minded and would never disqualify a candidate for anything but a lack of skills or experience. However, even the most accepting people can be influenced by thoughts and feelings they’re not aware they have.

“Unconscious bias” is a widely-accepted idea that a person’s life experiences influence their thinking without them realizing it. All the things we hear, see, and sense throughout our lives, whether we consciously remember it or not, impact how we approach different situations. Malcolm Gladwell explores this idea in his book Blink, making the case that the human brain moves so fast and has so much information stored, it is impossible to be observant of every little thing that influences thinking and decision making.

Long story short, when you sit down to review resumes and applications, you’re making assumptions and forming biases, whether you know it or not.

How to do blind recruitment

At this point, you’re probably wondering how you can put blind recruitment into action in your company. Your recruiting solution and processes are meant to capture as much information about your candidates as possible so you can make informed hiring decisions.

A simple way to create a blind recruitment practice is to assign a team member who isn’t involved in hiring to anonymize every candidate’s information. Create a template that allows them to plug in each person’s work experience, skills, degree, and the other pertinent information you’ve defined in the candidate profile. Don’t worry about soft skills yet. You can evaluate candidates in-depth when it comes time to interview them.

Then have the person in charge of this process assign each candidate a number. When the process is complete, you’ll be able to see that candidate #3 spent five years working for X company, has Y skill, and earned a degree in Z. You can use this information to decide who moves onto the interview stage based on the factors that really matter.

Disadvantages of blind recruitment

Blind recruitment does come with some downsides. Here are a few things to consider before implementing the process in your company:

  • Could disrupt diversity goals If your company is striving to increase gender balance or achieve other diversity goals among its staff, blind recruitment might not lead to the results you hoped for.
  • Extends the application screening stage – Requiring a team member to remove identification details from every application will lengthen the screening stage and is counterintuitive to having a hiring solution meant to increase efficiency.
  • Prevents a candidate’s personality from coming across – Some candidates express themselves and their skills through their resume. For example, if you’re hiring a writer or designer, you should probably consider the content and quality of their CV.
  • Doesn’t allow for culture fit – Anonymizing the details of your candidates could prevent you from hiring someone who meshes with your company culture. However, you could argue that this isn’t a bad thing since culture fit can be used as reasoning for hiring someone who looks and speaks like your current employees. 

Avoid bias and unfair hiring with blind recruitment

Discrimination and inequality continue to live on in the workforce. While blind recruitment has its disadvantages, it’s an effective way to overcome the biases hiring team members can have.

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