Blind recruitment: How to remove bias from your hiring process

"Creating a fair and inclusive environment for all", WCN's Charles Hipps advises start-ups to consider blind hiring as the best hiring

As uncertainty dominates headlines and continues to make waves globally, diversity and inclusion have never been more central to business.

In turn, the talent pools businesses are vying for attention for continue to change rapidly and businesses are increasingly determined to attract candidates from the widest pool possible to continue to be competitive.

The heat is on for start-ups to follow suit if they want to hire the best talent to get to the next level.

What is blind recruitment?

Under blind recruitment, the personal information that will be concealed during the recruitment process are:

  • Age
  • Title
  • First name and preferred first name
  • Last name
  • Employer number
  • Candidate email address
  • Address details
  • Telephone numbers
  • Nationality details
  • Immigration details

John Manzoni, chief executive of the Civil Service and permanent secretary for the Cabinet Office, recently commented on the effectiveness of this approach:

“By removing the candidate’s name and other personal information, such as their nationality or the university they attended, we aim to ensure that people will be judged on merit and not on their background, race or gender.

“Name-blind recruitment limits the impact that unconscious bias may have on sifting by removing information that has nothing to do with past success or experiences, such as one’s name, nationality or area of residence.”

Why should start-ups consider blind recruitment?

Blind recruitment can help ensure demonstrable insights that show differences are a strength and allows businesses to visibly demonstrate a commitment to working hard to ensure a fair and inclusive environment for all, where the unique insights, perspectives and backgrounds of individuals are valued.

In PriceWaterhouseCoopers recent Global CEO Survey, 77% of CEOs said they already had a diversity and inclusion strategy in place or plan to adopt one in the next 12 months.

The talent these CEOs want to recruit supports this view; other PwC research shows that 86% of female and 74% of male millennials (those aged 18-34) consider employers’ policies on diversity, equality and inclusion when deciding which company to work for.

In the eyes of some, current recruiting processes are imperfect, elitist and exclusionary. These concerns make it important that recruiters consider new ways to attract people from all backgrounds.

To do this, there is a need to ensure that nothing in the recruitment process puts up barriers that prevent the best talent from joining a firm. Blind recruitment can be a platform to achieving this.

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Can blind recruitment combat bias?

It’s important to stress that recruiting blind cannot guarantee to deliver a more diverse workforce on its own. It is one of a range of measures that spans recruitment and selection, talent and progression and creating an inclusive culture.

Whatever the success of name-blind recruitment in the sifting of applications, there is still a need to eliminate bias at the interview stage.

Enter robust recruitment technology.

Utilised well, this will enable the application process to be fully anonymised up to the interview stage, only allowing recruiters and managers to see information relevant to the task at hand. For instance, in the cases where screening is based on competency questions, recruiters can only access candidates’ answers to these questions, and nothing else, focusing selection on merit and nothing else.

Remaining information is made available to recruitment teams as and when it is required. Additional information including personal details is typically automatically unanonymised at the interview stage, which ensures the interview can take place as usual. Good application tracking systems like WCN can help recruiters to work in this way.

Blind selection and screening is important to eliminate the chance of disparate treatment or intentional discrimination against a candidate or applicant, motivated by at least in part, by some protected category (e.g. race, national origin, age, gender, disability, etc.)

Technology works because algorithms can replicate your collective decision making, reducing the influence of bias by individuals or process. This needs to be adopted in ranges across the application population to mitigate the risk of discrimination.

Blind recruitment is gaining momentum – time to up your game?

The Confederation of British Industry has described “name-blind” recruitment as one way to remove “criteria that could unintentionally bias managers, and give under-represented groups confidence that their application will be fairly considered”.

Beyond financial measures, a more diverse workforce carries significant benefits, including enhanced retention rates. Yet many organisations still find it difficult to recruit a greater mix of people due to a variety of reasons ranging from lack of technology to ingrained organisational biases.

Blind recruitment, which has been gaining momentum as policymakers and employers worry about social mobility and homogeneous workforces, remedies this by anonymising the recruitment process.

Ultimately if start-ups really want to hire a diverse workforce it’s essential to remove any systemic or unconscious bias that might have crept into the process.

Blind recruiting can help take the heat off the war for diverse talent and, ultimately, gives your start-up a HR strategy that ups the game.

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