In April 2016, UK companies such as HSBC, Deloitte, and BBC will participate in a blind recruitment movement in response to the growing concern over bias when it comes to the job application process. Anonymous résumés are not a new concept; but, employers are not particularly fond of them due to the work and resources needed to implement them.
Studies regarding blind applications have been going on for quite some time now. Results though have been inconclusive at best. One study by the German Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) reported that anonymity in resumes resulted in increased chances for people in ethnic-minority groups to be invited to an interview. Meanwhile, U.K. web hosting company ByteMark, uses various tests instead of a resume to determine a candidate’s ultimate fit for the job.
But is this the best solution to eliminating (or at the very least reducing) hiring discrimination?
Will this process help hiring managers and recruiters find true gems?
Is this feasible for both large and small companies across various industries?
The pros and cons of blind recruitment
ByteMark is just one of the companies today that have adopted anonymous recruitment to reduce bias factors that affect attracting top talent. In their official blog post, Managing Director Matthew Bloch described their three-step method which includes:
- a 20-minute instant messaging chat
- a 2-4 hours skills test online; and finally
- an in-person interview
In general, the company received a positive response from their blind recruitment process from both the candidates and their hiring panel. As résumés and real names were out of the picture, the web hosting firm claimed that the approach helped them find great hidden talents that were great for productivity.
But, Bloch stated that more data is still needed for the entire process to be truly effective. For one, some candidates refused to take the skills test. Others chose aliases that revealed their gender – so it was a challenge to make the entire process anonymous. All in all, though, ByteMark hopes that they are on the right path to focusing on a job seeker’s skills instead of personal biases.
The disadvantages of anonymous applications
Before recruitment agencies or hiring managers can even think about blind applications, several issues need to be addressed:
If CEOs or managers suspect that their recruitment staff is biased in terms of hiring candidates, removing things like names, gender, nationality, or educational background from the resume is not enough. Staff could still deduce ethnicity based on language skills listed, or assume an applicant is female based on a gap in employment history, possibly suggesting a maternity leave.
2. Total cost
Adopting new staffing methods mean acquiring new knowledge, resources, technology, or even staff to handle it. For most companies, such as startups, it’s simply impractical. If not properly implemented, blind recruitment could be extremely costly to businesses.
3. Incompatibility to various sectors
Although anonymous hiring sounds like an awesome idea for industries that focus heavily on skills (i.e. research, web design and development, freelance writing, etc.), it may not be the best choice for niches that rely much or in part on personality (such as sales and healthcare). In such cases, personal interviews and experience would matter more.
4. Delay in discrimination
Blind applications work well for trying to create a fair environment where most candidates are given a good chance to showcase their capabilities. But, once recruiters or hiring managers meet them during the personal interview, some bias may still arise due to personal preference. This could lead to more frustration and wasted efforts on the part of the job seeker.
The advantages of anonymous applications
This isn’t to say that blind recruitment as a targeted recruitment strategy couldn’t work. If executed well and by able personnel with enough experience as well as intentions, it might just work. Here’s why:
1. More candidates
People who couldn’t apply before due to fear of rejection based on their age, race, or gender, now have the chance to display what they can do. This also opens the doors to new graduates and career shifters, who don’t have much experience but have skills and knowledge suitable for the position. Companies would then receive a wider pool of options to choose from.
2. Reduced discrimination
Blind applications can reduce bias for industries or areas with high rates of workforce discrimination.
3. Emphasis on skills
By focusing solely on skills, recruiters and managers can feel confident that their chosen candidates can hit the ground running once hired. It would also help the company uncover underlying talents that could benefit the company in the future.
4. Competence in the workplace
By hiring people based on skill and/or experience instead of likability, chances are high that the individuals can perform better on the job. Applicants who possess the right talents and those who pursued additional education can find work that best fits their qualifications.
One popular method of filtering resumes is through an applicant tracking systems (ATS). While this may ensure that job seekers with the right qualifications and know-how can be pre-selected (based on keywords and format), it’s still not 100 percent effective.
Applicants who don’t have prior knowledge of how an ATS system works may have his or her resume rejected before it even reaches human eyes. But unlike human recruiters, a machine will not choose based on likability or gut feeling.
CEOs and recruitment agencies should use their best judgment when deciding if a blind application process is right for them. They should assess their industry, country, legal issues, as well as client needs before jumping into any trend. Their hiring process should also send a realistic recruitment message to interested applicants.
Workforce discrimination is a huge concern worldwide that’s not going away anytime soon. But, as long as the employer and job seeker agree on their own terms, it should (hopefully) go well in the end – with or without a resume.
Have you ever taken part in a blind application? What was the process like? Your thoughts and comments below please...