What Blind Recruitment means for you

A recent BBC News report highlighted the issue of potential discrimination in the recruitment process based on names, and the potential use of ‘blind recruitment’.

This is the not the first time the issue has raised its head, with David Cameron promising in 2015 that a raft of civil service organisations would use “name blind” applications for recruitment from this year.

It’s an interesting issue, which prompts discussions about unconscious bias – the theory that we are unknowingly biased against certain factors shaped by our social and cultural upbringing.

And the BBC experiment which saw Adam get three times more interviews that Mohammed with an identical CV, although conducted only with small numbers, supports the conclusions of a larger amount of academic research pointing to unconscious bias in recruitment.

How I help you deal with potential unconscious bias

I encourage my clients to remove information about age, nationality, country of birth, title, gender, marital status and family information. I also advocate removing details about where you went to school or university, focusing instead on the qualifications you achieved so you can be judged on merit.

I also suggest using the name you want to be known by at the top of your CV. This could be as simple as a contraction of your full name (Alex instead of Alexander for example) or a totally different name if that’s how you’re known. This allows the recruiter to use the name you’re comfortable with at the interview (and also avoids annoying things like your email being set up as Elizabeth@company.co.uk when everyone calls you Liz).

You can include your full name further down your CV.

Is name-blind recruitment the future?

I spoke to some of my recruitment contacts to get their opinion on blind recruitment.

Anne Lockwood, Managing Partner of First Choice Recruitment in Wakefield says: “I have been working in recruitment for over 30 years and generally there is still some scepticism around blind-recruitment in that it can be sometimes be seen as hiding something.

“However I personally do feel there is a place in the recruitment process for it; indeed I am a school governor and application forms for positions within school come from a central office and literally are only the career history of the candidate – there is absolutely no reference at all to gender, age, nationality, name, marital status or family information.

“However, your name gives you a personality; it makes you a real person. I believe that rather than worrying how your name might be perceived that you need to spend more time on your profile and actually ‘selling’ yourself into that particular job role and what you can offer to the company.”

Jason Saunders, Partner, TS Grale Executive Recruitment, also has a view: “In the world of executive search, decision makers are encouraged to increase diversity of shortlists as management teams and boards require more parity in balance of ethnicity, culture, equality or gender.

“Ultimately I would hope that any human resources specialist, hiring manager or executive recruiter would agree that you can only truly judge the fit for a position after a face-to-face meeting. If unconscious bias stops the review of a resume in detail, then I am sure many companies are missing out on the best person in the market.

“As a manufacturing-centric executive search firm, I hope we will continue to see a removal of bias from processes as companies strive to find the best talent from both UK and international markets, ultimately keeping manufacturing investment and growth on the UK mainland.”

Principles versus reality in recruitment

For me, I can absolutely see that the principle of blind recruitment is about creating fairness and a level playing field and it’s great to see many high profile organisations supporting this approach in the application round to increase the chances of a fair process before the interview stage.

But in reality, taking a name off a CV will only eliminate unconscious bias in the first round of CV screening In many cases it may be obvious if a candidate has what might be considered a different heritage, background or religion when they arrive for their interview, but with blind recruitment at least the candidate gets the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and experience during the interview. Interviewers are naturally listening out for evidence and thinking about how they can support recruitment decisions and provide feedback afterwards, which leaves less room for unconscious bias to play a part.

Whether or not to go name-blind is definitely a quandary for recruiters, especially when layered with the need to check the candidate has the right to work in the UK. However, some recruitment agencies are already doing by supplying CVs without name and contact details to prevent a client or other agencies trying to deal directly with the candidate. But there’s always more that can be done, and hiring managers need to think carefully about how they are susceptible to unconscious bias and what can be done about it.

However, the rise of recruitment via LinkedIn means it would be impractical if not impossible to achieve a name-blind process via that platform and there are so many other factors on a CV that could give away who you are. A quick internet search on your job title and company means I would be quite likely to find your name, so it feels like there’s a mountain to climb to achieve a truly name-blind process.

Is there anything you can or should do about it?

There is lots of advice available to companies about how to recruit without not only names, but without any other information which could prompt an unconscious bias – age, gender, address details, immigration status and nationality.

And yet it would be pretty hard to submit a CV or job application online and not enter your name in the relevant fields. There are some software systems available that allow the candidate to submit this information but conceal it from the recruiting manager to eliminate bias at the first stage. But there’s nothing that can be done once the candidate walks into the interview room.

I applaud the move to try to level the playing field and recruit candidates based on skills and experience, not other factors, especially in that first round of selection and I would encourage employers to also educate their hiring managers about equality and diversity to help them manage their unconscious bias as well as having objective support and advice from HR to ensure a fair and transparent process But in the end, our names are such a fundamental part of who we are, would it make us feel even more like just a number if we start leaving them off personal documents?

If you’re worried about how to find the perfect next role or want advice on your CV, give me a call on 07765 894040 to book a free chemistry session to see if I’m the right careers coach for you.

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