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How to implement a blind hiring program

Rapid globalization has made blind hiring an essential component in your hiring toolkit. Business success depends on hiring the best candidates, but conscious and unconscious bias still influence hiring decisions.  

As business breaks down global boundaries, the inclusion of diverse teams from different continents is no longer unusual. Remote teams are becoming a necessity in many industries, and as technology develops, it’s set to become a growing trend.

The general workplace also needs to be made up of a diverse mix of experience, skills, gender, race and culture. If you’re looking for innovation and ability, you’re not going to find it in teams of one race and gender with the same background, life experiences and attitudes.

Unfortunately, in-group hiring is still rife as hiring managers select candidates that they identify with on a personal level, rather than based on skills. Blind hiring can break this pattern.

What is blind hiring?

A blind hiring definition is: “An intentional process that removes all personal information as well as details that can give the reader insight into an applicant’s background.”

CVs are edited to include only skills, and job-relevant experience and abilities. This allows for applications to be screened on job-related issues only, making the selection of candidates unbiased.

What gets removed?

Anything that can give you insight into who the person is behind the application. Visible indicators are all names, address, home language, education institutions and hobbies and interests. There are, however, more subtle clues to an applicant’s race, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic conditions.

Job titles, names of past employers, years of experience and salary details can give rise to bias based on assumptions.

What stays?

Information related only to the vacancy they’ve applied for.

Blind recruitment is challenging to get right

Every vacancy must be geared towards unbiased processes from the start. If you want to attract the best talent, you must word job descriptions and all ad copy appropriately. Use gender-neutral job titles and phrases. Gender Decoder is a quick and easy to use tool that can help you eliminate gender bias.

Age bias can be avoided by removing graduation dates, irrelevant previous employment details and years of experience. All you need to include is what type of qualifications candidates have and how they rate themselves in the required skills. For example, instead of displaying the number of years of experience, rate experience as basic, intermediate, advanced and expert.

Irrelevant previous employment details can indicate approximate age and lead to other biases as well. If, say, you’re interviewing for a sales executive, you don’t need to include that someone worked as a server in a restaurant for a few years. The hiring manager could make a snap judgement that could be completely wrong, and you could lose a great candidate.  

Each role must be carefully analyzed to remove anything that can lead to bias but also include critical information.

You need management buy-in

You can’t build a blind hiring program unless you have everyone on board. Explaining the importance of recruitment to non-HR stakeholders is tough enough. Getting their buy-in will take more than an internal memo.

Many hiring managers might not see the value of getting a list of candidates with only scant information. There’s a lot of pressure to hire for best fit, and cultural fit questions are often part of the interview process.

Usually, before interviews are set up, the hiring team already has a good idea of the type of person they’re looking at, their age, status, and where they come from. LinkedIn profiles are often shared, and even other social media profiles are viewed.  

Now hiring managers are faced with only the bare necessities, and this can sit uncomfortably with some. The way to get around that is ongoing education on conscious and unconscious bias as well as the importance of diversity to ensure success.

Implementing a blind application process

Bias sits in all of us, and even people who believe themselves to be entirely fair and impartial can harbor unconscious biases they’re unaware of. That means that recruiters are as open to snap judgements and prejudices and anyone else.

If you’re using an applicant tracking system, tools such as Blendoor, that obscures personal details to encourage hiring diversity, can be easily integrated. That gives recruiters blind resumes making the process more fair and transparent.

Another essential element of a blind hiring program is skills tests and assessments. The type of tests and assessments would depend on the vital requirements of each job. Some can be included in the application process, while others can be by invitation as part of the screening process.

Tests and assessments that are done by invitation can be assigned a candidate number rather than a name. Explaining to candidates that this is a requirement to ensure fairness and transparency will enhance your employer branding. It will also align your company with the likes of HSBC, Deloitte, BBC, and Google, who are implementing blind hiring processes.

Backing up a CV that has only the bare essentials with results of skills tests and assessments will make the process easier and more acceptable for hiring managers.

Diversity metrics

Improved diversity is the aim of blind hiring, so you have to build metrics into your program.

You must have accurate numbers on diversity statistics before you begin, and then track progress to measure success. You can adjust your recruitment processes to focus on areas of low representation within specific demographics or groups.

Metrics won’t give you a clear picture immediately. As you gather data on screening, shortlisting, tests and assessments, interviewing, hiring decisions and ultimately, retention, you’ll be able to measure success. This will also allow you to make adjustments and improvements as you go along.

Is it worth the effort?

If you struggle with diversity ratios, blind hiring is essential. Likewise, if you want to be seen as an employer of choice and have ambitions of being featured in the workforce diversity magazine, it’s also a must. Companies that have numerous international offices or remote teams need it to get their hiring mix right.

But it does take a lot of planning and effort, it doesn’t work for all vacancies, and it has its flaws.

One of the biggest challenges is blind interviews. Although email, online chat or chatbots are an option, they can only be successful in the early stages of interviewing. Email interviews are open to manipulation of facts, so that makes them unreliable. Online chat is more transparent because it’s in the moment, but misunderstandings are common. Chatbots are impersonal, and unless interviews are well set-up and managed, candidates could lose interest.

Once you have a shortlist of candidates for second round interviews you’d have to arrange video, telephone or face to face interviews. The best way to maintain an unbiased approach is to ensure that the hiring team is diverse. Collaborative hiring limits bias.

Blind hiring can extend time to hire, but it will ultimately reduce cost of hire because you’ll make better hiring decisions. Good hires reduce employee churn and increase productivity, so hiring costs shrink.

What statistics tell us

If you’re still unconvinced that top candidates are probably falling through the cracks of traditional hiring processes, here is some sobering research on racial and gender bias.

  • White sounding names on CVs are 75% more likely to be invited for an interview than Asian sounding names.
  • White sounding names on CVs are 50% more likely to be invited for an interview than black-sounding names.
  • Masculine names are 40% more likely to be invited for an interview than feminine sounding names.

There aren’t many blind hiring statistics available yet because it’s still a relatively new concept in HR. A pilot project pioneered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1952 is where it all began, though. Concerned by the low representation of women in their orchestras they had musicians audition behind a screen. This system spread across orchestras in the USA and saw an increase in female musicians appointed increase from less than 5% in the 1970s to more than 25% in the 1990s.

Start with a blind recruitment trail and measure the results. Then gradually introduce a program that will work best for your organization.

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