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The Benefits and Challenges of Blind Recruiting

Annie Erling Gofus - Jan 17 2023
Published in: Global Workforce
Blind resumes may reduce unconscious bias and strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Guided by their ideals, modern job seekers are passionate about a diverse and inclusive workspace. Seventy-six percent of job seekers take into account the employer brand when evaluating potential employers, making this a critical factor for businesses to consider. Strategically integrating a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) philosophy your recruitment efforts can help attract the best talent.

Studies demonstrate that a diverse workforce is beneficial in multiple ways, from attracting top talent to retaining employees and generating superior economic results. A recent study conducted by McKinsey illustrated that 366 public companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity had 35% higher financial returns than their industry average. A  2018 study from North Carolina State’s Poole College of Management uncovered a valuable insight: Fostering diversity has an immensely positive impact on companies, driving measurable increases in innovation as evidenced by product development, patents created, and citations.

“From research, it is clear that a more diverse workforce resembles your customer base more accurately; it allows for different ideas from different backgrounds. Bottom line, it is good for a business,” said Azmat Mohammed, director general of the Institute of Recruiters, in a 2016 interview with Fast Company. “A more diverse workforce makes more money, they’re more profitable, they’re more harmonious in terms of being a team, so the benefits are all there.”

Unfortunately, diversity continues to be an issue for businesses, particularly the tech industry. A 2021 examination of Fortune 500 companies discovered that 57.8% of directors are occupied by white men, indicating a marked lack of diversity in the workplace. Despite its size and power, even Google continues to grapple with the issue of diversity, particularly among Black employees in the U.S., who only comprise 8.7% of their workforce according to recent demographic data.

Unconscious bias, wherein judgments are made about applicants based on prohibited variables such as gender or race without even being aware of it, is a major contributor to this challenge. A groundbreaking report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, even with equivalent qualifications and backgrounds, resumes featuring "white-sounding" names elicited almost 50% more phone calls than resumes containing "Black-sounding" names. To make matters worse, a 2017 study found that male and female managers were twice as likely to hire men over women.

What Is Blind Recruiting?

In today's ever-evolving landscape, there are various recruitment strategies that prioritize diversity. One such example is blind recruiting, an effective technique to eradicate hiring bias and promote inclusivity. This technique involves removing certain components of a candidate's personal information in order to protect them from potential bias that could lead to an unfavorable outcome.

By eliminating recruiter bias—both intentional and unintentional—highly qualified individuals can be chosen for a job based on their competencies.

Prejudice is an ingrained and inescapable part of being human. According to Psychology Today, bias "is a tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone." Biases can be a valuable tool to navigate life, yet in certain contexts, they may foment discriminatory harm against vulnerable individuals who are underrepresented.

Unchecked bias erodes the accuracy of hiring decisions and undermines any semblance of fairness in the talent acquisition process. By leaving out certain information that may spark bias from human resource teams, blind recruiting is a great way to reduce prejudice in the hiring process.

How Did Blind Recruiting Get Its Start?

Way back in 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra was one of the first to adopt a pioneering method, as reported by The New York Times. In order to promote inclusivity, the orchestra utilized partitions during auditions so that every performer could be judged solely on their talent and not their appearance.

This made a dramatic transformation of the hiring process throughout the industry, with blind auditions becoming standard. In the late 20th century, a National Bureau of Economic Research published a study revealing that the ratio of female musicians in top U.S. orchestras increased drastically from less than 5% in 1970 to 25% during the 1990s.

As technology advanced in the 2000s, a variety of tech startups revolutionized HR by introducing blind hiring practices that made it easier for teams to be inclusive and diverse. These vendors develop their technology to operate in tandem with existing applicant tracking systems, which are generally not equipped to remove candidates' identifiable information.

Realizing the sheer amount of highly skilled coders whose resumes had, unfortunately, been disregarded by hiring managers due to their lack of attendance at a prestigious college, GapJumpers founder Kedar Iyer created software that conceals candidates’ names, faces, and other personal information from employers in the early stages of recruitment. By doing so, he aims to minimize any existing bias. GapJumpers has reported a drastic 40% increase in the likelihood of diverse applicants receiving first-round job interviews due to its use.

Fortunately, companies do not need new tech tools to implement blind hiring.

Eradicating unconscious bias can be a daunting challenge. Giving talent acquisition teams the opportunity to blind hire could help them put prejudice and partiality aside, allowing for more objective hiring decisions. By utilizing this practice, recruiters are able to objectively search the candidate pool to find the best fit for each position. To make diversity recruiting efforts as seamless and efficient as possible, consider the following steps:

  • Equip employees with the knowledge of how hiring bias works and its consequences on individuals and organizations.
  • Remove names and other personal information from job applications and resumes to ensure anonymity.
  • Establish a reliable recruiting process that is in accordance with all hiring equity regulations.
  • Consistently monitor your metrics to ensure superior results.
  • Utilizing blind recruiting software or an applicant tracking system to ensure the best candidate is hired for the job.

Blind Recruitment Is Not the Perfect Solution

Although these statistics are encouraging, implementing blind hiring is not without its shortcomings. An apt illustration is that traditional recruitment processes only obscure a candidate's personal information during the initial screening phase. Face-to-face interviews limit employers' ability to remain unbiased, as they will be exposed to a candidate's name, gender, and ethnicity. Utilizing a blind hiring method when it comes to resume screening could potentially produce more diverse initial interviews; however, employers may still face the same obstacles in achieving true diversity within their hires.

Despite its popularity, blind hiring may not be as successful of a strategy as initially assumed. Recently, the Australian Government's Behavioral Economics Team (BETA) published a report that highlighted an effort within the nation's Public Service to amplify women in senior positions. This was achieved by deemphasizing gender information from job applications. Unexpectedly, the trial yielded results that were opposite to those anticipated. Adding a masculine name to an applicant's background was proven to decrease their chances of being selected by 3.2%. A female candidate was 2.9% more likely to receive an offer when her name appeared on an application.

The results of this initiative have generated grave skepticism regarding the validity of blind hiring practices. Contrary to expectations, those who conducted the study realized that masking applicants' identities during their initial screening procedure actually had an adverse impact on diversity rather than a positive one. Consequently, employers ought to be mindful when employing blind hiring as a means of fostering diversity.

As employers search for ways to build their workforce from a broad pool of candidates, they must consider if blind hiring will actually yield the outcomes they desire. With the ever-changing climate of the contemporary workspace, there is a greater need to go above and beyond just one interview in order to ensure that you are hiring individuals who fit your company's culture. If you are able to disregard unconscious bias while selecting new employees, and instead focus on their talent, skill set, and additional qualifications that the individual may bring to your workplace that are unique or different from others in the office, then you will be rewarded with a successful diversity hire.

Diversity is paramount not only for social justice and creativity, but research supports that it's also beneficial to the bottom line of any business, including those in the global mobility industry. A team with a wide range of worldviews can inform and educate employees and clients, and uncover new customer segments. This kind of global reach is vital for businesses in the mobility industry.