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Published on 29th September 2021

Blind recruitment


Read this fascinating article regarding blind recruitment by Hayley Monks, WUN Founder & MD at Think Inspire and Create Limited.

What exactly is blind recruitment?

In short, it involves removing the candidate’s name and other identifying factors – such as age, address or location, years of experience, and school or university names – from their application so that any bias, unconscious or otherwise is not present in the recruitment process.

Why might we need it?

A 2017 UK study found that just a third (32%) of HR managers felt confident that they are not prejudiced when hiring new staff. Nearly half (48%) admitted that bias affects their candidate choice, while 20% said they couldn’t be sure if bias affected their decision. We often don’t think we are being biased and in most cases there isn’t any intention to be biased either, but it happens.

Does it really make a difference?

When I first hear of blind recruitment, I thought it was a new / modern era thing.  But when I researched it, I found a well know and commonly cited example from the 1980’s.  This was the story of Toronto Symphony Orchestra. In the 1970s the Orchestra comprised of almost all white, male musicians, so in 1980, it decided to change its auditioning processes. Instead of doing the auditions face-to-face, they put up a screen between the musicians and those hearing the music. The result? A more even gender balance of new recruits. Musicians were recruited soley on their ability to play their instrument. All other judgement factors were removed.

So in short, yes it makes a difference. But what should and shouldn’t be on a CV – where does is start and stop?

26 years later than the Toronto story, in 2016, name-blind recruitment was one of the key recommendations of the 2016 Bridge Report*, which outlined ways to improve equality and diversity in the UK public sector. Following the report, the NHS and Civil Service were set to roll out name-blind recruitment by 2020. Does anyone know if this has happened? And what the impact was of it?

While there are numerous benefits to hiding identifiable information from candidates’ applications, there are some limitations and is not, as in most case, a complete solution.

The more you remove from the application, the harder it is to establish experience and capability with any great ease.

Blind recruitment only makes a difference at the first stage of the hiring process: bias can still creep in later in the recruitment process, during face-to-face interviews.

It may find it harder to assess someone’s cultural fit, because you can’t assess things such as personal interests. However, some would argue that the concept of ‘cultural fit’ is a way for managers to validate their reliance on bias when it comes to making hiring decisions.

Blind recruitment is one tool in the toolbox of recruitment; helping to remove some bias in the process and has a record of success in doing so. How it is used and when is clearly part of the success – we’d love to hear your stories about blind recruitment – what has worked and what hasn’t.

* https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/socio-economic-diversity-in-the-fast-stream-the-bridge-report