It is far from a new idea, but using the process of blind hiring to select people with the best skills and abilities may seem a very obvious way to ensure that bias is removed from the recruitment process.
Blind hiring traces its origins back to 1952. Worried about the male domination of its ranks, the Boston Symphony Orchestra started auditioning musicians blind, asking them to perform behind a screen. From there the practice spread, first to other orchestras, and then into the wider world.
Today, removing names and ages from CVs, broadly anonymising applications, is an easy first step, and helps to prevent any prejudice creeping in, at least at the sifting stage.
Of course with ATS systems in widespread use to search for skills and qualifications keywords, many are already practising blind hiring as they whittle down candidates to the shortlist. Despite its ability to promote diversity, research suggests that only 35% of UK businesses practice blind recruitment in some shape or form. Given how issues such as the glass ceiling, gender imbalances and ‘equal pay for equal work’ are hot topics, this is rather surprising.
Research from the US shows the influence of bias:
But what happens beyond the shortlist at the sharp end of the search and selection process? Recruiters and hiring managers are likely to engage directly with candidates and this means that the effort made to obscure candidate demographics in the initial stages may be pointless.
So, how can hiring processes continue blind when recruiters need to properly engage with candidates?
Technology has a role to play here. Ordinarily, it is difficult to maintain anonymity when talking on the phone, in a video interview, or person-to-person. However, it is possible by disguising speech and by using physical screening. It is also possible to conduct an interview over chat apps and to some extent, by using anonymised questionnaires.
Of course blind hiring has many critics, despite major names like HSBC, Deloitte, the BBC, and Google using the technique to ensure they’re hiring the best talent. One criticism is that beyond skills, experience, hobbies and interests, there’s not much a CV can tell you about a person. You really have to meet them. Many recruiters need to read facial expressions and body language and want to see how people speak and present themselves.
Another negative view is that what works for selecting an orchestra’s musicians doesn’t transpose to other walks of life or business. Essentially, how a musician performs a piece of music encapsulates their entire professional skillset, as well as their experience and personality. Such things cannot be fully conveyed using CVs and application forms.
Like psychometric testing and Myers-Briggs, blind recruiting is another technique that divides recruiters! It is simply one that every agency and recruiter needs to be aware of and it may be a personal belief about whether it has any merits and is of any use.
Technology used to divide people. While some hated change and the march of progress, many embraced it. However, today you resist technology at your peril, because you are likely to get left behind.
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