Human resources officers are expected to practice fairness during the hiring process.
One practice called blind objective exercise, now more popularly known as blind recruitment or blind hiring, seeks to help remove the biases we have in selecting qualified candidates.
The practice involves hiding or removing personal information from the resume or CV — name, age, gender, location, education qualification, etc. — that would make us in the HR department biased toward an applicant early on.
History of Blind Recruitment
Musical orchestras are believed to have started the practice of blind hiring.
One account says that the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1952 had musicians audition in a room behind screens and carpeted floors so the selection panel wouldn’t know if they were listening to men or women, as female musicians usually auditioned in heels.
A study later found out that the practice led to an increase of female members of up to 46%.
These “blind auditions” also became an entry point for more women in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which used this selection technique in the 1970s.
Companies in recent years have latched on to the concept, and tech startups — notably GapJumpers — began developing products to help recruitment departments find the best talents for the positions that need to be filled.
They create assessments and exams for job seekers, and their automated systems produce scorecards for each one that are sent to the client company. The hiring managers later choose the job seekers to interview based on the rankings of the applicants by performance.
Bias is a Problem
HR auditors continue to detect bias among recruitment managers and executives. A recent Gartner survey shows that hiring decisions are one of the main areas within the talent life cycle that’s open to bias besides promotion decisions.
What are some of the common types of biases affecting our hiring decisions?
Anchoring, also called contrast effect, happens when you rely heavily on one data point when making a decision, usually the first you encounter on a subject. For instance, you might compare candidates to the person who will be leaving or has left that position.
We stereotype people when we expect a member of a group to have certain attributes without having actual information about that individual. Bias toward or against certain physical attributes, sexism, ageism, and racism come into play here.
They say most interviewers make up their mind about a candidate within 15 minutes of meeting them. After that, all actions after the encounter is spent trying to unconsciously confirm the initial impression.
This bias is also known as halo effect, for people who leave a positive impression, and horn effect, for individuals who leave an opposite image.
As an example, we may think that applicants who proactively present work samples and their social media profiles are the best candidates when we haven’t checked other candidates’ credentials.
We can rely on recent or emotionally charged memories in evaluating new hires. For instance, if you just recently broke up with a woman named Emma, then you might have an instant negative bias toward an applicant with the same name.
Similarity attraction bias
This refers to the natural inclination to hire people who we view to be similar to us, even if our common characteristics with the applicants have no relation with on-the-job performance.
This tendency involves drawing conclusions or overestimating small clusters of irrelevant data. For instance, we may be inclined to choose a candidate from the same town or city where our other recently hired top performers come from.
How Do We Go About the ‘Blind’ Exercise?
Deciding to use blind hiring for recruiting new people will depend on your needs. The following steps can help you ease into the process:
1. Know your objectives.
If you aim for more objectivity in your hiring process and expand the level of diversity in your company, then blind recruitment is a good step to take.
2. Decide what personal information should be “blinded” from the application process.
Some may only want to omit photos, names, gender, ages, race, sexual orientation, address, and marital status while others may also want to remove education, previous employers, and other information that’s relevant to any bias you may have identified.
3. Create a process that matches your criteria.
This would include asking someone not involved in the hiring process to manually hide identifying information or using computer-based tools such as an applicant tracking system to do it.
After determining the absolute necessities a job seeker must possess to fill a position, design a test or various tests relevant to the position.
4. Educate and train staff, including managers.
The team as a whole must become aware of unconscious bias, how to detect and overcome them, as well as the value of diversity besides knowing how to carry out the blind hiring and ask skills-based questions.
5. Start small.
Blind hiring can be implemented in small steps — for certain aspects of application process and for specific roles only.
We can fine-tune our methods before applying them on a larger-scale. It could start with blind candidate screening of resumes then blind pre-test hiring and blind interviews.
6. Measure outcomes.
Compare the diversity stats — age, race, gender — of your new hires before and after implementing blind hiring. Then check changes in employee retention, and ask for candidate feedback.
Pros and Cons of Blind Objective Exercise
Research has shown that organizations that adopted the practice experienced the following positive results:
Pro: It promotes diversity.
People with different backgrounds get to work for your organization and contribute to its growth.
Pro: True talent enters the company.
Recruiters are able to spot real talent through contest-based and other types of non-traditional assessment methods.
Pro: The “who do you know?” practice is eliminated.
This may not work for everyone, especially for managers who still hang on to the practice of referrals provided by their colleagues and networking associations.
Blind hiring has its limitations and disadvantages. Here are some of them:
Con: The practice may cause tension if “culture add” principle is not yet embraced by the entire organization.
Culture add is a buzzword used to describe people who bring an aspect of diversity that positively contributes to the business. Management should have made diversity a company-wide objective before deciding to launch a blind objective exercise.
Con: The level of diversity hoped for might not be achieved through blind hiring.
Some personal information is important to know if a company has quotas for certain minority candidates. “Blinding” will definitely affect this recruitment goal.
Con: The blind objective exercise may make the hiring process longer.
Without automated systems, reviewing and blinding a large quantity of applications manually would naturally take more time and effort.
‘Blinding’ Just a Piece of the Puzzle
Conducting blind hiring doesn’t guarantee that recruitment will be totally bias-free. Company executives or senior staff will ultimately have to meet applicants personally even if they pass through third party agencies.
However, the practice is a good first step for those aiming to diversify an organization’s workforce. The proponents of the process will just have to be patient in seeing its positive results.
At the least, becoming aware of our biases as recruitment people will help us be more mindful of them and work to counter them.