The Blind Hiring Process: What It Is & How to Do It?

Having a recruitment strategy that promotes diverse hiring is not only good for society, but the business case for diverse teams is stronger than ever. A survey by Mckinsey revealed that companies with gender diversity at the executive level were 21% more profitable compared to those without diversity. While the impact of diverse hiring is well known and respected, organizations still struggle to reach an adequate level of gender diversity in their teams, especially at the executive level and in certain areas of STEM. 

There exist many different initiatives to increase diversity among candidates. Some examples include gender-decoding software like Textio or internal programs that support the leadership development of minorities. One well-known strategy that aims to remove some personal bias from the equation is a Blind Hiring Process.

What is a blind hiring process?

A blind hiring process involves stripping away identifiable characteristics from a resume that are not related to the job or experiences needed for success. 

Blind hiring is a hot topic among companies around the world trying harder to increase diversity in their candidate selection process. Its origins can be traced back to the 1970s, where symphony orchestras were mostly made up of white men. In efforts to increase diversity, orchestras began to hold auditions behind a curtain so that the judges could only make their decisions based on the performance of the musician. As a result,  25%-45%  more women were hired. 

How does it reduce bias?

Making a snap judgment is not always a bad thing. The evolutionary purpose of bias helps us reach decisions quickly, especially in times of danger. However, sometimes these judgments are not accurate and can cause us to make decisions that are unfair. By hiding certain characteristics like age, gender, ethnicity, or level of education, you can remove the different cognitive biases that creep up when reading a resume (Watch this TedTalk to learn more about these cognitive biases). Blind hiring helps us ignore some of the initial preconceived notions that we might have about candidates (ex: quality of their education or judgments about their name or age) and helps us focus on the applicant’s qualifications and skills. 

RELATED: Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

How can I implement blind hiring at my company?

Pinpoint, Textio, and Blendoor are just a few of the tools you can leverage to remove any demographic information from resumes, anonymizes applications and source diverse candidates. If you don’t have the budget for new software, there are always workarounds available. Some HR professionals will export their candidate information onto an Excel sheet and hide certain columns that included their name. You could create pre-screen questions or challenges that candidates must complete before reviewing their resume and read the answers and solutions without their demographic information. Some organizations tell their candidates to remove certain information altogether from their resumes before applying, and others simply invest in a good black Sharpie before reviewing printed resumes! 

If you’re considering creating a blind hiring process, Daniel Bortz from the Society for Human Resource Management  suggests first creating a goal around what you hope to achieve (for example: increasing the number of women in your company). Decide what parts of the resume you’d like to redact, and train your recruiters and hiring managers on unconscious bias and the value of diversity.  

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Blind hiring pitfalls

All this effort at the screening phase is great, but won’t guarantee that diverse candidates will make it through to the offer phase. Recruiters must be trained in recognizing unconscious bias, as well as conducting standardized interviews. Otherwise, bias and discrimination at the interview phase could equally deter the candidate’s chance of being successfully chosen for the role.

Some research has shown that making applications anonymous can have the reverse effect for minority groups, as this blocks the efforts made by affirmative actions. For example, one study showed that anonymous hiring reduced the likelihood of women getting callbacks, as this anonymity “prevented the use of positive measures aimed at improving the representation of women.”

Additionally, if your job descriptions are written in a way that are biased towards one group over another, the blind hiring process won’t address that and can’t substitute a more inclusive job posting. 

While blind hiring has been shown to increase diversity in many organizations, research is still trying to understand what kind of processes are needed to create a truly diverse hiring strategy. One thing we can all learn from the blind hiring process is the power of our own unconscious biases. The more we can improve and learn to set our biases aside, the better we will be at creating an equitable workplace! 

Stacy Pollack is a Human Resources professional with a passion for improving the workplace. She began her career in recruitment and quickly fell in love with training and organizational development. She is passionate about coaching and helping people succeed at work. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at  www.stacypollack.com

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