Emily Heaslip, content writer at Vervoe
As many companies prioritize hiring diverse candidates this year, the question becomes: how? How can businesses of all sizes make sure hiring decisions are made based on merit, rather than background?
Implicit biases impact a diverse candidate’s journey through the hiring process at virtually every stage. But, blind hiring presents a solution that can help companies zero in on a person’s ability and remove factors like race, gender, or culture from positively or negatively influencing the recruitment process. Here’s how blind hiring works and some of the pros and cons of blind hiring.
What is blind hiring?
Blind hiring is a hiring practice that involves obscuring identifiable characteristics from a candidate’s application that are not related to their experience and job skills needed for success. Some of the characteristics that blind hiring strips away may include: gender, ethnic background, education, age, names, and hobbies or personal interests.
Perhaps the most infamous example of blind hiring is also the earliest known instance of this practice. In the 1970s, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was made up almost entirely of white male musicians. To remedy this imbalance, the orchestra started to use partitions to shield the identity of those auditioning. The result? Female representation in orchestras rose from less than 5% in 1970 to 25% – 46% in the 1990s.
Despite advancements in hiring software and technology, there are still many obstacles that recruiters face in increasing representation in the hiring process. Blind hiring has been shown to reduce bias in the hiring process — but there are some disadvantages of blind recruitment of which organizations must be aware when implementing this process.
Blind hiring statistics
First, however, blind hiring statistics show that this method to improve diversity can have a big impact. Blind hiring is one method for overcoming some of the unconscious biases that make it difficult for diverse candidates to get far in the hiring process. Consider some of these data points:
- Research shows that applicants with “white-sounding names” get 50% more callbacks than applicants with Black-sounding names, regardless of identical professional experiences. (Fast Company)
- A 2003 groundbreaking study found that employers “were more likely to consider white candidates with criminal records than black candidates with no such history.” (Vox)
- One global survey discovered that while 1 in 5 women experienced gender discrimination in recruitment, only 5% of men did. (PwC)
- We know that improving diversity hiring has big benefits for businesses. McKinsey research shows that company profits and share performance can be 50% higher when women are represented in senior leadership positions; likewise, businesses with an ethnically diverse workforce are shown to have a 35% performance advantage over their homogenous competitors. Blind hiring is one way to capture those business benefits. So, what does the blind hiring process entail?
How to do blind hiring
To understand how blind hiring works, let’s break down each stage of the hiring process to understand how blind hiring practices that anonymize candidates can be applied.
Blind job applications
The first step in a blind hiring process is to attract diverse candidates. This involves creating job listings with inclusive, gender-neutral language to appeal to a broad range of applicants. Research shows that listings with gender-neutral wording can attract 42% more responses.
Find a recruiting software platform or tool that can collect resumes and CV and remove any personally-identifying information. Alternately, have a team member who is not involved in the hiring process anonymize each application for you. This person can go in and extract pertinent information such as work experience, skills, and certifications while removing any data that may lead to unconscious bias.
A blind CV might exclude some of the following information:
- Candidate’s name
- Headshot (if a candidate included one)
- Candidate’s education: alma mater, GPA
- Candidate’s area code
- Candidate’s hobbies or personal interests
- Candidate’s age and other biographical info
The goal at this stage is to remove any data that can create a “preference” or cause a recruiter to (inadvertently) imagine what a candidate looks like.
Blind candidate screening
Once you have a database of applicants, you can begin your screening process. Many companies find it useful in this stage to offer a skill test. Skill assessments level the playing field by giving candidates an opportunity to showcase their talent in a controlled environment.
These platforms provide immersive environments in which candidates respond to different question types, like media, software, and multiple-choice, that replicate the actual tasks they would perform in your business if they got the job.
AI then ranks a list of candidates in order of performance for the skills that matter most — saving recruiters from the time-consuming task of manually reviewing resumes or backgrounds. And, because no personally-identifying information is factored into the process, it’s fair for all candidates, improving the diversity, equity, and inclusion on a recruiter’s shortlist.
This type of screening is infinitely more effective than other methods — such as checking a candidate’s social media profiles — as well as an impactful way to avoid hiring bias.
There are a number of ways to host blind interviews, many of which are easier than ever now that many companies have shifted to working remotely. Here are some effective ways to conduct a blind interview.
What is a blind interview?
A blind interview is one in which the candidate’s identity is obscured during the conversation. This can be achieved through technology, or by changing the interview format so that the interview is neither live nor in-person.
There are tools that allow for blind interviews. Interviewing.io is one platform that gives employees a way to chat with candidates via instant messaging and/or using voice-masking technology.
Chat tools can help keep the interview anonymous, and another option is to send the candidate an anonymized written Q&A. Chatbots are also becoming more popular as a way to interview candidates anonymously and automate one of the more time-consuming steps of the hiring process. Many of these tactics also suit companies hiring remotely that may wish to expand their candidate outreach to different time zones.
Blind interviewing is definitely achievable, but it can come with some pitfalls and disadvantages.
Here’s what to know before setting up an entirely blind hiring process.
Blind hiring: pros and cons
There are many blind hiring pros and cons, and the disadvantages of blind hiring indicate that it’s not an absolute solution to improving diversity.
Disadvantages of blind recruitment
The intention behind blind hiring is good, but blind hiring can have some unexpected disadvantages.
First, making blind hiring truly “blind” often involves more than simply removing a name or headshot from a resume. Take the example of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
“In 1952, when the Boston Orchestra tried to diversify by holding blind auditions, their hiring diversity stats didn’t change. Why not? As told by writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, the ‘clickety-clacks’ of high-heeled shoes on the stage gave the women’s gender identity away. When the orchestra requested that shoes come off, nearly 50% of women progressed in the audition process,” — Fast Company
Sometimes, hiring must not only be blind, but selectively deaf, too. Identity cues are everywhere, and even after removing information pertaining to a candidate’s background or gender, the language used in CVs or cover letters can still be a tip-off. Women tend to highlight their experience organizing and assisting, while men use technical phrases and skill-oriented terms.
Blind hiring can also be inadvertently discriminatory. Masking the identity of a candidate can prevent hiring managers from getting a deeper understanding of a person’s employment history in context. For instance, a two-year gap on a resume may appear, on the surface, to be a red flag. But it could also be a reasonable amount of time to take off while raising a family. Obscuring the gender of the candidate would prevent a recruiter from understanding those circumstances.
Advantages of blind recruitment
Despite these drawbacks, blind recruitment is still an effective tactic to provide diverse candidates with an even playing field. And, as outlined above, building a diverse workforce has numerous benefits across metrics like innovation, profit, and productivity.
In addition, blind hiring often improves the candidate experience while saving recruiters time and money. Integrating a job audition or skill test to even the playing field allows candidates to better assess if the role is a good fit for them, too.
A skill assessment tool that uses AI to rank candidates can also save recruiters time. Every response is automatically graded; recruiters receive a list of candidates stack-ranked based on how well they can do the job. This dramatically cuts down on the time required to considerately and thoroughly evaluate every application.
And, automated blind hiring tools cut down on the cost of recruiting and employee turnover. Too many companies make the mistake of hiring the wrong person — relying on shortcuts like university, degree, or some other heuristic to make a decision. Bad hires can cost many thousands of dollars; blind hiring empowers companies to a job offer based on merit,
Blind hiring software
Blind hiring doesn’t require advanced technology — organizations can practice blind hiring by assigning people outside the recruiting process to remove identifying information from applications. But, blind hiring software is the most efficient way to implement this method; and, there are plenty of blind hiring software tools on the market. Here are just a few popular options:
Blendoor is an app that hides the names and photos of candidates, as well as provides advanced DE&I analytics.
Gapjumpers replicates the “blind auditions” orchestra study with skill assessments.
Vervoe uses unbiased AI to candidates based on merit, not on a person’s background.
Project Implicit these Harvard-backed Implicit Association Tests help your recruiting team identify implicit biases.
Textio gives you an easy way to check your job descriptions for any language-based gender bias.
There are many ATSs and other recruiting tools out there that use machine learning to overcome implicit bias and can obscure candidate information until the interview stage. Do some research to find one that’s right for your organization.