In the United States, laws such as the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 help to ensure that hiring practices are fair and balanced. While legal compliance is an important goal, a more beneficial result of fair, balanced, and equitable hiring practices is a more diverse workforce. Increased organizational diversity and inclusion leads to greater organizational success.
In recent years, organizations have turned to blind hiring practices in order to capture the best candidates while removing possible biases from the recruiting and selection processes. In this Astronology®, we discuss blind hiring and steps to implement such a program.
A monster.ca article highlighted challenges in the world of hiring. All people deal with a measure of unconscious bias, the unconscious behavior during interactions with the people around us, as well as implicit stereotyping, unconsciously attaching characteristics to people from certain social groups. These two factors can make it difficult for some during the hiring process to look at the qualifications of a person and not his / her background.
One can even become biased against new candidates due to the position’s previous incumbent. For instance, in the same monster.ca article, author Joe Issid comments that upon reviewing his shortlist of candidates for a job position he was hiring for a few years prior, “… 90% of my top candidates were all women with traditional Anglo Saxon names. How can I explain this? My assumptions are as follows: given that the position had been previously held by a woman, I may have had a natural inclination towards believing that a woman was better-suited for the role. Additionally, the role required strong English writing skills, so I held an instinctive bias in favor of people who had names that suggested they were native English speakers. While this was an extremely interesting exercise, it revealed an unconscious behavior that a blind résumé screening may have eliminated.”
Blind hiring could remove these challenges from the hiring process. For instance, in 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra began the practice of blind auditions. A New York Times Magazine article describes, “Musicians auditioned behind screens so the judges couldn’t see what they looked like, and walked on carpeted floors so the judges couldn’t determine if they were women or men — the women often wore heels.” The result? The article states that researchers from Harvard and Princeton reported the “blind auditions increased the likelihood that a woman would be hired by between 25% and 46%.” The practice also resulted in more female musicians applying for these positions, as they felt more confident of a fair opportunity.
Moving forward in time, in 2014 GapJumpers, a company designed to help organizations conduct blind hiring, started providing software for employers to use with job seekers. The job seekers anonymously solve skills-based challenges in order to prove they are qualified to handle the jobs for which they are applying. The software also removes details from the candidate’s résumé such as name, graduation year, college name, and address.
Don’t have a budget for implementing new software? Don’t worry, you can still take advantage of the benefits of blind hiring. For organizations that can’t afford the technology, SHRM lists the following tips to implement blind hiring practices:
- Create a goal: Perhaps you notice an imbalance in executive positions? What area(s) needs improvement?
- Pick what to redact. Information such as name, address, graduation year, and college location are effective starting points.
- Train recruiters and hiring managers. Teach them how to ask skills-based interview questions. Train them to avoid unconscious biases.
- Start small. Although some may be eager to pull a full KonMari method, this is not an area that can be dived into organization-wide on the first attempt. Try smaller steps for specific roles. This will allow for fine tuning methods to fit the whole organization.
- Measure results. Gather data on diversity demographics—age, race, & gender, for example—and employee retention, and solicit candidate feedback. Host a debrief meeting with your HR staff to discuss results.
Blind hiring does not solve all the challenges associated with successfully implementing fair hiring practices. For instance, candidates will eventually have to meet face to face with the hiring team for an interview. Could the interviewer then judge a candidate based on culture fit, instead of culture addition? A Forbes magazine article explains that hiring managers naturally will assess candidates on how best they can fit the organization’s philosophy and who will work well with fellow co-workers. However, using this as the only measurement may cause the final candidate to look, act, and think the same as everyone else, creating a homogenous environment. Hiring managers will need to consciously consider this when making decisions.
Has your organization looked into or started to implement some tools to strengthen the efforts to recruit and / or hire diverse candidates? Are you looking into blind hiring for your organization? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.