Blind Recruiting: Combat Bias to Drive Diversity

Building a more diverse and inclusive workforce does not happen overnight, and an organization cannot mend under representation with “diversity hires.” Addressing a lack of diversity needs to start at the top of the organization, by training decision makers to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices into every level of the employee experience, from interviewing to offboarding. When driving organizational diversity, creating an unbiased interviewing and hiring process is crucial. While the blind interview/recruiting may seem extreme to some, it is a hiring practice that is rooted in extensive research and typically met with high success rates.

A 2016 study published in Administrative Science Quarterly wrote that “Resumes containing minority racial cues…lead to 30% to 50% fewer callbacks from employers.” The study, Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market, explored the result that “whitening” resumes had on their response rates. To “whiten” a resume is to scrub it of any ethic clues. Asian applicants might submit a resume with an Americanized version of their names, just as Black applicants would remove the word ‘Black’ or ‘African American’ from their affiliations with professional groups such as The Los Angeles Foundation for Black Professionals. All in all, the study found that Black applicants had a 15% higher call back rate from their whitened resumes, and Asian applicants saw a 10% higher call back rate.

Similar studies have shown that ethnic minorities send in 50% more applications per call back received, and candidates with “Black-sounding” names receive 50% fewer callbacks than similar applications with “white names.” In the same vein, resumes with male sounding names are 40% more likely to get an interview. The data is all there, and even the companies with the most airtight diversity statements exhibit these biases. It would be absurd to suggest that more applicants white-wash their resumes and request phone interviews exclusively. This is why we have seen more and more organizations adopt the blind recruiting/hiring method. It involves anonymizing applications and interviews in order to eliminate any potential unconscious bias at every stage of the hiring process, from recruitment to retention.

Blind Recruiting: Combat Bias to Drive Diversity

Inclusive Recruitment and Screening

All new hires start with a job description, and these descriptions can be laden with subtle biases that could divert a more diverse pool of applicants. Ensure that your ads are only using gender neutral pronouns. “The ideal candidate should be able to demonstrate their knowledge of…” Another best practice to avoid age bias is to ask for specific skills, as opposed to years of experience.

When the resumes start coming in, this is when the anonymizing starts. Have someone who is not involved in the decision making process anonymize and number resumes that meet your criteria. This means covering up any information that indicates gender, age, sexuality, race, or any other protected characteristics. Some example include:

    • Names
    • Address (yes, certain zip codes can lead to bias)
    • Any pronouns used in the resume
    • Graduation year
    • College or institution attended
    • Group affiliations (LGBT Youth Center Board Member could be altered to read “Charitable Non-profit Board Member”)

Luckily, now we have tools that can do this for us. Blendoor, Pinpoint, and Textio all have resume anonymizing and diversity tracking functions for recruiters.

Researching Your Candidate

Once you have collected and anonymized your resumes, the process becomes a bit more nuanced. Instead of jumping straight into a first round of interviews, consider other methods to assess candidates skills. Blind hire pre-testing is a great option. This could be something simple like a mock up of a prospecting email for a sales applicant, a coding challenge for a software developer, or a branding pitch from a marketing professional. By assessing candidates skills earlier in the process, the hiring manager begins to form opinions of the candidate based on fact, thus eliminating the potential for unconscious bias further down the hiring process.

Another common recruitment practice that could create potential bias is social media screening. For obvious reasons, social media research would counteract all of the work that went into anonymizing resumes and pre-testing candidates. Though it is important to look for potential red flags, and social media is a good place to start, consider holding off on this step until after the candidate passes their initial interviews.

The Blind Interview

Anonymizing interviews can be extremely difficult, and it may not be the most efficient way to screen a large number of candidates. Though, if executed well, the blind interview can ensure that you hire the best person for the job.

In the age of video calling, a phone call is a good step towards eliminating bias, but even then, the hiring manager will be able to presume certain characteristics such as age or gender. Though, there are methods that could save time and energy. Consider narrowing down your pool by sending candidates a Q&A form to fill out. One could also conduct an interview over instant message, to create a more organic conversation. However we do recommend that only initial interviews are anonymized as such. Keep in mind that you will be working with this person, and need to get a feel for who they really are.

Check-In With Your Process

Building a better diversity program and combating unconscious bias is an ongoing process. It is important to regularly check in with people involved in these initiatives to assess what works and what doesn’t work. Assess diversity metrics before and after your growth periods. Highlight potential blockers in the process, provide examples of pertinent information that was scrubbed from a candidates profile, then course correct.

We believe that it is in the best interest of your organization and your employees to assume the best of everyone. Don’t adopt these practices because you believe that your teams have racist hiring practices. A lack of representation rarely results from active prejudices, but rather unconscious biases. By taking steps to eliminate unconscious bias at every level of your workforce and employee experience, you embark on a path to build a workplace that people are proud to be a part of.

diversity and inclusionhiringinterviewingunconscious bias
John Wiese
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