Nick Shaw: Seeing the value of blind recruitment

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Blind recruitment

With the importance of diversity and inclusion at the top of the agenda for many HR departments, the process of making the application process as fair as possible is a key priority. This ‘blind’ approach to recruitment aims to remove any bias from the decision-making process in order to encourage inclusivity in the workplace. However, it is still a long way off from being the norm and many leaders are still considering the value it holds for the business.

What’s the big deal?

The first challenge that HR teams face when broaching the subject of blind recruitment is explaining its value to senior management and business leaders. More often than not, senior executives’ welcome diversity in the workplace, but will question why the company needs to go to such lengths in order to achieve it in their recruitment drives.
This is where the issue of unconscious bias comes into play. While most employers would consider themselves fair-minded and eager to welcome a diverse range of staff to the company, there are many nuanced factors that can instantly dissuade them from a certain applicant. While these can be to do with physical factors such as race, gender and age, there are also other variables that may influence a decision.

Something as simple as a name can cause recruiter to make a positive or negative association. For example, perhaps the name is similar to a close friend or an ex-employee who left under less than positive circumstances. Associations like these should not impact the decision-making process, and yet often influence how people view the candidate. As such, if left unchallenged, the business can miss out on valuable employees based on these irrelevant factors.

Regardless of the form unconscious bias takes, the overall result is the same. A lack of diversity in terms of candidates and knee-jerk decisions on potentially strong employees. Showcasing these issues to the decision makers of the business is a key way of highlighting the need for a fairer process.

Seeing things clearly

Even with senior level buy-in, a blind recruitment process is far from simple to implement. It not only requires an overhaul to traditional structures and approaches, but also demands that all those involved in the process remain as objective as possible.

This is easier said than done. Many recruitment processes now involve a wider check on the applicant. For example, reviewing social media or online profiles can instantly reveal the background of the individual. As a result, checks like these will have to be removed from the early stages of the recruitment process and only accessed at a later date, such as after the face-to-face interview.

Other challenges include how the applicant’s information is presented. Even with their personal background removed, the way that someone writes can often hint at their background, age or gender. An online portal that limits submissions to a certain number of words and uses a universal format can help to overcome this, as it will allow staff to assess the application purely on its content.

However, the hardest challenge that businesses face is the question: how blind do we go? For some, it may just be a case of removing names and gender pronouns from an application form. Others may want to go a step a further – perhaps by removing home addresses and/or education history in order to avoid any regional or social bias.

There are some risks involved with this approach, however, as the company may end up deleting important information on a candidate. Candidates straight out of university are particularly vulnerable to this method, for example, as they will not have a robust work history to supplement their application.

Wherever they draw the line, companies need to decide on what constitutes blind recruitment in their business. Creating these guidelines and sticking to an agreed format will ensure consistency for every applicant.

Making it work
Once the business has addressed these challenges, the next step is putting blind recruitment into practice. To really make the jump, many companies have implemented technological solutions, but with varying degrees of success. Even huge companies such as Amazon have found that technology has its limitations, with AI often showing a bias towards certain applicants despite being programmed to avoid traditional prejudices.

It is here that the company needs to understand the extent to which technology can help. The key issue with ensuring that blind recruitment works is focusing solely on the skills and abilities of the applicant. In doing so, the company can quickly determine whether the individual will be able to handle the responsibilities of the role.

Individual testing can work wonders here and is a key way to make the recruitment process fairer. Applicants simply fill out an online form which analyses their personality and profile. Employers can then marry this up to the role and see if the person fits.

This approach immediately gauges the skill of the individual without factoring in their race, background or any other irrelevant details. As such, it is not only a more practical use of technology, but also makes the recruitment process far more ethical. All candidates are judged on fundamental attributes such as their skill and personality in order to determine how successful they will be in the role.

In an age where diversity and equality are priorities for every business, having an approach that encourages best practice in these areas should be a consideration for every HR department. Whether blind recruitment will become the norm remains to be seen. However, there are some undeniable advantages to a business that decides to take this route, especially in the way it provides a fair and balanced approach to recruitment.

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About Nick Shaw

Nick is a recognised talent management expert who possesses a unique blend of technical expertise and commercial insight.

As MD, Nick ensures that 10x Psychology solutions stay ahead of market needs, and that the company’s resources are optimised to ensure the delivery of successful client outcomes. He also acts as a project sponsor for key global solutions, working in partnership with clients and internal teams to define key success metrics and measure the impact of HR interventions.

Nick has worked with boards and senior HR teams around the globe to implement world-class talent management processes, applying his expertise as an occupational psychologist to ensure alignment of talent strategies with commercial need. An industry speaker and thought leader, he has contributed to numerous press articles and presented at conferences in the UK, US and the Middle East.

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