A damning Government report on the employment prospects of ethnic minorities has ensured that the notion of blank-name application forms is firmly back on the agenda.

The study from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community in December 2012 discovered that women of black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage who ‘anglicised’ their names saw a 50% drop in the number of applications required before getting an interview.

In wake of the findings, the Group has encouraged businesses to use blank-name, anonymised applications forms that hide a candidate’s name, background and schooling from recruiters, with the hope that this will eliminate unconscious biases.

This is not the first time the idea has been proposed however, and it has proved very contentious in the past.

In 2009, Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone tried to add a clause to the Equality Bill that would have made nameless CVs compulsory, citing the use of candidate numbers rather than names in school exams. A number of HR directors described the idea as “unworkable” though, and it was subsequently dropped.

During 2012, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg asked firms signing up to his Business Compact on social mobility to “increase use of name-blank and school-blank applications” – but although more than 100 major employers have joined the scheme, the CV requirement was not obligatory and as a result there is no indication of take-up.

Explaining his doubts as to whether anonymous CVs would make a difference, Tim Baker, Manager of commerce & industry at global HR recruiter Frazer Jones, said:

“The name is usually the first thing you look at when you open a CV, but any good recruiter will tell you that it’s a combination of experience, companies worked for and sometimes education that make a good CV. If you have this, the name and ethnic background is irrelevant.”

Commenting on the reports findings, Neil Morrison, group HR Director at Random House, said:

“Companies have a vested interest in employing the best person for the job, regardless of gender and ethnicity.

“But the parliamentary report is a sad reflection of how ethnic minority groups feel about their treatment by employers, and collectively we should be looking to change both perceptions and treatment.”

It remains to be seen whether blank-name application forms will be introduced, and if so, how effective they will be when it comes to reducing discrimination in recruitment processes.