More and more companies are using blind hiring to increase diversity, but is it right for your company?
If you’re not familiar with the concept, blind hiring is the practice of removing or hiding information that could reveal key demographic data about a job candidate. That might be the job candidate’s photo, gender, name, race, age, address or alma mater.
The idea is that stripping away this kind of personal information cuts through unconscious bias and helps promote a more diverse workforce built on merit, instead of gut feelings or connections to candidates from similar backgrounds.
The practice has gained a great deal of traction in recent years, particularly in reaction to accusations of bias in the tech industry. As a result, some workplace experts suggest blind hiring as a potential solution.
Anonymous recruitment can be done in many ways.
You can have someone internally in your organization, such as your human resources manager or team, redact the information from résumés, applications and other screening forms. To make the process easier, you can also use recruiting software to automate screening, anonymize candidates and even conduct blind interviews.
You can also have job candidates complete a short project or test to assess their skills. Just be sure it isn’t too involved – and if you’re not conducting the assessment onsite, make certain it’s the candidate who actually completes it (and not someone else).
Thinking about making blind hiring a part of your recruitment strategy? Consider these pros and cons to help you decide.
Pros of blind hiring
Clears the way for talent to shine
Blind hiring breaks through our unconscious bias and helps laser in on people with sought-after skills and talents – for example, the best coder for your website project.
Symphony orchestras have successfully used blind hiring for years. Between the ‘70s and ‘90s, orchestras transitioned to using a screen to conceal candidates during preliminary auditions.
In fact, a landmark study found that about 10 percent of orchestra members were female around 1970, compared to about 35 percent in the mid-1990s. The researchers, from Harvard and Princeton universities, attributed about 30 percent of this gain to the rise of blind auditions.
If blind hiring works to find the best musicians, it can also be used to single out the true, raw talent your company needs.
Ideal for remote workers and individual contributors
In some jobs – think software developers, scientists and engineers – you’re judged primarily on the work you produce.
Blind hiring works well for positions in which skills are of the utmost importance. For example, designing a brochure and writing marketing content both require a specialized creative skill set. Blind hiring is also suited for remote workers who interact less frequently with their coworkers.
In these cases, comradery may be somewhat less important than in positions that require substantial interaction with colleagues in an office setting.
Steers you toward facts, rather than gut feelings
Have you ever gone with your gut when hiring someone, only to find out your gut was wrong and you hired the wrong person for the job?
It’s a pretty common mistake.
As humans, we gravitate toward people we connect with, and sometimes that means candidates who are most like us in background, gender or race. The problem with this (besides unconscious bias) is that the people we connect with the best, may not always be the most qualified for the job.
Blind hiring prevents gut feelings from clouding your judgement.
Cons of blind hiring
Can be too anonymous
In companies where employees often work as a team, it’s critical to hire people who are not only the right fit for the job, but also the right fit for the company’s culture.
When we make hiring a blind process, we could risk missing that all-too-important cultural fit piece of the puzzle.
If every single bit of personal information is removed from screening, blind hiring can become a very robotic process. When that happens, it may not accurately reflect the creativity and personality of an individual, or how they will contribute to the harmony of the team.
There’s more to a person than just a simple skill set or what they look like on paper.
May lengthen the hiring process
An exhaustive blind hiring process can add additional steps and hoops for job candidates to jump through. The longer you take to interview and screen a potential job candidate, the more you risk alienating them or losing their interest.
And some job candidates may balk at completing a project as part of the interview process, viewing it as working for free. To avoid the hassle, they may opt to go with a company that’s less trouble.
Taking time to remove personal information and assess personalities and skills can also lengthen the hiring process and, in turn, drive up costs.
Considering that it costs companies on average nearly $4,700 to hire a new employee, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, that’s an important fact to keep in mind.
Not a silver-bullet solution
Blind hiring still has its flaws. A recent article published by Forbes describes blind hiring as “an imperfect science.”
The main pitfall of blind hiring is that many organizations may view it as the solution to their diversity problems when actually, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Blind hiring doesn’t fix an organizational culture that’s unwelcoming to employees from diverse backgrounds.
True, it can help get more diverse candidates in the door, but what happens next? In the words of the well-known diversity consultant Vernā Meyers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
If you sense that achieving diversity is a problem for your organization, it’s probably time to take a deeper look at the inclusion piece.
Are people of diverse backgrounds, races and genders well represented in leadership positions throughout the company? Are they involved in key decision-making? Taking a cultural audit of your company may help shine more light on problem areas and how you can improve.
The bottom line
Just like anything in business, there’s opportunity for blind hiring to go off the rails if approached haphazardly.
But if you put together a well-thought-out program, it can possibly help your organization achieve greater diversity, or open your eyes to promising job candidates who might have slipped through the cracks before.
Keep in mind, it’s still important to follow up blind screening with a thorough interview process. Otherwise, you may not get a clear picture of a candidate’s emotional intelligence (EQ), creativity and personality – or be able to assess how well they work with others.
Cultural fit can’t be overlooked, particularly in positions heavy on teamwork.
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