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Avoiding unconscious bias through blind recruitment

Hand holding a CV
Tanya Widdop
By Tanya Widdop, Senior Recruitment Coordinator, Kaplan Link to Tanya Widdop's LinkedIn profile

‘Blind recruitment’ is when we remove any personal information from a CV or application in an attempt to eliminate unconscious bias. But how does this work in practice?

By removing a candidate’s gender, ethnicity, age, education and any other personal attributes, the hiring managers can assess them based on skills and experience alone. This is an effective way to create more diversity in the workplace.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is when we form an opinion or make a decision/judgement based on our own life experiences, assumptions or background. This can subconsciously influence our thought process and play a big part in the choices we make, without us actually realising it.

There are a few ways in which you could adopt the blind recruitment process, one of which would be removing all “or some” personal information from a candidate CV. For instance:

  • Name – This could potentially identify the candidate’s gender.
  • Locations – This would mean removing the candidates address or the location of any work or education.
  • Names of Schools, colleges or higher education – Remove the names of any learning or education establishments as this could identify, what some may think, is a more prestigious college or university than others.
  • Names of companies they have worked for – instead, here you would write “accountancy “firm”, “insurer” or “supermarket” for example.
  • Hobbies and Interests – The hiring manager could make assumptions on certain hobbies or have similar interests to the candidate, therefore identify more with a particular candidate.

Another way in which you could adopt the blind screening process would be to identify three top skills you would like the candidate to possess for the position. i.e:

  • Good team working skills.
  • Good IT skills.
  • Being able to work independently/manage your own caseload.

Best practice is to ask candidates to write 250 words of evidence of how they meet each of the criteria you have set out and then make your shortlist for interview from this evidence. This would remove any bias and select candidates based on the skills they can demonstrate and experience they have.

You could also ask colleagues from different departments to take part in the screening process. It could add more diversity to the screening process if you include people from different age groups, ethnic backgrounds or genders. This would add a different perspective and point of view.

Diversity also boosts performance

Using a blind recruitment process enables you to use a more equal and fair system, not only would this create greater inclusivity and diversity in organisations but it would also be good for business.

According to recent research by Bourke and Espedido (2019)*, teams with inclusive leaders are:

  • 17% more likely to report they are a high-performing team
  • 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions
  • 29% more likely to report they are behaving collaboratively

In addition, a 10% improvement in the perception of inclusion increases work attendance by an average of nearly one day per employee.

With the above in mind, you may think of your own blind screening methods, to ensure you’re recruiting a more diverse and stronger workforce.