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What are the pros and cons of 'blind hiring' for a job?

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Woman in an interview

Despite it being illegal, interview discrimination is still a real problem.

According to research by CV-Library, nearly one in four (22%) Brits have experienced discrimination during an interview for a new job. 

One in 10 said they’ve felt prejudiced against because of their race, while 8.9% said it was because of their gender. 

In some cases, discrimination isn’t always a conscious act, as unconscious bias can lead interviewers to treat job candidates unfairly. So what’s the best way to stamp out prejudice in the recruitment process? 

Blind hiring, or blind recruitment, is being increasingly used as a way for employers to scout out suitable candidates based on their skills and abilities. Essentially, it involves being hired without your future employer knowing your name, age, gender or race - and sometimes even your educational background. 

‘Unconscious bias’

“The idea of a ‘blind’ application is that jobseekers’ personal identifiable information is removed to improve flawed hiring processes by assessing candidates on their suitability for the role,” says Deepa Somasundari, director of strategic projects at global job site Indeed

“The method has become more common because the reality for jobseekers is most are selected for interviews without much insight into their skills and qualifications and how they are relevant for the position they are being hired for.” 

As humans naturally prefer individuals they can relate to, this can lead to hiring people with similar backgrounds and reject those who differ - be that on race, gender, religion, sexuality, accent or address. 

According to researchers at Nuffield College's Centre for Social Investigation (CSI), British citizens from ethnic minority backgrounds have to send, on average, 60% more job applications to get a positive response from employers compared to their white counterparts. 

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“Our research shows almost half of jobseekers in the UK say they or someone they know has experienced human bias or discrimination in the recruitment process,” Somasundari explains. “These unconscious biases mean the odds are often stacked against the jobseeker from a very early stage.” 

In theory, then, blind-hiring may help level the playing field and give jobseekers an equal opportunity to showcase their qualifications. “Being objective in hiring is crucial in a tight labour market and benefits both jobseekers and helps employers by widening the talent pool and finding the true match for each role,” Somasundari adds. 

Whether blind hiring works for a company depends on the business, however. In some jobs, this type of recruitment may not work because it doesn’t allow the employer to see the candidate’s personality or character, which may be problematic. 

It’s also important to note that the blind hiring process doesn’t always work. Biases - whether conscious or unconscious - may still appear when the employer finally meets the applicant in question. This may mean strong candidates are rejected at the final hurdle in the application process, despite ticking all the boxes for the job.

Another argument against blind hiring is that it might not be as effective as we think.

A 2017 study conducted by the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government reported on an initiative by Australian Public Service to increase the number of women hired for senior roles by removing gender information from their applications.

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When a male name was added to a candidate’s application, the candidate was found to be 3.2% less likely to receive a job offer. When adding a female name to an application, however, the candidate was 2.9% more likely to receive an offer. 

As with all recruitment processes, there are limitations. But that isn’t to say blind hiring isn’t a step forward. “It’s important to remember that data-driven hiring like this does not signal the death-knell for tools like CVs and cover letters, which will remain part of a portfolio of data and insights about the jobseeker,” says Somasundari.