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Name-Blind Recruitment and Unconscious Bias: An Evaluation

Name-Blind Recruitment and Unconscious Bias: An Evaluation

Blind Recruitment and Unconscious Bias: An Evaluation

Over the past decade, a new recruitment style has boomed and is being used by numerous companies and organisations [including the UK government] and that is blind recruitment. This blog will be broken down into the following sections:

  1. What is blind recruitment, and what is its purpose?
  2. What is unconscious bias?
  3. An evaluation of the technique, what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Here at DJM, we strive to make our content as accessible as possible, so this blog will also be available as a podcast on our website for those who need or prefer to listen to audio content. The podcast will be released later this week!

All the articles or reports that have been used throughout this blog post will be referenced will be linked throughout.


What is blind recruitment, and what is its purpose?

Blind recruitment is the process of removing all identifying factors from a candidate’s application to a vacancy. So, protected characteristics such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, marital status, age, address, name, experience, and educational institutions you attended [just to say a few] are mitigated from the recruiter’s view. The only details they can see is what education you have completed [without listing the organisation] and what experience you had prior to applying for the vacancy.

What is the purpose of this?

The main reason why organisations are turning to blind recruitment is to tackle unconscious bias and remain objective. Recruiters want to ensure that their decision making for vacancies is clearly focused on the types of skills and qualifications that would benefit the role. This allows all candidates who apply to be fairly considered for a role without any agendas, criteria or biases possibly getting in the way. As candidates are only screened for their experience, educational or otherwise- blind recruitment is an opportunity to hire under-represented candidates in their industry or field. An added benefit is that blind recruitment removes the possibility of candidates being ‘a diversity hire’ as their details are redacted from recruiters’ view, so a recruiter cannot knowingly pick a candidate to fulfil a quota. So, as it stands, there seems to be a lot of benefits to blind recruitment initiatives.

Beyond the reasons that have already been stated, why is blind recruitment useful?

In 2017, a UK study revealed that 32% of HR managers felt confident that they were not prejudiced in any way when hiring new staff. 48% admitted that bias affects their candidate choice, and 20% couldn’t be sure if they were biased or not [CIPHR]. Before 2017, a study was conducted by leading academics across various Russell Group universities about graduate hiring and employment opportunities. Vikki Boliver, senior lecturer in sociology at Durham University, suggested that 36% of ethnic minority applicants from 2010 to 2012 had received places, compared with 55% of white applicants [BBC NEWS]. After other universities conducted more research, David Cameron announced that: UCAS, [specific graduate], apprentice level, civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, KPMG, HSBC, Deloitte, and Virgin Money positions will all follow the name-blind recruitment procedure [BBC NEWS].

One of the main reasons name-blind recruitment procedures have been put in place is to mitigate bias during the hiring process. One of the things that blind recruitment helps with is bias, whether it be unconscious or conscious.


Conscious and Unconscious Bias: what is it, and how can we recognise or stop it?

One form of bias that is overt is conscious bias. This form of discrimination is based on explicitly rejecting a candidate for a position based on specific characteristics. This can range from picking candidates from specific educational institutions, younger ages and specific ethnicities and nationalities. It has also been reported that individuals with more foreign-sounding names are less likely to be hired. In instances of conscious bias, the recruiter or manager should be removed from the hiring process. They should be trained in a manner that helps mitigate any influence of bias throughout the hiring process. If these interventions are not successful, organisations and companies should consider implementing blind recruitment strategies to reduce any impact of prejudice further and focus on evaluating the merit of a candidate alone.

We’ve discussed conscious bias, so what is the difference with unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias in the context of recruitment and hiring is the belief that you are entirely impartial and objective when screening candidates. However, whether a recruiter recognises it or not, there may be thoughts or influences that affect how you approach a candidate and their background. Often with unconscious bias, recruiters are unaware of the influences as often they tend to be small. Nevertheless, this has an important impact on a candidate’s chances of getting a job. 

An evaluation of blind recruitment

Throughout this article, the many benefits of blind recruitment have been discussed. This technique poses many advantages to account for unconscious biases, yet an organisation or company should always consider the ramifications of a process. For blind recruitment, one of the biggest ones is, masking or hiding identity to contest any unconscious biases. Furthermore, blind recruitment realistically accounts for the first stage of the application process. Further along in assessment centres or face to face interviews, unconscious bias can once again resurface. This list is short but not exhaustive, and there are many reasons why companies choose to implement blind recruitment strategies or not. It will have much to do with company values and policies and what equality and diversity mean to them as an organisation.


To conclude…

It is always important to holistically assess a strategy to see if it is the best hiring technique for your organisation or company. One of the best ways to d [ as mentioned above] is to outline what diversity, inclusion and equality mean to an organisation, and from there decide whether it is best to hide personal details while candidates are screened or not. Furthermore, HR departments should be screened and tested for unconscious biases, making them more aware of their affinity towards certain aspects.


*All of the sources that have been references throughout this blog post have been cited in the text and have been hyperlinked for your accessibility. We do not own the content cited but are referencing it to contextualise the article.