Why recruiters make the best hires blindfolded

The answer to improved business performance might just lie in blind recruitment.

More organisations around the world are now adopting blind recruitment in an effort to help eliminate unconscious bias when screening candidates,

Unconscious bias, according to the latest edition of the Hays Journal, can lead to lower workplace diversity.

Blind recruitment typically involves omitting personally identifiable information, such as name, gender, age and education, from applicant CVs.

In the process, unconscious bias is removed or minimised during the recruitment process, Hays found.

Unconscious bias does not discriminate

That’s because everyone has unconscious bias, says Yvonne Smyth, Head of Diversity at Hays.

“At its most basic, it is about whether you see someone as part of your ‘in group’. For example, do you have a Caucasian sounding name, as I do? Did you go to the same university as me?,” she says.

“However, when it comes to any kind of selection at key points in careers, which could be recruitment, promotion, being put forward for a new project, even giving feedback, this can influence the shape of someone’s career and the opportunities they have.”

Lynne Roeder, Managing Director of Hays in Singapore, says blind recruitment can improve workforce diversity, and boost an organisation’s brand since jobseekers feel they are better able to showcase their strengths in an interview.

She adds that if organisations are to maximise the benefits of a blind recruitment strategy, managers need to be aware of their own unconscious biases and, through training, learn to recognise and better manage them at key points of judgement and selection.

Where it all started

One of the earliest examples of blind recruitment in action actually took place in 1980 in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which, up until then, was comprised almost entirely of white male musicians.

Recognising that they had a diversity problem, the orchestra tried a different approach to auditioning new members.

The recruitment panel sat behind a screen so they could only hear the music of those auditioning for the orchestra. They could no longer see them. They even put carpet down so that high heels could not be heard.

This resulted in a previously all-white, male ensemble becoming a near 50-50 split of male and female, with a lot more diversity and the sound they wanted for their orchestra.

Diversity leads to greater business performance

Organisations, too, are increasingly aware that businesses with more diverse workforces outperform their less diverse competitors.

McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity and ethnic minority board representation became 15% and 35% more likely, respectively, to financially outperform those in the bottom quartile.

A 2012 Deloitte study also found an 80% improvement in business performance when levels of diversity and inclusion were high.

But Smyth warns that blind recruitment is not a miraculous solution to all diversity challenges.

“Generally speaking, making CVs more blind than they currently are is a good thing because it does help mitigate bias,” she states.

“However, blind recruitment is not a silver bullet, neither absolutely right nor absolutely wrong. It is a tool that you can use to create a level playing field, so use it, but use it with caution.”

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