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By July 30, 2015September 17th, 2015Blog

The biggest problem with hiring is that people are hiring people. Too often our internal biases get in the way and we ignore a quality candidate because we are not familiar or comfortable with their “type of person.” As a result, we get problematic diversity issues in the workforce.

We know that there are not enough women in managerial positions. We also know that organizations use best practices such as“cultural fit” as a way to NOT diversify their staffs. It seems that as a society no matter how hard we try, or think we try, we still get headlines like this:

“Do job-seekers with ‘white’ names get more callbacks than ‘black’ names?”

(The answer by the way is “Yes.”)

Is a radical solution needed? Maybe.

Then again, it appears that the solution has been around for decades but most employers have not yet considered it as a strategy.

Blind Auditioning

Many are familiar with a study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 1997 about how blind auditioning is credited with increasing the number of female musicians in orchestras around the U.S. And thanks to television shows like The Voice, many more are familiar with the practice of blind auditioning.

Here is the back story.

Forty years ago the top five orchestras in the U.S. had fewer than 5 percent women. By the 1980’s the numbers had improved but still these top orchestras had only 10 percent female musicians. But by 1997 they had jumped to 25 percent and today some of them are well into the 30 percent range.

What happened? Why the change? Did the ladies suddenly up their game and become better flutists? 

The orchestra community had identified their gender problem and created a solution – the blind audition.

Traditionally, judges at auditions were mostly men and they were selecting men during auditions for employment in their orchestras. 

So how do you fight that natural – if not sometimes overt – bias? You create a blind audition – a situation where the judges cannot see the musician but can only hear them. The results were immediate. 

Researchers have determined that this step alone makes it 50% more likely that a woman will advance to the finals of an audition. And the blind auditions have also been demonstrated to be the source of a surge in the number of women being offered orchestral positions.

So the question should be asked, can the blind audition be implemented else-where in the workforce?

The answer is “it has.” And we are not talking about applicant tracking software.

Anonymous Recruitment

The idea of anonymous recruitment is not new, but today’s technology is making it easier and more available.

Phil Johnson wrote recently about the British IT firm Bytemark Hosting. In 2013 Bytemark decided to make a serious effort to obtain more female employees. Their final solution is a four step hiring process where the candidates are completely anonymous until the in-person interview.

  1. An online application form, in which no name or resume is given. Instead applicants pick an anonymous handle and provide a list of their best skills and why they think they’d be good for the job.
  2. An initial interview, done anonymously via online chat with no talk of job history or personal specifics.
  3. A skills evaluation, again done online and anonymously.
  4. An in-person interview, which is (obviously) not anonymous.

Bytemark’s program is new and it is too early to gage their success. But Johnson writes that there is good empirical evidence that Bytemark is on the right track.

There’s hard evidence to support the notion that Bytemark’s approach can help generate a more diverse applicant pool. In a review of empirical studies on the effect of anonymous hiring processes in a number of European countries in 2010, Ulf Rinne of IZA World of Labor wrote that “discrimination appears to be strongest at the time when employers decide whom to interview.” Rinne found that the use of anonymous application forms are particularly effective at encouraging a more diverse set of applicants, and that anonymous hiring generally led to more minorities and women getting called in for interviews. The overall effect on who gets hired is still in question, since discrimination can still occur at the in-person interview stage.

So it appears that a solution to some of our diversity issues in the workplace is in practice in small pockets around the globe and in certain sectors. We can only hope that the practices will be refined and implemented at more employers as quickly as possible.

Other articles about anonymous hiring:

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