As soon as I read the definition of name-blind recruitment, or blind recruitment as I’ll call it from here on out, I knew I’d be a bit of a skeptic. Nonetheless, this form of recruitment is gaining momentum, so it’s worthy of discussion.
Blind recruitment is the practice of removing information that personally identifies you from your job application. Things that are often removed from a blind application include your name, gender, age, and education.
Immediately I’m wondering why on earth education would be removed from an application, considering the fact that you need B.Sc’s, B.A’s, PhD’s, A.B.C’s and the like to get most jobs nowadays. This does nothing for my skept-o-meter.
What could possibly be the driving force behind such an extreme vetting method for prospective employees?
Could it be the buzz-words of the day? Diversity? Political correctness? Government regulations?
You guessed it.
According to its champions, blind recruitment is supposed to reduce the chances for bias. The logic seems to be as follows:
Let’s say your name is Abu Dabi Won Kenobi. Your name makes you sound like a foreigner so obviously no one will be able to understand your weird accent and you can barely string a sentence together in English. Obviously.
Therefore, removing your name from your application supposedly removes potential bias.
Let’s say you’re fifty years old. I mean hey, you’ve got a year-round tan and a six-pack, but your birth certificate betrays you. Your age means you’re an old crud incapable of picking up new skills or technologies. Obviously.
Therefore, removing your age from your application supposedly removes potential bias.
Let’s say you’re a man. Well we all know white men are the most evil group of people in the entire world. They invented patriarchy. Or something. They’re always oppressing everybody around them, stepping on their toes and whatnot. Your gender means you’re an asshole and no one will want to hire you. Obviously.
Therefore, removing your gender from your application supposedly removes potential bias.
I think you’re getting the picture.
Can I do one more? Pretty please? Wait, I’m the writer, I don’t have to ask permission.
Let’s say you went to Oxford university. Well obviously you’re a rich snob who will stomp on anyone and anything in your master plan for world domination. Obviously. Your place of education means no one on earth will want to hire you. Who wants to work with an overly ambitious git? No one, that’s who.
Therefore, removing your education information from your application supposedly removes potential bias.
Snore. I think you get the drift.
Problems with blind applications:
- The biggest problem is removing education. Does this entail just the place of education? If it entails the type of qualification earned, then this is just silly. You need qualifications for many applications. If we remove all of this personally identifiable information, there simply isn’t much left in the CV. All that’s left is the covering letter, which would need to be signed ‘anonymous’ of course, a few paragraphs noting your experience, and perhaps your hobbies and interests. This is not enough information to determine whether you’re a good fit for the job.
- Problems of implementation. How on earth do you implement this insane idea? Do companies hire software developers just to create software that removes names? How on earth does a software developer create the rules for that? What happens if the software glitches and you see someone’s name? Does this mean their application is thrown in the bin? If not using software, who is the mysterious person who gets to see all of the applications before they go blind? Is this mysterious person involved in the recruitment process? Can they whisper secrets from the applications to their colleagues who only get to see the blind ones? As you can see, this strategy begs for disaster from the get-go.
- Sometimes you need bias. You need something to eliminate applicants. In the recruitment world, it’s no longer uncommon for over a thousand people to be applying for the same role. You are inevitably going to get applicants who have the same amount of experience. Sometimes you need the extra information! Sometimes you need to discriminate! If two applicants have exactly the same qualifications and experience, but one went to a technical institution and one went to Cambridge, who are you going to pick? The Cambridge one of course!
- There are already regulations about diversity in the workplace. The Equality Act brought out in 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Is this not quite an extensive list? Does this not cover all of the aspects that blind applications hope to?
What Companies Are Dumb Enough to Use it?
Companies that have committed to adopting a blind application policy include the BBC (no surprise there, eh?), HSBC, Deloitte, Clifford Chance (a law firm), and Compose Inc. (a cloud-storage firm).
Diversity Gone Mad
This latest fad is just another way of introducing more government regulations into the recruitment process. Sure, it’s an optional thing at the minute, but all of these diversity mandates start off like that. It reminds me of the Northern Ireland Police Service charade approximately a decade back. Oh wait now it’s the Police Service of Northern Ireland, that’s right. This is a funny story:
The P.S.N.I used to be called the Royal Ulster Constabulary or R.U.C for short. The diversity issue in Northern Ireland is most often regarding the Protestant/Catholic divide. People got their backs up about the R.U.C. ‘Royal’ symbolises allegiance to the Queen, which any self-respecting Irish Catholics/Nationalists/Republicans hate. Ulster symbolises…well, Ulster…the red hand and all that. Again, a touchy symbolic word. Also, for a long time the R.U.C had more Protestants than Catholics on the workforce. A good proportion more. Add in The Troubles and long story short, the R.U.C wasn’t known as an objective police force serving the common man.
It became better known as a queen-loving, colonisation supporting, Protestant majority organisation of bias. Hence, along comes the diversity trend. The R.U.C initially changed its name to the Northern Ireland Police Service. However, when it’s shortened it sounds dreadfully silly (NIPS, anyone?) so that’s how it came to be P.S.N.I. As well as the embarrassing name-change process, the now P.S.N.I also had to modify its recruitment methods in order to serve the never-satisfied God of diversity and equality. Hence, for a time it became a regulation that they had to hire 50% Catholic, 50% other.
The other group can be Protestants, Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, you name it, but there had to be 50% Catholic. Not a very clever way of balancing the scales, right? Now the running joke is that you needn’t bother applying to be in the police unless you’re a Catholic. What started as an admirable bid for an integrated police force ended up being yet another recruitment disaster.
My point? As soon as you become obsessed with diversity in the workplace, you lose sight of the important things like the best candidate for the job. The moment you introduce quotas you will inevitably start hiring to meet them, instead of hiring to increase the competitiveness of the company. Let’s face it, the world doesn’t spin on 50/50. Humans are complex. Trying to make every candidate fit into your diversity box simply doesn’t work. Diversity is all well and good, but let’s not copy the Americans and become so crazy about it that we start handing out participation trophies and patting each other on the back for achieving nothing aside from being alive and breathing.
Let’s keep competition in the workplace, where it belongs.
by Gillian Rixey
(Gillian is a PhD qualified freelance writer and scholar born in Ireland but currently residing in the United States.)