Is “Blind Recruiting” the Hiring Practice of the Future?

March 8, 2016




One of our missions on the Argentus blog is to stay up to date with trends in the world of recruitment – to educate ourselves and our readers about emerging issues and developments in hiring. In the fall, we wrote about why skilled immigrants are key to the future of Canada’s economy in general and (relevant to us at Argentus) the field of Supply Chain in particular. There’s an emerging talent deficit in the field, and the arrival of skilled immigrants with valuable global experience represents an opportunity for companies to bridge the talent gap as the baby boomer generation retires and Supply Chain’s strategic role in business evolves. Part of this effort, though, requires companies and hiring managers moving beyond implicit biases that privilege Canadian experience – both work and otherwise – over the experience that skilled immigrants bring to the table.

Last week, a CBC report related to this topic caught our eye. The Marketplace report, titled, Could a “Blind Recruitment” Policy Make Canada Less Racist? discussed the emerging popularity of “blind recruitment” abroad, and in certain local contexts, and tried to assess whether it makes sense in the wider Canadian hiring market.

The report, which was based on a year of detailed investigations, cites studies and anecdotal evidence about discrimination against candidates with “ethnic-sounding” names for job opportunities. According to a 2004 study cited in the report, resumes in the U.S. with white-sounding names got 50% more callbacks on average than resumes that sounded African-American. And a 2011 Canadian study cited in the report found that job applicants with white-sounding names were 35% more likely to receive a callback than individuals with Chinese or Indian-sounding names. And that’s in Canada’s most-diverse, large cities. The report goes on to quote students who outline how common it is for their peers to shorten or change their names when sending job applications in an attempt to overcome this bias. It’s a sad state of affairs, even though the hiring market has made strides in diversity over the last few years.

The solution? “Blind Recruiting:” the practice of removing a candidate’s name from a resume so that the hiring manager is less likely to be influenced by ethnic or other biases, even unconscious ones, when making an assessment of a candidate’s suitability for a role.

As an example, the report cites a relatively longstanding practice in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra of literal blind recruitment: since 1980, prospective musicians have auditioned behind screens, and the symphony has even put down carpets to mask the sound of high heels. The result? The formerly white male dominated orchestra is almost half female, with more musicians from a diversity of backgrounds.

According to the CBC report, Britain adopted a blind recruitment policy – the removal of names from resumes — for its civil service in 2015. And there’s data to suggest that a blind recruitment policy could help make Canada’s civil service more equitable: “While visible minorities make up almost 20% of Canada’s population, the civil service is less diverse at only 14 per cent, according to 2013 data.”

In our opinion, Canada is more progressive than many countries when it comes to acceptance of immigrants and hiring discrimination, but there’s always more that can be done to improve the state of affairs when it comes to hiring diverse teams. And this report has us thinking about instituting a blind recruitment policy in our recruitment practice.

Recruiters do in some cases send resumes and candidate profiles to companies with the candidate’s name removed, but this has generally been more out of a practical desire for candidate confidentiality than an overt effort to stem discrimination in hiring. But we’d be curious to see if a “blind recruiting” policy would lead to an increase in diverse candidates being accepted for job interviews.

Anecdotally, it’s worth mentioning that in our recruitment practice clients are very interested in hiring candidates of diverse backgrounds, and our experience has shown us that our clients are primarily interested in skills and experience – we haven’t noticed examples of overt discrimination from our clients, and candidates of diverse backgrounds are typically just as successful as those with “white”-sounding names. The main related issue that impacts our experience is the fact that many companies still insist on “Canadian experience” from foreign-born applicants, despite the fact that more and more companies are recognizing the value of international experience at multinational companies, especially in a field as globally-focused at Supply Chain.

Still, we know that hiring in general does have biases built into it. And the point of the Marketplace investigation, and “blind recruitment” policies, is to interrogate and break down the ways that biases subconsciously impact hiring decisions, despite best intentions.

So maybe it’s worth recruiters giving ‘blind” recruitment another look.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments! favicon

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