A Crash Course on Blind Hiring: Everything a Recruiter Needs to Know

There’s no question that gender, racial, and social bias impact the hiring process. Even in today’s relatively inclusive era, implicit biases hinder an applicant’s chances of being recruited for a job.

Yet, times are starting to change. Because companies are addressing the need for more diverse recruitment.

A good example of this is the increasingly popular ‘blind hiring’ process – the hows and whys, and the pros and cons of which this article will focus on.

Blind Hiring: How It Works

By extracting demographic data during the recruitment process, blind hiring eliminates unconscious bias, helping a company or organization take a big step towards a more diverse workforce.

Sure, you may be skeptical. After all, research has long suggested that, in the United States, candidates who have ‘white-sounding’ names tend to get called back for available jobs much more often than those with ‘black-sounding’ names.

So, can a ‘blind’ recruitment process achieve what’s never been achieved before? Especially in a business world that, more than ever, is prioritizing workforce efficiency and quality assurance? (See Dialpad explain quality assurance here.)

Well, recruiters appear to have faith in blind hiring. Its ever-growing popularity is testament to that. Besides, to achieve equity in the workplace, the status quo needs shaking up.

Employees talking at a table 1

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

The evidence here is stark. According to Mercer’s 2020 report “Let’s Get Real About Equality”, racial diversity in the US workplace lags behind that of the population – and gets worse the further up the leadership ladder you go (see chart below).

Overall, 60% of the US population is white, 18% Hispanic/ Latino, and 13% black. Among support/operational staff, the spread, however, is 64% white, 12% Hispanic/ Latino, and 10% black.

Meanwhile, among professionals, it’s 72% white, 7% Hispanic/ Latino, and 6% black. The diversity among managers, senior managers and executives is even worse.

So, it’s hardly surprising that for diversity-driven recruitment, especially blind hiring, things are only moving in one direction.

Employee distribution graph

Image sourced from mercer.com

Blind Hiring: How It’s Done

To reap the most benefits from blind hiring, it’s vital to understand how to put it into practice.

As an example, say the manager of a call center wants to ensure they get the best personnel possible through the door and, therefore, wants to use blind hiring to improve call center efficiency. How would they go about it?

1.   Seek Diverse Applicants

First, so they’re able to choose from the most diverse applicant base possible, the onus is on the recruiter to create that diverse applicant base. Job ads, therefore, need to feature fully inclusive language and terminology.

2.   Anonymize Applications

Once the recruiter has received responses from applicants, they should seek out a colleague uninvolved in the hiring process and unengaged with any team the successful applicant will work with.

This colleague will then sort through the resumés and filter out any personality-identifying details in them. Alternatively, effective recruitment CRM software can be used for this anonymizing task.

To clarify, it requires retaining pertinent facts about work experience, skills, and certifications, while extracting details that could lead to unconscious bias, such as: 

  • name of candidate
  • age
  • address (including zip code)
  • gender status
  • education (school and GPA)
  • personal interests

3.   Screen Candidates

Having converted the resumés into ‘blind applicants’, the recruiter moves on to candidate screening.

This is where skill assessments come in. When conducted in a controlled manner, such tests enable applicants to demonstrate their abilities without fear of unconscious bias torpedoing their chances.

To make this process seamless for both your team and candidates, consider implementing recruiting automation tools. These are hugely beneficial for screening, but can also be useful throughout the hiring process, from interview stage to onboarding new placements.

4.   Interview Remaining Candidates

The final stage is interviewing. This, of course, involves obscuring the identity of each candidate.

So, a ‘blind interview’ may be a non-in-person or non-live interview (via an anonymized Q&A) or one that ensures the candidate remains anonymous thanks to technology.

Such a platform as interviewing.io, which enables instant messaging chat and/ or the masking of voices, might be deployed here.

Men shaking hands

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

The Benefits of Blind Hiring

Blind hiring can be a very effective, diversity-friendly recruitment tool for a range of reasons – let’s explore some of the main ones.

1.   It Focuses on Skills

In sidestepping unwitting bias, blind hiring can separate the wheat from the chaff, skill- and talent-wise. This, in turn, helps establish which applicants have the best skill sets, irrespective of their demographic background.

For instance, blind hiring may be ideal for, say, a recently launched digital design company, which might have a new Only Domains name but little employee culture to worry about, so it can prioritize recruiting the finest website designer to establish its reputation, as soon as possible.

In fact, so effective can blind hiring be, it’s been synonymous with breaking candidate searches down to the bare bones of simply ‘who’s best for the job?’ for several decades now.

In part, this is because it’s been famously used by symphony orchestras from the 1970s onwards to establish better equity among orchestra members. Specifically, it’s been deployed to hide the gender and racial identity of musicians during preliminary auditions.

2.   It Promotes More Fact-Based Hires

The recruitment process has long seen managers going with their gut rather than predominantly making decisions based on the facts.

As noted above, a big benefit of blind hiring is that it aids recruiters in honing in on the best candidates according to talent and skills. That is, it helps focus candidate searches on facts.

Now, some degree of effective management comes down to getting the most out of people by understanding and interacting with them on a human level. Deploying emotional intelligence, if you will.

However, it takes time to get to know and “read” employees, which obviously isn’t possible in most recruitment processes because the interaction between recruiters and applicants tends to be limited.

Therefore, it’s often too easy for recruiters to get it wrong when they go with their gut instead of basing their hiring decisions on the cold, hard facts in candidate resumés and references.

Blind hiring, then, reduces the likelihood of recruiters picking applicants they’re drawn to because they like them (which can, of course, involve unconscious bias) instead of picking them on sheer suitability for the job.

3.   It Is Better Suited to Hiring Remote Workers

If ability alone is deemed the most important commodity in a candidate, then blind hiring is usually a very effective recruitment tool.

Indeed, this tends to be the case when recruiting a remote worker, a position where fitting into and contributing to an office-based company culture takes a backseat to first-rate competence.

We’re talking the likes of software designers and developers, scientists, AI engineers, and creatives here. It’s the skill set that’s the deal-breaker for these roles, not personality.

Woman working on her tablet

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

The Drawbacks of Blind Hiring

Now, while blind hiring undoubtedly offers benefits, it may not always prove the right recruitment solution. Let’s find out why.

1.   It Doesn’t Fix All Diversity Issues

Blind hiring shouldn’t be deployed on its own to fill an organization with a more diverse workforce. It helps here, for sure, but it doesn’t fix everything.

In stark terms, blind hiring is effective in getting more women, LGBTQ+ hires, and people of color into an organization, but can’t ensure their inclusion thereafter.

Solving the wider inclusion issue among a diverse workforce requires focusing on pre-existing things like company culture, workplace behavior, and structural barriers.

Succeeding here may require a business to audit its culture and leadership – perhaps even encourage employees to engage in internal audit control – because recruitment only achieves so much alone.

2.   It Draws the Focus Away from Personality

While blind hiring may be great for recruiting remote workers, when getting in people who fit in within an established company culture with lots of camaraderie, it’s unlikely to prove a winner.

In this scenario, what matters is that blind hiring takes out of the equation someone’s personality traits, background, and interests – the things that become very important when team interaction is far more substantial than just weekly browser calls.

Because reducing the recruitment process to facts and figures hinders it in predicting whether a candidate will fit snugly into a team and not disrupt its harmony.

Blind hiring simply isn’t the answer when people get along so they work well together in a team – when close collaboration and peer-to-peer recognition thrives – is an important component.

3.   It Is Not Suited for Quick Recruitment

The last thing a recruiter wants is to lose out on a prized candidate because, due to the length of the hiring process, the applicant’s been snapped up by another employer.

When executed correctly, a blind hiring process is comprehensive and can add to a recruitment process’s duration.

In fact, arguably the biggest problem this creates is extra costs. The longer the hiring process, the more it affects the bottom line.

Indeed, according to recent data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), filling a vacant role tends to cost companies, on average, more than $4,500.

No business can afford, therefore, to justify wasting money on recruiting, irrespective of whether implementing blind hiring practices is ethically virtuous.

The cold, hard reality of business simply means blind hiring isn’t always viable – in fact, some companies may instead choose to invest in employee development.

We are hiring sign

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

Final Thoughts: Blind Hiring Isn’t Perfect, But It Works

When it’s correctly deployed, blind hiring can help to tip the scales in favor of more diversely balanced workforces.

It’s not the end-game here, however. For workforces and their management to become truly diverse, structural and cultural changes must be adopted and adhered to. Diversity-driven recruitment is only the first step on this journey.

Moreover, blind hiring only works when it’s an appropriate, realistic recruitment solution. When trying to put together or supplement personnel teams of millennial workers that gel thanks to cultural and social ties, blind hiring simply isn’t the answer. However, as a part of a toolkit that can overhaul workplaces, ensuring they reflect the look and values of the 21st Century, blind hiring will prove invaluable in the challenge of making workforces more diverse, today and in the future.

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