No matter how hard we may try, none of us are immune to unconscious bias. As humans, our brains are wired to process, identify, and categorize information in a split-second to help ensure our survival as a species.
And while we can’t blame ourselves for having unconscious bias, we can take steps to minimize its impact on our hiring process.
For example, say you interview someone who went to the same college as you. Due to the often unseen affinity bias, you might subconsciously view them as more skilled or as giving more relevant answers to your culture fit interview questions than another candidate who is just as (or maybe even more) qualified.
But hiring people who look or act just like us is simply bad for business. And from an employer branding perspective, it also doesn’t look great in the eyes of your customers and future candidates.
So how can you weed hiring bias out of your recruitment process?
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet. But there are some tools and tactics that can help, and one of those is blind hiring.
Table of contents
- How much awesome talent have you lost due to unconscious bias?
- What is blind hiring? What every employer should know
- Does blind hiring actually increase diversity?
- The pros and cons of blind hiring
- Other ways to improve your hiring process
- 5 simple tips to design your own blind hiring process
- How to create a blind hiring process with Breezy
How much awesome talent have you lost due to unconscious bias?
Research has shown that bias — both unconscious and conscious — can occur as early as the initial resume-screening phase.
From your recruiters to your hiring manager, assuming that every member of your hiring team is an actual human being, each one will inevitably bring their own biases to the hiring process.
Depending on the diversity (or lack thereof) of your hiring panel, this can create an uneven playing field when evaluating candidates, and can cause your organization to overlook some seriously stellar talent.
Here’s what just some of the data has to say about bias in the hiring process:
- A 2012 study by Yale University found that both male and female scientists who had taken a training course on how to hire objectively, in fact…failed to hire objectively. Even after hours of training, they still preferred to hire men over women and were willing to offer male candidates roughly $4,000 more per year in salary.
- In another seminal 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that hiring managers were twice as likely to hire a man than a woman.
- And according to a landmark study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, resumes with “white-sounding” names such as “Emily Walsh” and “Greg Baker” got nearly 50% more invitations to interview than those with “Black-sounding” names such as “Lakisha Washington” and “Jamal Jones”.
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hiring bias. And while we may never be able to completely eliminate it from our hiring processes, there’s clearly plenty of room to do better.
That’s where blind hiring enters the picture.
What is blind hiring? What every employer should know
Blind hiring – occasionally called blind resume screening – is a process in which an employer blocks out any information on a candidate’s resume or application that could influence or “bias” a hiring decision.
Examples could include the candidate’s:
- Gender identity
- Graduation year
The idea is that by removing the elements of a person’s resume that may be subject to preconceived notions of unconscious bias, employers and hiring managers can keep the focus on the candidate's relevant skills and work experience.
Blind hiring is typically used during the screening stage and in pre-employment testing and assessments and is usually done automatically via your applicant tracking system or other recruitment software. (More on that in a minute.)
The surprisingly musical origins of blind hiring 🎵
Believe it or not, blind hiring isn’t a recent invention.
It began in the 1970s when the New York Philharmonic was hit with a racial discrimination case.
After that, the Boston Symphony Orchestra began holding blind auditions in an attempt to diversify its cast. Musicians began to audition behind a curtain, so that the hiring panel couldn’t judge the performer on anything other than the strength of their skills.
In 1997, researchers from Harvard and Princeton noticed this approach and began to study the results. Their findings were promising.
Blind auditions increased the likelihood that a woman would be hired by up to 46%.
After decades of discrimination, female musicians began applying to orchestras in greater numbers nationwide. But of course, the story doesn’t end there.
Today, symphony orchestras across the US still struggle with diversity, which begs the question…
Does blind hiring actually increase diversity?
While employers should be cautioned that blind hiring is just one part of a more inclusive hiring process, a growing body of research and blind hiring statistics seems to suggest that it does help reduce hiring bias.
Household names like HSBC, Virgin Money, Deloitte, BBC, and Google have all implemented blind hiring practices to make sure they’re bringing on the best talent. And growing companies of all sizes are following suit.
Software company GapJumpers is credited with designing the first blind hiring software which hides candidates’ names, faces and personal information in the first round of resume screening. So far, they’ve seen some pretty promising results.
With blind hiring as part of the process, the chances of minority and female applicants being offered a first-round job interview increased by approximately 40%.
Of course, the software component is optional. Employers can always DIY their own blind hiring process.
For example, HR professionals at global advertising network FCB Worldwide Inc. decided to develop their own version of blind hiring by creating assessments to anonymously test a candidate’s technical skills.
As a result, FCB hired 19% more women and 38% more ethnically diverse candidates were invited for interviews.
Cindy Augustine, the company’s global chief talent officer was pleased with the results. “As an organization, we want to bring in a diverse group of job candidates,” she says. “We know diversity leads to creativity and innovation, which is why I love blind hiring. It takes a lot of subjectivity out of the selection process.”
The pros and cons of blind hiring
While blind hiring is clearly showing positive results for many organizations, it’s not a cure-all.
Here are some of the limitations to consider when it comes to blind hiring:
- By removing details that might indicate a candidate’s personality, it can be more difficult to assess culture fit or add.
- By blocking out details about a candidate’s background, it may be more difficult for hiring managers to ensure their team is actually representative of their consumer base and the total market of available talent.
- Even with basic details such as names and education removed from resumes and tests, some identity cues can still make their way through.
For example, something as seemingly insignificant as the area of the country where someone has lived and worked may be subject to unconscious bias.
Hello bias, my old friend: Other ways to improve your hiring process
Once you’re past the initial resume screening, biases still have plenty of opportunities to pop up — with the interview being an obvious one.
An anonymous written response is one way to conduct a blind interview, but it may not be as effective in picking up some of the more subtle communication skills and characteristics needed for certain roles.
That’s why it’s best to build inclusivity into every stage of your hiring process:
- Start with inclusive job descriptions - To position your job postings to attract the widest possible audience, remove gender-coded language and be intentional with your must-have vs. nice-to-have job requirements
- Standardize your interview questions - Using the same questions for every candidate helps keep a level playing field. Try a structured interview process and focus on using skills and talent-based questions, as opposed to background or education.
- Diversify your hiring staff - Flip affinity bias on its head by aiming for a mix of genders, cultures, and identities on your hiring panel.
Even if you only take the above three steps, you’ll be making major strides in removing bias from your hiring process. But you don’t have to stop there.
5 simple tips to design your own blind hiring process
1. Decide what you’ll redact
First, take time to decide what your hiring team does and doesn’t need to see.
This could depend partly on the diversity balance you’re aiming for. Do you want to improve diversity regarding your gender balance? Age diversity? Cultures and ethnicity? Again, there’s no wrong or right answer here — only what makes the most sense for your organization depending on your open role, goals and current diversity data.
Details that organizations often choose to block out include name, age, address, college and hobbies.
2. Choose your blind hiring tools
From deeply specialized blind hiring software to the simplicity of a black marker, when it comes to choosing a blind hiring method, you can be as technical or basic as you want.
Here are a few options:
- Select a blind hiring tool to do the hard work for you. You can integrate this with your other cloud based recruiting solutions to make the process of sending redacted resumes and anonymized skills assessments seamless.
- Create your own custom application form. To remove information you don’t want to see, you can create your own standardized application with fields just for relevant skills and experience.
- Break out the sharpie! If you don’t have the budget or capacity for any of the above, simply grab a black marker and ask a non-hiring team member to block out what you don’t want from printed resumes.
3. Consider a skills-based assessment
An easy way to shift the focus from gender, age, background, or other areas prone to bias, is to try a candidate skills assessment.
These are simple tests that assess candidates on their skills and knowledge in the pre-interview stage. Similar to other blind hiring tools, most of these will integrate seamlessly with the rest of your talent acquisition suite.
4. Train your hiring team
Make sure your hiring team is trained on which aspects of a candidate’s profile do and don’t matter to the role at hand. You can also train them to reduce hiring bias in other areas of the process too.
- Train hiring managers to write inclusive job descriptions and post them to diverse job boards.
- Appoint an objective individual to review your employer branding and job ads for any gender-coded or exclusionary language.
- Work with the hiring team to create a clear set of standardized interview questions.
5. Measure the results
Last but not least, you want to make sure your process is working.
Gather data on diversity demographics — age, race, gender of applicants, etc. With insights into how well you’re actually diversifying your workforce, you’ll be able to pinpoint the bottlenecks and continually improve your processes.
How to create a blind hiring process with Breezy
If you’re ready to automate your blind hiring process, Breezy’s got your back.
We’ve teamed up with Bryq to help you save time while making better hiring decisions.
With the integration activated, you can send Bryq assessment tests straight to candidates via Breezy and see the results right there on the candidate's profile.
Here’s how it works:
- First you’ll need to set up your own Bryq account.
- Once you’re set up, simply enable the integration.
- From there, you can choose to send an assessment manually or automatically.
- You’ll receive status updates as the candidate moves through the assessment..
- Once completed, you’ll be able to view the candidate’s full assessment. 🎉
Blind hiring is just one part of the puzzle
When implemented thoughtfully, blind hiring can help reduce bias at the initial screening stage and increase the diversity of candidates making it through to the interview. Ultimately, this should trickle down to making more diverse hires.
But as we’ve seen from both the history of blind hiring and the examples of companies currently using it, this tool is still just one part of the inclusive recruitment puzzle.
The good news is, implementing your own blind hiring process doesn’t have to mean overhauling your entire recruitment strategy. After all, all you really need is a black marker.
Just remember that even with the best intentions, bias can rear its ugly head later on in the hiring process, such as during the interview or when the time comes to make a fair job offer. By staying aware, focused, and committed to making your processes as inclusive as possible, you can reduce unconscious bias and continue hiring the best person for the job.