Blind hiring is a process of removing any unnecessary identifying information about a candidate at all stages during the hiring process. When we review resumes, interview candidates, and make hiring decisions, we execute each step with implicit biases that can influence our final decision. Assigning someone to do an initial review and hide information like names and addresses before hiring managers begin evaluating can help create a fairer hiring process.
Understanding What Blind Hiring Is All About
The blind hiring process is any system that places “blinds” over certain information in a resume or application. It can also include some interviewing techniques that identify an applicant’s race, ethnicity, gender, or any identifying class, protected or otherwise. This form of identification could potentially pull attention away from the skill sets, relevant work experience, education, and other qualifications that help you determine whether or not your candidate is right for the job.
Let’s take a look at the most common hiring biases (which is what establishing blind hiring techniques during the applicant screening process can help us manage). For a quick look, here are the six most common biases in the workplace, all of which can potentially show themselves one way or another in the hiring process.
Each of these workplace biases can impact the decision-making process without the decision-maker knowing it. It is another reason why blind hiring processes are so important.
Blind hiring practices are not required by law. However, discriminating against job applicants, intended or unintended, is against the law in most cases. So, the reason blind hiring is more of a utilized tool these days is that it helps our minds focus on the facts of an applicant and mostly removes the other data that we should not (or do not need to) be using when making hiring decisions.
Here is an example of straightforward discrimination in the workplace resulting in unconscious bias by (in most cases) well-meaning hiring managers:
As these statistics from Harver show us, when considering gender, our biases, exercised through the resume and interviewing process, impact the results in how we hire new employees and build our teams for the future. This result not only hurts candidates, unfairly, but it negatively impacts the trajectory for success for our organizations.
How to Set Blinds for Each Stage in Place
As we take a step back to assess the hiring process at-large, we can see the opportunities for us to improve upon when looking to shore up, or create for the first time, our blind hiring practices or processes. This is how we have broken down the primary stages of a typical hiring process and the actions that can be taken within each phase:
1. Writing Job Descriptions and Employment Ads
How you write job descriptions and employment ads set the tone for the recruitment process in general. Thoughtfully reviewing this section will help create bias-free and inclusive language in these documents that will set you, and your candidates, up for success as the hiring process unfolds.
2. Reviewing Resumes & Applications
The resume reviewing process is the first real opportunity to assess individual candidates based on their skill sets, qualifications, and education. Blinding the resume review process can look different for each organization. The main point here is to develop blinds around identifying information such as the background, gender, name, education (dates and institution), age, personal interests, photos (which is not common in the US but is in some other countries), and so on. Here is an example that we like to share:
As you can see in this image, having your HR team, an administrator, or whoever receives the resumes initially manage the blinding phase is a nice way to initiate the desired blinds. Your HR team member can block out any areas of the resume that do not relate directly to the candidate’s work history, experience, and education. We recommend blacking out the text that needs to be kept from the team of resume reviewers (as opposed to just crossing it out).
The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers another perspective that is helpful. It is interesting how influential otherwise innocuous information can be, such as a candidate’s address, graduation year, and volunteer work.
3. Performing Pre-Employment Skill Assessment
Pre-employment testing can involve skill assessment testing and written behavior-based questions. It primarily depends on the type of role the candidate is applying for. It is important to seek professional guidance while developing your skill assessment tests. Although this goes without saying, if a skill assessment test is taken by one candidate, all candidates within the same hiring phase, for the same job opportunity, should also take the test.
Tip: Hiring managers should avoid looking at candidates’ LinkedIn and other social media accounts when considering who to interview. Although tempting, this defeats the point of blind hiring practices that hiring managers should follow.
4. Creating the Blind Interview Process
It is much more challenging to create blinds in the interview process. After all, the hiring supervisor needs to interview the candidate to see if there is a fit for the role.
We have a few suggestions to offer here, as it relates to using different methods and a team, as opposed to a single person, for interviewing and decision making. One way to create a blind interview process is to have a supervisor or another team member who isn’t involved in the hiring decision vet each candidate’s information. This person could also conduct the first interview.
This practice can be done with a couple of supervisors or team members, who can objectively interview candidates for another supervisor before the interview between the hiring supervisor and candidate. The logic is, if other supervisors approved the candidate to continue in the process, any unexplained or unjustified objection on behalf of the hiring supervisor (or any other single person) is more likely to raise suspicion or, at least, additional collective review, as the candidate is assessed for the job. Another helpful practice is to have phone interviews with candidates, as this provides some blinding-safeguards although is not perfect.
Make sure that you build in blinds during your interview process, including utilizing other supervisors as interviewers, who have no say in who gets hired, but who can help vet candidates. Phone screens which offer some blinding to candidates’ identities are also useful, but less reliable (for the blinds we are discussing).
5. Making the Final Hiring Decision
The hiring decision is, of course, the last step in the process. The play here is to review your pool of final candidates and to ensure, to the best degree possible, that your entire hiring process has been fair and equitable to all candidates.
Again, the best way to ensure that biases do not creep in even at this final stage, is to have a panel decide on who gets the job. If it works for your organization, make it a group consensus-vote and not a single hiring manager’s. We are not naive, we know that this process is not always possible, which is when we fall back on our bias-awareness training and mindset of the culture that we are trying to build of diversity and inclusivity (refer back to #1).
Recruiting & Pre-Employment Testing Software With Blind Hiring Features
Pre-employment testing can do wonderful things by way of breaking apart the qualified from the unqualified without allowing bias to creep into the process. Much of the time, organizations of all sizes utilize third-party resources, including recruiting software, etc., for this need.
There is a lot of software out there that is great for these ambitions, however, they all come with a cost. A couple that we can suggest include Woo whose platform parameters help match candidates to jobs and, for employers, pre-qualified candidates based on requirements of a specific job opening.
Another recruitment software option that we like is Applied. Applied heavily promotes its ability to help customers build unbiased, diverse teams for their companies. In fact, this is what one of its resource building pages on its website looks like:
These pre-employment tests do not have to be, and should not be, lengthy. If you are asking candidates 100 questions, then you are missing the point. Typically, there should be 10–25 questions on these tests (although there are always exceptions to this rule).
“Scientific performance prediction” is a fancy term for pre-employment testing that is bias-free but assesses the skills sets and, at times, the experience of candidates for your job opportunity.
These steps that we have laid out for you are essential to reaching your goal, which only works if it is sustained over time. Be sure to take the information within each of these five phases and employ them in your own diversity hiring program.
Does Blind Hiring Really Work?
It is truly difficult to track how bias and discrimination impact the workplace in their totality. There is an infamous New York Times article that reported how the Boston Symphony Orchestra used blind hiring practices to help diversify their orchestra in the early 1950s. The practice involved omitting all of the identifying features of applicants except their musical performance. This was essential for the Boston Symphony, who wanted to develop a rich diversity within their ranks. During this era, the large majority of orchestra members, within any symphony, were men.
Beyond the Boston Symphony’s leading example, there is a growing amount of research that shows that when companies successfully diversify their organizations, they become, as the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports, “…more innovative, as measured by product development, number of patents created and citations on patents.”
As this statistic shows us, at times bias takes hold of hiring practices within the entire workforce, regardless of level of profession or years of experience that candidates possess. Additionally, PWC also reports that women are 123% more likely to have experienced gender discrimination when applying or interviewing for a job. This is all the more reason to ensure that a blind hiring process is at least partially utilized in your own organization.
Referring back to our Boston Orchestra example and how blind interviewing changed its landscape, as the practice unfolded over time, Harvard and Princeton Universities each found that the blinds that were placed within the interviewing process increased the chances of women being hired by 25% to 46%.
Cornell University research shows us that many European countries, including Sweden, France, and Germany, suggest that anonymous (or blind) approaches to reviewing resumes lead to more equal outcomes among people groups within the initial phase of candidate selection.
Research has been reported by Science Daily which shows us that for every 1% increase in workplace racial diversity there is an increase of 9% in sales revenue. This is important since as small as a difference of 1% can help a company perform better (which is additional motivation). This means your blind hiring process does not have to be perfect.
Additionally, Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) also reports its findings of organizations that employ blind hiring techniques in their hiring process.
- 50% increase in call-backs for ethnic minorities
- 58% increase in gender diversity at the interview phase of hiring
- 30% increase in ethnic diversity hiring
Blind hiring can work effectively, although it is not going to close all the doors to possible bias-ladened decisions. The effort is worth it, though, partially as it relates to how you desire to position your company brand for future growth.
Finally, we want to give you a heads-up on this topic. The term “blind hiring” is going to be a buzz term that you will hear more and more about in the months and years to come. Be careful to not dismiss the attention this concept is beginning to receive. It is important—not only because it is a fairer, equitable process for all qualified candidates, but because, as we have shared, it points to an opportunity for you to build a stronger, more engaging, and (yes) more profitable organization over the long term.
Blind hiring does not mean hiring just anyone; it refers to hiring the best person for your job based on the candidate’s qualities that matter and not the characteristics that don’t.