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Is Name-Blind Recruitment the Answer to Hiring Discrimination?

Posted by Eric Friedman

hiring discrimination eskill

Most hiring managers and recruiters have encountered some sort of hiring discrimination in their career. However, it is extremely hard to prove that this discrimination exists, especially in a court of law. Actions like unconscious bias often leave even the hiring manager or recruiter unaware that he or she is discriminating against a candidate. Name-blind applications as well as a handful of other strategies can be an effective strategy to lessen or even eliminate the likelihood of hiring discrimination when evaluating, sourcing, and viewing a candidate’s online profile and resume.

While the world has made huge strides toward equality, there are still pockets of discrimination to be dealt with. One of these rears its ugly head in hiring practices. A 2002 study titled Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that stereotypically white names elicited about 50 percent more callbacks from employers than African-American-sounding names after candidates responded to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago. The study used resumes with names of imaginary candidates.

4 Ways to Eliminate Discrimination in Hiring

  1. Name-blind applications
    Name-blind applications involve removing a candidate’s name from a resume, CV, or any other documents needed for a job application (e.g. letter of intent). This reduces both intentional or unconscious bias and discrimination from the beginning stages of the hiring process.Hiring managers and HR personnel can work to eliminate their own personal biases, but it may seem impossible to overcome the institutional bias that is built into many industries and individual companies. The UK is launching initiatives to eliminate this problem. British civil service hiring and the hiring at several major companies in Great Britain will soon be conducted with “name-blind” applications that do not reveal the candidate’s name or other identifying data.
  2. Add skills testing to the hiring process While removing names from resumes and applications can significantly reduce the potential for initial discrimination, it can cause the entire process to seem impersonal and make comparing the data difficult, especially when dealing with multiple candidates with equal qualifications. By giving your hiring team a set of objective criteria to make decisions from, you can still maintain your dedication to reducing discrimination.The factors involved in hiring discrimination are complex and varied. Minority and gender bias is often based on the idea that those being discriminated against may not be able to perform at the required level. While, logically, performance is an individual and not a class metric, this idea can be hard for many to set aside. Skills testing can demonstrate that candidates outside of the “normal” talent pool may, in fact, provide a higher level of performance and competency.
  3. Include objective data in the hiring and evaluation processBiases and emotions are reduced through the use of objective data, without the need for “retraining” or potentially shaming bad actors. Explanations, anecdotal evidence, and statistics can only somewhat correct a deeply held bias. Skills testing sets up an empirical mechanism that allows a direct comparison between candidates that, coupled with name-blind applications, allows hiring managers to make the most objective decisions possible.
  4. Include multiple managers as part of an applicant interview processWhile interviews will eventually reveal the identity of each candidate, which can allow biases to re-enter the process, collecting skills testing data each candidate’s capability and knowledge base enables interviews to become more objective. As long as humans remain a vital part of the hiring process, discrimination will always be a factor on some level. Include multiple hiring managers in the interview process with job seekers to provide multiple perspectives on each candidate. Facilitating a broader, less-biased approach to hiring lessens the impact of an individual hiring manager’s influence and reduces the risk of conscious and unconscious discrimination.

As HR and recruiting professionals, we have a responsibility to lessen and eliminate as much bias from the hiring process as possible by creating a level field for all candidates. Name-blind applications along with skills testing, objective data, and a standard interview process can promote equal hiring practices.

What are some of your strategies for decreasing the level of hiring discrimination in your company?

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About Eric Friedman


Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

3 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Selena B. December, 23, 2015

    In a world involved in a constant fight against discrimination, I am not surprised HR departments are encouraged to do their part and are given tools to help. Not having a name on an application will focus the recruiter on experience, achievements, and the candidate’s other merits. 

  • Kira M. December, 27, 2015

    Yes, I agree we should try processing the applications without the candidates’ names on them; combine that with a skills assessment test and you will have an accurate picture of a person’s qualities. As humans, we have our own perceptions, so doing an interview on your own might generate bias.

  • Reese J. December, 28, 2015

    If HR could combine your suggestions into one process, I am sure hiring discrimination will see an important decrease. We all talk about equality in chances, so this is not about the gender or the skin color of candidates, but about other assumptions we make upon seeing a name.


Guest December, 28, 2015