Boost Your Diversity Dividend with Blind Hiring

I have been headhunted throughout my career. Ironically, though, I was never successful when I applied directly for an opening in a company. In fact, I was once headhunted to a role for which I had previously applied directly, and been rejected.

There are many other candidates like me who have struggled with unconscious bias. And the market, too, suffers from it; the existing pipeline has hardly realized its full potential because certain groups of candidates, especially women or those with foreign names, do not realize why their CV did not get to the top of the pile. And many of them end up doing jobs or moving sectors where they have no inherent passion. This doesn’t have to happen.

Enter blind hiring — behavioral science tactics used to tackle unconscious bias in the initial stages of recruitment process. It helps the screening process to be bias-free, so that when it comes to the interview stage, you have the best candidates in the mix.

When you sift through 750 CVs to determine whom to call for interview, it’s common for names like Jasmine, Abdul, McGuiness or Jose to trigger an unconscious bias. That is quite human. Even the most progressive CEO cannot micro-manage such tendencies away; thus, the issue needs to be tackled on a process level.

Thought leaders need no statistics to understand the need to put in place blind hiring, but for those who are looking for evidence, I offer these statistics of the results realized with blind hiring:

  • 30% increase in university representation
  • 50% increase in call-backs for ethnic minorities — avoids self-exclusion
  • 58% increase in gender diversity at interview stages
  • 30% increase in ethnic diversity hiring

“Blind hiring may protect you against the common failing where you continually employ people who ‘look the part,’” said Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy and co-founder of its behavioral science practice. “Doing this is a natural defensive instinct in decision-making, since the less eccentric your hire seems, the less you are blamed if the decision doesn’t work out. But, overall, this comes at the high price of never hiring anyone truly remarkable.”

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Measured Approach

One key thing for hiring professionals to note is that implementing a blind hiring initiative using half measures often backfires. A lean implementation of blind hiring could potentially give you wrong results despite ticking boxes. For example, a process that anonymizes resumes might not be enough, but neutralizing the language of cover letters or other candidate responses would make it more effective. Even replacing a CV-based approach with questionnaires needs to be well-considered to ensure the new methodology does not self-exclude candidates. It is also important to say that any technique to standardize CVs can be highly effective in the process of creating a level playing field.

Overcoming Inertia

There seems to be a constant struggle for organizations to initiate a change.

According to McKinsey analysis, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform the national industry median, while ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to do so. But there is no shortcut to success. If you don’t change now, you are one to two years away from that diversity dividend.

If you are thinking of blind hiring, here are some action points:

  • Create an internal stakeholder committee on the initiative.
  • Identify a scalable technology that is close to the as-is process and have abilities to standardize and neutralize CVs (as well as other user contents).
  • Let your job seekers know about the initiative.
  • Provide unconscious bias training to your hiring managers.
  • Monitor the progress.

In this increasingly connected and diverse world, blind hiring plays an important role in the recruitment process. It helps with talent attraction, employer branding, tackling of bias and, more importantly, improves your investability ratings.

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Biju Menon

Biju Menon
Biju Menon is CEO of Nottx, the blind hiring platform.

Biju Menon

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