Kayla Heisler
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Do you want your company to hire more talented employees? Do you aim to increase your team’s diversity? Do you want to make your hiring process fairer to applicants overall? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to consider using blind hiring to acquire new talent. 

Even if your company has aspirations of creating a workplace that has employees who come from many walks of life, biases can be so firmly ingrained that they prevent the most skilled candidates from being offered employment. While we should all work to address our own unconscious biases individually, implementing structural changes that decrease the negative impacts of such biases is a crucial step to take toward creating a more equal work environment. 

What is blind hiring? 

Blind hiring is a process wherein some information is intentionally obscured from the person or people in charge of making the hiring decision. The idea is that by limiting opportunities for biases (conscious or unconscious) to influence hirers’ decisions, the hiring process becomes fairer because candidates aren’t judged by factors that aren’t relevant to the job. Pieces of information that may alert those who hire to an applicant’s gender, race, education or age are redacted in order to level the playing field for applicants. 

One historically significant instance of blind hiring occurred orchestras began using blind auditions to select members. Those auditioning had their identities obscured by a screen. In the 1970s, around 10 percent of orchestra members were women. After implementing bling auditions, the chance of women advancing to preliminary rounds increased by 50 percent, and by the mid-1990s, 35 percent of orchestra members were women.

Is blind recruitment effective?

People are more likely to hire those who have backgrounds that are similar to their own. Blind recruitment allows skills and experience to take precedence over personal circumstances. Attending the same university or university of a similar “caliber” as an employer can boost the chances of an applicant being chosen over someone else who has skills that exceed their own. Blind hiring platform GapJumpers discovered that more men raised concerns about blind testing than women did, and women and minorities were offered jobs about 40% more when blind recruitment was used.

3 blind hiring techniques that actually work.

Use performance-based challenges.

Having candidates complete tests that use the specific skills that are used for the exact position is important. One way this is extremely clear is in the orchestra example. If one specific skill is used for the job, then people don’t necessarily need to have gone to the top school, and their gender certainly should not be relevant. When playing with an orchestra, the most significant factor should be how a player sounds, so the primary skill that a candidate is asked to display should be their musical ability. If a candidate is applying for a job in IT, they could be asked to fix problems that commonly occur at the company.

Make providing work samples a requirement.

The best indication of seeing where someone will go is to see where they have been in the past. Careers that have a visual element such as graphic design or photography use portfolios to decide who to hire and these methods can be adapted for non-visually driven industries. Rather than only relying on applicants to say what they will do if hired, ask for work examples in the past. If the position requires leading team meetings, ask of agendas that were used. Reviewing performance evaluations or business proposals can create a more accurate picture of a candidate's capabilities.

Tell applicants to leave out identifying information.

Implementing this method has the bonus of double-checking who follows instructions. A simple way is to leave the fields off of an application all together is by using a digital system. If you call for resumes or CVs, clarify what information you would like to have left off of the application. 

Letting applicants know what should be left off also indicates to job-seekers what factors will not be taken into consideration during the search. Employers can have a person not directly involved in the hiring process double-check applications for anonymity, mark out names, and assign the applicants numbers to maintain the integrity of the process.  

3 positive effects of blind hiring.

1. Talent is more easily recognized: One of the biggest takeaways is that unconscious biases limit team talent because the most skilled or qualified applicants can be unintentionally shut out. Following an algorithm brings in candidates who are more likely to succeed after being hiring than when companies solely rely on human judgment. 

2. Candidates from unconventional backgrounds are able to shine: People change careers more frequently now than in the past, and this can lead to people of different ages moving around. Additionally, people who attended schools that are less impressive. Having ages hidden allows for people to have a better chance of being hired. Allowing skills to shine over other factors means that people who know what to do are more likely to be hired.    

3. Diversity is typically increased, and companies benefit: Studies confirm that companies benefit financially from increasing workplace diversity. University of  Chicago professor Cedric Herring found that companies who had the highest levels of racial diversity brought in almost 15 times more sales revenue than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity, and gender diversity accounted for a difference of $599.1 million in average sales revenue. When there are multiple perspectives at the table, the strategies are better.

Blind hiring metrics for diversity.

Company diversity often increases when blind hiring practices are implemented, which is a win-win for everyone. Getting more diverse people in the door isn’t where the game ends. Once candidates of different backgrounds are in the door, they still have to be properly supported. People of all levels should be aware of how to create a group that is both diverse and inclusive

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Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.