Should employers adopt anonymous recruitment policies?

March 1, 2016

By Brian Kreissl, Canadian HR Reporter |

I have read quite a few articles lately relating to anonymous recruitment policies in organizations. The idea is employers should remove names from job applications and resumés in order to mask the identity of applicants and reduce bias.

Several studies have found that racialized or ethnic minority job applicants may be disadvantaged in the job market simply because of their names. For example, studies in the United States have found people with stereotypically “white” names were more likely to get a call for an interview than those with names that were typically associated with people of African American descent.

A similar Canadian study conducted in 2011 by Diane Dechief and Philip Oreopoulos of the University of Toronto entitled “Why do some employers prefer to interview Matthew but not Samir?” found candidates with “English” sounding names were 35 per cent more likely to get called than those with Chinese or Indian names. A significant number of the recruiters who were interviewed as part of the study speculated this could be because applicants’ names may have signalled their possible lack of language or social skills to employers.

Eliminating racism and subconscious bias

Several studies and anecdotal evidence have suggested that so-called “name-blind” recruitment policies (not to be politically incorrect, but that’s what they are usually referred to as) can help to eliminate racism and subconscious bias in determining who warrants an initial call for a job interview or telephone prescreen. Similarly, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra found that gender diversity was greatly improved when they began auditioning musicians behind a screen, thus masking their gender, race, age and appearance from decision makers.

The U.K. civil service recently adopted a policy of anonymous recruitment for the first stage of screening. Details such as age, first and last name, preferred name, home and e-mail address, telephone number, nationality and immigration status are now concealed during the initial phase of recruitment. This helps to reduce bias not only with respect to race and ethnicity, but also in relation to age, gender and social class.

Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen wants Canada to adopt a similar policy, arguing name-blind recruitment policies would help end discrimination and promote equality. According to Hussen, “It is crucial that Canadians who have got the grades, skills, and the determination succeed.”

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