Blind Hiring: A How-To Guide To Reduce Bias & Increase Diversity

— June 8, 2017

The government of Canada recently made headlines for their blind hiring pilot project: removing candidates’ names before hiring managers review their applications.

blind hiring definition

Government officials state this blind hiring initiative is designed to “reduce unconscious bias” and “promote gender and ethnic equality.”

The original blind hiring experiments were conducted by orchestras when musicians started auditioning behind a screen to hide their gender.

This blind auditioning increased female musicians in the top symphony orchestras in the United States from less than 5% in 1970 to 25% in the 1990s.

To help you achieve similar goals for your recruiting, I’ve created this how-to guide on using blind hiring to reduce bias and increase diversity.

Blind hiring: A definition

Blind hiring is any technique that anonymizes or “blinds” demographic-related information about a candidate from the recruiter or hiring manager that can lead to bias.

We all have them – beliefs about what we think a good candidate is supposed to look like. The problem is that our unconscious bias about candidates’ age, gender, the school they attended and so on, can be discriminatory because these biases generally don’t correlate with actual performance.

Blind hiring can increase workplace diversity by allowing people to be more objective when evaluating a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and potential to succeed, free from biases of the candidate’s race, gender, age, and education level.

Here are three ways to add blind hiring to your recruitment process.

blind hiring techniques

Blind hiring technique #1: Blind candidate screening

Blind hiring at the screening stage starts by removing personal information from candidates’ profiles and resumes such as their names and photos.

Other personal details that can be removed is information that can reveal a candidate’s age and income level such as their graduation year, names of schools attended, and addresses.

Blind candidate screening has the potential to be an important strategy for increasing workplace diversity.

Research has found evidence of racial and gender bias during resume screening:

  • White-sounding names on resumes are 75% more likely to get an interview request than identical resumes with Asian names
  • White-sounding names on resumes are 50% more likely to get an interview request than identical resumes with black-sounding names
  • Resumes with male names are 40% more likely to get an interview request than similar resumes with female names

You’ll probably want to invest in recruiting software that anonymizes candidate resumes for you as it can be time-consuming or even impossible to do by yourself.

The key to effectively using blind resumes is overcoming our preference to put a “face” to the candidate. It feels strange not knowing what a candidate looks like before you decide to interview them because we’re so used to hiring someone because we “just know” he or she will be good in the role.

The problem with trusting our first impression is that it’s often based on some kind of unconscious bias we’ve built up over the years that unfortunately interferes with our ability to make good decisions about candidates.

Blind hiring technique #2: Blind pre-hire testing

The second blind hiring technique is anonymizing a pre-hire test of a candidate’s job-related skills and knowledge.

Examples of pre-hire tests include a mock cold prospecting email for hiring salespeople and a coding challenge for hiring software developers.

Another common pre-hire test is a personality assessment. Research has found that companies that use a personality assessment during their recruiting have more racially diverse workplaces.

An simple way to blind pre-hire tests is to assign anonymous candidate ids and remain “blind” to who the candidate is while scoring the assessment.

However, if you don’t use a third-party software or service that anonymizes and tests your candidates for you, it’ll be difficult to anonymize candidates yourself during a pre-hire assessment.

Blind hiring technique #3: Blind interviewing

Blinding an interview clearly poses the biggest technical challenge. Techniques for blind interviewing include an anonymized written Q&A or an anonymized interview conducted via chat.

However, it’s almost impossible to anonymize a person over the phone, during a video interview, or in person – unless you use a physical divider between the interviewer and the candidate, for example.

A question we need to ask ourselves is how useful are anonymous interviews for specific roles, especially for jobs that require a lot of on-the-phone and in-person personal interaction such as sales or customer service.

Blind hiring: Diversity metrics

To determine how successful your blind hiring is for increasing workplace diversity, you need to collect the right metrics.

The easiest way to do this is to focus on one demographic or group that you want to increase representation for in your recruiting.

  • Screening & shortlisting: stats on the diversity of your candidate shortlisting before and after blind screening
  • Testing: stats on the diversity of your candidates before and after blind pre-hire testing
  • Interviewing: stats on the diversity of your candidates before and after blind interviewing
  • Hiring: stats on the diversity of your new hires before and after blind hiring
  • Retention: stats on the diversity of your workforce before and after blind hiring

Blind hiring: 4 takeaways

  1. Blind hiring is any technique that anonymizes or “blinds” personal information that can lead to unconscious bias about the candidate.
  2. Blind hiring helps increase workplace diversity by allowing us to be more objective when evaluating a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and potential to succeed, free from biases about what a “good candidate” looks like (e.g., race, gender, age, education level)
  3. Currently, tools for blind screening and blind pre-hire testing exist, but whether we’ll ever see widespread adoption of blind interviewing remains to be seen.
  4. The success of your blind hiring program should be captured in metrics by measuring your diversity statistics for screening, shortlisting, testing, interviewing, hiring, and retention before and after.



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Author: Ji-A Min

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