Unconscious bias in the hiring process can limit your ability to hire female candidates and candidates from underrepresented groups. Without even realizing it, recruiters and hiring managers can form opinions and judgments about candidates based on their name, address, or even the non-work activities listed on their resume. 

However, by practicing blind hiring, you may be able to remove the bias and focus more on candidate skills and work experience.

What Is Blind Hiring?

Though the term “blind” in blind hiring may be somewhat misleading, blind hiring is not a random or uninformed process. It refers to the removal of identifying candidate demographic information from the selection and hiring process. By hiding references to a candidate’s age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or other identifying factors, blind hiring seeks to eliminate unconscious bias and increase equity in hiring.

Blind hiring is not a fad, but rather a recruiting practice already adopted by many organizations, including Deloitte, Mozilla, Nike, and several global law firms. The practice is also not new. It started with symphony orchestras in the 1970s, who began conducting auditions behind screens to conceal musicians’ gender. The result was a 30 percent increase in the proportion of female musicians being hired into orchestras. 

Today, blind hiring can be a game-changing element of your recruiting strategy to help your organization build more equity and diversity into the hiring process.

How Blind Hiring Can Help Your Organization

The challenging aspect of unconscious bias is the “unconscious” part. Unintentional discrimination happens in your hiring process without your having a full awareness of its existence or impact. In fact, bias can occur in any organization. A recent Deloitte study revealed that 64 percent of surveyed employees from multiple industries said they had witnessed or experienced bias at work. 

By practicing blind hiring as a tool for reducing bias in the hiring process, you can increase the chances of having a broader pool of candidates at the offer stage. And, as the number of diverse hires increases, your organization can realize the benefits of a diverse workforce, such as:

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Five Blind Hiring Practices to Reduce Bias in Your Hiring Process

Research shows that unconscious bias still exists in the hiring process, but when less is known about a candidate’s race, ethnicity, or gender, candidates have a better chance of being considered for a position. A two-year study of the impact of race in hiring practices found when African-American candidates removed details from their resumes, such as participation in ethnic affinity groups, they had a 25 percent chance of getting a callback for the position, versus only a 10 percent chance when they left ethnic details in place. Asians who anglicized their names showed similar gains in responses to their applications.

Today, organizations can use blind hiring techniques to build more objectivity and fairness into the hiring process, thereby creating opportunities to hire from a more diverse slate of candidates. Take the following steps to implement a sustainable blind hiring program in your organization.

1. Anonymize Resumes and Job Applications 

If you have a manageable number of open positions, you can start using blind hiring practices almost immediately. Before the initial resume review process, assign a contractor or member of the recruiting team to anonymize resumes and remove information such as names, dates, and addresses. As one business owner explained in a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article, to try blind hiring, “Just pull out your Sharpie and mark out things [on resumes] that are not relevant [to performing] the job.”

One key benefit of this blind hiring method is you can use actual resumes to help you see which candidate information is less relevant to your hiring process. This is beneficial because not all organizations have the same kind of hiring bias challenges. For example, instead of going “blind” for name and gender, you may want to remove other information, such as where candidates went to school or their extracurricular activities.

2. Use Blind Recruitment Software

Whether you have dozens or hundreds of job applications coming in, blind recruitment software can be a valuable tool for hiding candidate demographic information or replacing names with objective identifiers such as ID numbers. Many platforms integrate with your applicant tracking system (ATS), allowing you to maintain candidate anonymity up until the interview phase. 

Compose, an IBM company, uses a blind recruitment platform to anonymize all applications. The company also uses the platform to make it easier to review blind work samples from candidates during the recruitment process.

3. Educate Employees About Hiring Bias

At some point, candidates being considered for hire will go through the interview process, and you want to avoid bias at that stage as well. Having well-trained employees supports a fair and equitable hiring process, so it’s critical to educate hiring managers and interviewers about the role of unconscious bias in hiring. By helping interviewers identify their own biases, they can be empowered to avoid unconscious and overt discrimination when assessing candidates. 

Training aimed at rooting out unconscious bias can take many forms besides traditional diversity training. In fact, research featured in the Harvard Business Review found some kinds of diversity training fail to produce lasting results and can even encourage bias among employees. To determine what works in your organization, you can educate employees and managers through interview training, leadership training, and informal learning opportunities such as lunch-and-learns.

4. Build Consistency Throughout the Hiring Process

You won’t go very far in reducing bias if you incorporate blind resume review and then allow bias to creep back in later in the hiring process. To build consistency into your hiring process, make sure all related practices in your recruitment program support the elimination of bias. For example, during the background screening phase, you should make sure your screening provider has the processes in place to comply with hiring equity laws, such as “ban the box” and salary history bans, when conducting background checks. 

5. Track Hiring Metrics Regularly 

To understand the true impact of blind hiring practices in your organization, it’s essential to track your progress over time. For example, you can measure how many women and candidates from underrepresented groups applied for a position, and compare that number to the amount of those applicants who made it to the first interview. By comparing those metrics over time, you can see where in the process blind hiring has the most impact—and also where more improvement is needed.

Assess Your Hiring Process to Identify Areas for Improvement

Blind hiring may be a valuable technique to reduce bias in the hiring process and help you achieve your organization’s diversity goals. However, your hiring process is multi-faceted, and blind hiring is sure to be only one of many available practices to help you improve the process. 

Whether you have opportunities to improve the candidate experience, the background screening process, or your overall hiring efficiency, regularly assessing your hiring process can help you take advantage of best practices and identify new areas for improvement. To get more tips for improving the success of your hiring process, read our Guide to Auditing and Improving Your Background Screening Program.

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