Anonymous Recruitment: Are we ready yet?

Anonymous job applications strike a lot of debate in the recruiter world. It is a choice made by companies targeting to improve the diversity ratio in their workforce. Why, you might ask? Well..

  • Companies with diverse management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, according to a McKinsey report, 
  • Deloitte Australia research report confirms that diverse corporate teams have upto 30% better team performance than their non-diverse peers.
  • Job candidates prefer companies with better diversity ratio, another study suggests. 
  • And it is simply unfair to have biases rule-out capable candidates. 

Diversity and inclusion are the biggest pain-points for recruiters and HR professionals around the world right now. More so because the barriers to diversity, the biases can be invisible to the untrained eye. Unconscious biases exist in recruitment, we already know that. But is anonymous recruitment a good way to combat hiring discrimination? 

In this blog, we are going to explore the ground challenges for recruiters having an anonymous candidate going through the hiring funnel. So we can find answers to the lingering questions: is anonymizing the hiring process really worth it? Are we ready for the faceless applicant? 

  • What is Anonymous Recruitment? 
  • Instances of Anonymous Recruitment
  • Does Anonymous recruitment lead to effective hiring? 
  • Problems faced during anonymous hiring process
  • Can automation help in anonymous recruitment? 
  • Hiring trends supporting anonymous recruitment
  • More ways to make the workplace inclusive

What is Anonymous Recruitment? 

Anonymous recruitment is when job applications and resumes are made anonymous by removing the name, gender, school and other identity signifiers of the candidates. In most cases, an applicant’s name can give away their gender, religion, and geography. 

These identity indicators quite often lead to one or another form of discrimination. This is because recruiters, as human beings, have unconscious biases that can override their analytical skills. They affect our decisions without us ever knowing! 

Anonymous hiring is a recruitment process where the identity markers are purposefully removed from the candidate to get rid of unconscious biases of the recruiters. 

Instances of Anonymous Recruitment:

The process of anonymous recruitment emerged in the U.S. Opera scene of the 1970s, aiming to fight the preconceived notions towards women applicants. But anonymizing identity is not a recent thing. We can find examples of it throughout history, such as women writers keeping a male pseudonym to get access to publishing firms and not be judged as a “woman author”. And even today in developed nations, people of color “whiten” their resumes to escape discrimination. In India, applicants do away with their surname to make their resume castless. 

Anonymous applications have proven to improve the diversity ratio. A study conducted by Harvard and Princeton University confirmed that blind applications made women more likely to get hired than men and increased women’s recruitment rate by 25 to 46%. 

Does Anonymous recruitment lead to effective hiring? 

Xpheno has staffing specialists conducting recruitment and selection of skilled professionals for top-drawer companies. Our talent specialists have employed dynamic hiring processes with skill assessments, video and audio applications, and observed that anonymous hiring processes can be a challenge. First, let’s understand how anonymous recruitment takes place.

Some companies implement tools such as Textio, and Pinpoint to anonymise applications. Others manually hide candidate demographic information and assess questionnaires and skill tests before seeing their information. While there are others that solely depend on anonymous skill assessments, getting rid of the CV altogether. 

Problems faced during anonymous hiring process:

An internal survey conducted among Xpheno staffing specialists showcased that although removing identity indicators can make the recruitment process more ‘fair’, 82% of recruiters prefer the candidate to have their picture, name or any other identity indicator in the resume. 

The talent specialists further suggested that anonymizing recruitment only takes the concealed biases over to the later stages of face-to-face interviews.  

Can automation help in anonymous recruitment? 

Anonymous hiring softwares such as Textio are deployed in the recruitment process quite often now. However, there have been instances of bias even in automating the recruitment process. One such example is Amazon’s recruitment engine. In response to the growing mania for automation and the need for talent, Amazon’s machine learning specialists built a hiring tool back in 2014. 

The AI tool was supposed to crawl the ocean of resumes and give rankings- 1 to 5 stars- to those candidates. The recruiting tool would help ease the recruitment of candidates and reduce human biases from the hiring process, so they claimed. Ironically, it did the exact opposite. The tool rejected candidates for having the term “Women’s” mentioned in their resume. 

Many other application tracking systems (ATS) introduced by companies have also proved themselves laughably inadequate at best and dangerously discriminatory at worst. 

This is because AI learns through patterns, and the patterns available to the machine were men being the majority, which caused it to reject women by default. That’s why algorithms and AI aren’t capable of boosting diversity and inclusion on their own because the information of past patterns teaches them to discriminate. 

Creating a distance between the candidate and the recruiter can help reduce the bias. But, it is clear now that removing the human element does not necessarily lead to effective hiring

Hiring trends supporting anonymous recruitment: 

The global gig economy emerging has also helped cause a shift in the interview structure. Also, several companies prefer to get talent on a contractual basis from other companies. An SIA report also highlighted that African-American contractual workers expressed they were treated more fairly as temp-staff than working as a permanent employee. One hypothesis is that since the intention is not to have them as full-time staff, they get judged more on their skills and experience, making the applicant more or less anonymous. 

According to a Harvard Business School report, almost two-third of businesses now prefer to borrow skilled talent from other companies instead of recruiting full time employees. 

The Bottom Line

Anonymous recruitment is a good start to work on the diversity ratio in your company. But to substantially mitigate biases, we need to implement dynamic and data-driven decision making in recruitment.

Take time to train recruiters and hiring managers to source candidates from diverse demographics. Have conversations about cognitive biases and train them to conduct objective interviews. Otherwise, anonymizing the application process would only delay the bias for the interview phase. 

More ways to make hiring neutral: 

Pay attention to the language of job descriptions

When flying out the invitation for candidates, make sure the language doesn’t exclude people. Using particular pronouns or specifying “unmarried” for instance can sieve out qualified applicants at the outset. In fact, anonymous recruitment is also called ‘blind’ recruitment by some, which is another example of exclusionary ableist language at the workplace.

Catch yourself for your biases:

It is easy for recruiters to have personal biases. Looking through a resume, it is common for recruiters to prefer a certain candidate for their school or university. Some people equate better school with better qualification, but that is not always the case.

Include an EEO in Job postings

Equal employment opportunity statements express that the company encourages applicants from diverse demographics to apply. The statement can help send a powerful message to the people that the company aims for more inclusivity.

Anonymized applications alone cannot help include people who have been excluded from spaces throughout history. So it is about time we address those biases and develop hiring strategies to counter them. 

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