For the first time Universities are going to test ‘name-blind’ admissions to stop potential discrimination based on assumptions about students’ names. Exeter, Huddersfield, Liverpool and Winchester will pilot a system this year where the names of applicants are not seen during admissions. The pilot project aims to see if masking the names of applicants will remove any ‘unconscious bias’.
Larger employers have come under some pressure to make similar changes to their recruitment arrangements. Accepting applications from a candidate identified simply by a number rather than a name would allow for selection without knowing their gender, ethnic background or religion.
Last year a number of top graduate employers including HSBC, the NHS and Virgin Money pledged to try out ‘name-blind’ graduate job applications in an attempt to achieve a more diverse workforce
It would appear that removing names from application forms and CV’s would be a reasonable step to take. After all photographs are discouraged and dates of birth are often no longer requested in order to reduce the risk of age discrimination.
However consideration of the application is only the first step in the recruitment process. A name-blind application may help to secure an interview for an individual who might otherwise have been overlooked, but bias may still play a part at interview stage.
Unfortunately there doesn’t appear as yet to be any practical solution to removing all risk of bias from that stage of the selection process.
A screen between interviewee and interviewers with the application of voice distortion technology would bear more resemblance to a Blind Date TV show than a professional attempt to find the best candidate for the job.
There is no easy answer or quick fix to guard against discrimination in the recruitment process. However making sure that interviewers have had equality training, keeping a written record of the selection process and having an equal opportunities recruitment policy will help employers resist those allegations if they are made.