Managing Director, CEB Global, UK & Ireland CEB Global
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How blind recruitment can help employers avoid the ‘black hole’

20th Jun 2019
candidates queuing for interview
iStock/Cecilie_Arcurs

Getting rid of recruitment bias is essential if companies are truly serious about creating a diverse workforce. Is blind recruitment the answer to this pervasive problem?

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that men have traditionally dominated careers in science. Even now, women make up less than a quarter of those working in STEM fields.

At the same time, 67% of job seekers state that a diverse workforce is a key consideration when deciding whether to accept a job, so it’s clear that diversity is playing a huge factor in recruitment processes.

Thankfully, we’re moving into an era where diversity and equality are much higher on the agenda. In recent weeks this was brought to light with Katie Bouman making headlines for helping to capture the world’s first image of a black hole.

Bouman’s role in the project is a fantastic example of why organisations should hire the most talented employees to join their team, rather than trying to achieve diversity through a simple checklist.

Banning bias

Many businesses are working hard to stamp out unfair recruitment practices, and rightly so. It’s equally important, however, not to choose a particular applicant simply to fill a quota in the business.

After all, if HR focuses solely on making sure diversity requirements are met, they may end up overlooking the most suitable candidate for the role.

In Bouman’s case, her skills and expertise had nothing to do with her age, gender, race or any other bias - she was simply the best person for the job.

Other businesses would be wise to take the same approach. Encouraging inclusivity in the business is a far better goal than focusing on specific traits.

Implementing a process that supports blind recruitment is the best way forward and will help companies to recruit the best talent.

Building a team that is diverse for diversity’s sake won’t create a successful working environment.

Instead, businesses need to create a culture that encourages the widest possible pool of applicants to apply, whilst also giving current employees the individual support they need to flourish.

Having a strong understanding of every employee will help businesses achieve this goal. Rather than focusing on diversity alone, organisations should take the time to assess each candidate’s suitability for both the job and the company’s culture.

Factors like previous experience and training are obviously important, but businesses also need to consider things like the employee’s ambition, what will motivate them, and their preferred ways of working.

After all, no matter how skilled they are, if an employee can’t work well with the team, feels de-motivated or is unable to see a future in the business, they are unlikely to be successful in the role.

Solving the problem

Using a structured recruitment process can help. Not only will this eliminate any unconscious bias, but it will also enable businesses to gauge applicants’ skills and experience alongside how well they will fit into the team and grow with the role.

There is technology available to make this process easier. Advanced data analysis can now be used to identify and quantify the specific traits of employees who have previously performed well in a particular role, so that the business will be able to spot these same qualities in potential candidates.

Building a clear profile of what success looks like for different roles will help to define exactly what attributes the business needs before the hiring process even begins.

Companies can then start recruiting in a more streamlined way based on facts around ability, skills and personality, rather than focusing on superficial factors or succumbing to unfair biases.

Measuring candidates against a baseline in this way will lead to more focused conversations and less generic interview questions, as well as allowing businesses to weigh the new hire’s skills against the priorities of the business.

Putting it into practice

Implementing a process that supports blind recruitment is the best way forward and will help companies to recruit the best talent.

While traditional recruitment practices make it easy to see who the candidate is and where they’ve come from, overhauling this model will enable companies to reap the rewards of more inclusive working practices.

The key to effective blind recruitment is to focus solely on the candidate’s skills and abilities.

One way to achieve this goal is to implement individual testing as part of the job application.

This way, an applicant can complete an online assessment that evaluates their skill set and personality – without inputting any personal details that could potentially contribute to recruitment biases.

The company can then marry the profiles up to the role and see who would be best suited.

As a result, all candidates are judged on fundamental attributes such as their skills and personality – rather than any superficial criteria – in order to determine how successful they will be in the role.

This will not only remove any unconscious bias, but will also build a more inclusive business where skill and aptitude are championed.

Building a clear profile of what success looks like for different roles will help to define exactly what attributes the business needs before the hiring process even begins.

This, in conjunction with the use of blind recruitment, means that companies can attract and retain a diverse group of employees that have the traits, skills and abilities that are needed to help the business grow and succeed.

Interested in this topic? Read Recruitment: five problems with competency-based interviewing and a few solutions.

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