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Workplace Diversity

How to Use Blind Hiring to Fight Unconscious Biases


By Shelley Kilpatrick Jun 28, 2016

blind hiring

Unconscious Biases are a Short Step Away from Discrimination

Every day we make snap judgements about people based on stereotypes and misinformation. These beliefs result in favorable actions for some people, while others suffer because of them.

And as much as we like to think we are immune and would never do this to someone, that’s not always the case. Part of the reason is that we categorize and judge people before we even realize it’s happening. That’s why we call these attitudes unconscious biases.

But just because we all rely on our unconscious biases doesn’t make it the right thing to do, and it definitely doesn’t mean we can let them affect the workplace—especially when they can lead to discrimination.

If you are interested in learning more about how unconscious biases can lead to discrimination, check out our e-book: How to Prevent Subtle Forms of Discrimination from Affecting Your Workplace.

It’s our responsibility to eradicate them so that we can foster a culture of inclusion. And one of the most obvious places to start is the hiring process.

Why are HR Managers Turning to Blind Hiring?

Unconscious biases have always affected the hiring process. Sometimes people get lucky and it benefits them. Like when you realize that you both share an interest in golfing.

But on the other hand, it can negatively affect other candidates. Like the single mother who can’t attend frequent happy hours after work because she has to pick up her kids from school.

One of the most pervasive examples of how unconscious biases affect potential employees is based on their names. Studies have repeatedly shown that candidates with “ethnic sounding” names are ascribed with negative characteristics—solely because their names suggest they are non-white.

To combat this bias in the hiring process, many companies are turning to blind hiring—which is just like it sounds. Hiring managers are kept in the dark about everything except for the candidate’s skills.

3 Blind Hiring Techniques that Reduce Unconscious Biases

Of course it’s pretty much impossible to never meet a candidate before you hire them, but you should be able to use some of these blind hiring techniques to help reduce unconscious biases.

1. Remove Identifying Information from the Resume

Unfortunately, our resumes give away almost all the information we have that could indicate membership in a protected class. For example, my name alone gives away that I am female and the year I graduated college pretty much gives away my age.

By stripping away identifying information, such as names, addresses and graduation year, potential candidates are on a more level playing field. And hiring managers don’t have the information that would lead them to make an unfair judgement.

2. Offer Up a Skills-Based Test

In many industries, like tech or design, potential employees are asked to complete a challenge to test their skill level. Usually, this is done further along in the interview process, but in blind hiring, it’s done much sooner.

This can help you get feel for how the candidate thinks and if they will be able to handle the workload required. For example, if the job requires the employee to spend a lot of their time multitasking, you can administer a test to see how the candidate handles multiple tasks at once.

3. Conduct Anonymous Interviews

In the past there was no way to meet someone without you know, actually meeting them in-person. But technology has changed that. Now, we meet people all the time without ever seeing what they look like. And that same technology can be used for conducting anonymous interviews.

Hiring managers can chat over Skype or use another text-based service. Or you could even use voice disguising technology. And if you have to go low tech, you could conduct an interview without actually looking at the person, which will still add some anonymity.

Additional Strategies to Help Combat Unconscious Biases

However, it’s important to realize that blind hiring alone cannot eradicate unconscious biases. You need a combination of many different strategies including:

  • Buy-in from top level executives that want to expand diversity and promote inclusion
  • Training to educate your managers and supervisors about unconscious biases and how to move past them
  • Look for potential candidates outside of your typical places to increase the diversity of the applicant pool
  • Take a look at your overall company culture to ensure once hired you set employees up for success

Key Takeaways

While blind hiring techniques aren’t perfect—you can’t always remove every piece of identifying information from someone’s resume—they can help you reduce unconscious biases in the hiring process.

But don’t forget, blind hiring alone won’t work. You should use a variety of strategies to ensure you are fostering an inclusive work environment.

To learn more about our unconscious bias training, fill out the form on the right and schedule a demo.

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