What is name-blind recruitment and should all companies be doing it?

Name-blind recruitment


As leading companies, universities and recruitment agencies are being asked to remove names from application forms and CVs, name-blind recruitment has become a hot topic in recent months.

As campaigners are fiercely protesting to put a stop to unconscious bias against potential recruits, we look at whether or not there is an argument for this new type of recruitment.

Research carried out in America has revealed that bias can in fact be significant. One particular experiment on Labour Market Discrimination found that job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 CVs to get one callback whereas those with African-American names needed to send 15 to get the same response.

Another study conducted in France found that people with foreign-sounding north African names were less likely than others to receive a response from companies’ recruiting staff. Additionally to this, a study of leading UK universities suggests that 36% of ethic minority applicants from 2010 to 2012 received places compared to 55% of white applicants.

Worryingly, it has also been found that people from ethnic minority groups in the UK have higher unemployment rates and worse rates of pay.

Following the results of the findings, David Cameron has announced that from 2017, UCAS will carry out name-blind recruitment on all university applications. The same rule will apply for all graduate and apprentice-level applications as well as some others for organisations including the civil service, NHS, BBC, HSBC, KPMG, Deloitte, Virgin money and local government positions.

Is it likely that this scheme will work however considering that employers and universities will eventually meet applicants face-to-face? Over the past 10 years, there have been experiments in France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands to try and figure this out.

According to a summary of all the studies, anonymous job applications do seem to increase the probability that applicants from ethnic minorities are invited for interview. There is not enough evidence yet however to determine whether or not their chances of being offered a job diminish at the interview stage.

Name-blind recruitment was not found to work in every scenario however and it has been hit with criticisms. In a French-based experiment which took place back in 2011, applicants from ethic minorities actually had worse callback rates than when their name was on their CV. It is widely speculated that this is because other information such as your address, educational background, interests and language skills are big clues to your background.

Another criticism is that some universities and employers are actively trying to be more diverse but this will become very difficult if applications are anonymous.

At the moment, mandatory name-blind recruitment will only apply to graduates and apprentices so it won’t affect older job applicants. We took to Twitter to find out whether or not people think the scheme is a good idea and if it will work or not:

“We need name-blind recruitment for the same reason we need tests. Human judgement is biased”

“Name-blind recruitment backed by government to stop discrimination – glad the government has finally caught up”

“Name-blind is only a (small) start – not an ending”

“Name-blind graduate recruitment is a good start but workplace discrimination is still rife”

Do you think that name-blind recruitment is a good thing or is it only going to make a small difference to unconscious bias? Feel free to let us know your thoughts below.

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