Blind Hiring: A New Trend in the Quest for Fair Hiring Practices

With the recent push for companies to hire a more diverse workforce, many employers are opting to use what are known as “blind hiring” techniques. Blind hiring is a way to minimize unconscious bias in hiring decisions, making it easier for employers to evaluate a candidate’s abilities without being influenced by factors such as gender, ethnicity, age, and educational background. Blind hiring tactics can take many forms, from simply eliminating (or “blinding”) names and other identifying information on resumes, to postponing face-to-face interviews until as late in the hiring process as possible.  A recent Wall Street Journal article provides some other examples of innovative ways employers are implementing “blind hiring” techniques.

For decades, social psychologists have known that even people who deny holding any explicit stereotypes or prejudicial attitudes often demonstrate implicit bias in certain situations. Millions of people have been surprised to learn through their reactions in various experiments that they may hold negative unconscious associations about people of different races, sexual orientations, or genders.  (If you want to try testing yourself, you can take an implicit bias test created by Harvard researchers here.)

The potential for “unconscious bias” to influence hiring decisions is well-documented in research. One study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that job applicants with traditionally white names were 50% more likely to receive a callback for an interview than applicants with African-American names, even though the resumes were statistically identical. Another study in PNAS showed that when academic scientists received nearly identical applications from male and female students applying for a lab manager position, they rated female applicants lower on the scales of competence and hireability, and assigned female applicants a lower average starting salary.

The findings from these types of studies have been replicated in a variety of different scenarios. Despite the best of intentions, employers tend to select candidates who they connect with socially or who they think they’d like to hang out with. And while cultural fit is an important consideration when hiring new employees, these factors can sometimes unintentionally eliminate well-qualified candidates from the running.

At its core, “blind hiring” is about making the hiring process more objective in order to lessen the effect of unconscious bias in hiring decisions.  This is also the goal of pre-employment tests, which are designed to provide objective, standardized data about job candidates to help employers find the best talent for their organizations. “Blind hiring” is a trend to keep an eye on as innovative companies look to make their talent discovery techniques more effective and more fair.