Finding a qualified candidate to hire is the goal of every hiring manager. We hope that process is fair, objective, and unbiased. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Implicit and explicit bias and discrimination continue to impact the hiring process. For instance, minority job applicants who “whiten” their resumes by deleting references to their race are twice as likely to be called back for an interview compared to candidates who reveal their race in some way, like through their school, affiliate groups, name, or other identifying factors. These discriminatory practices are just as common in businesses that claim to value diversity and inclusion as they are in those that don’t.
In an effort to combat discrimination, bolster fair evaluations, and increase diversity in the workplace, InHerSight has an “unbiased mode” that allows job seekers and hiring managers to hide identifying information when submitting or reviewing applications. This practice is called anonymous hiring. Here, we’ll walk through what exactly anonymous hiring is, why it’s important, and other ways hiring managers can be more inclusive in the hiring process.
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What is anonymous hiring?
According to The New York Times, the Boston Symphony Orchestra was the first group to introduce anonymous hiring in 1952. Orchestras at the time mainly comprised white men, so directors began experimenting with anonymous auditions where judges couldn’t see anything about the musicians—they could only hear their performance. A secondary study found that those anonymous auditions increased the chances of women being hired by 25 to 46 percent.
Nowadays, anonymous hiring allows candidates to remove demographic information from their job applications in hopes of avoiding possible biases and discrimination. This information could include gender, ethnicity, race, education level, graduation dates, headshots, and more. By removing identifying information, these anonymous applications ensure hiring managers are presented with the most objective information possible.
Bias and discrimination in the hiring process
Employment discrimination begins with the application phase. Oftentimes, hiring managers select interview candidates who share characteristics with them because of the very human predisposition to favor or gravitate toward someone who’s similar to you. It’s called the affinity bias, and it’s a catalyst for weeding out more diverse, qualified candidates.
Another bias, the halo effect, leads hiring managers to attach themselves to a certain candidate trait that overrides all other aspects of an application. For example, a hiring manager might attach themselves to the fact that a candidate that went to the same university as them and offer that candidate an interview even though they’re otherwise underqualified.
The unfortunate truth is that these biases cause many applicants to miss out on interviews, so applicants from underrepresented groups sometimes take steps to hide information themselves. Studies show that Asian students applying to jobs change their names to sound “more American,” remove prestigious scholarships out of fear of revealing their race, and “Americanize” their interests and hobbies. Other studies have found that mothers, people with disabilities, and candidates who belong to the LGBTQ+ community are also less likely to be called back.
So, how does anonymous hiring help?
Anonymous hiring eliminates the opportunity for unconscious bias, leading to fairer evaluation of candidates’ qualifications for the job at hand. For hiring managers, it’s important to remember you’re looking for a cultural add, not just a cultural fit—there’s no one-size-fits-all standard for a good candidate.
We’ve heard the stats on how diverse workplaces perform better, so objective hiring processes should be a top priority for companies seeking to reap the multitude of benefits of a diverse workplace (plus, actively uprooting discriminatory practices and diversifying your workforce is simply the right thing to do). Having systems in place that disregard a candidate’s gender, race, ethnicity, and educational background but value their qualifications, values, motivations, and merits are crucial for increasing diversity in the workplace.
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In addition to anonymous hiring practices, what else can employers do to combat discrimination in the hiring process?
1. Write inclusive job descriptions
The more inclusive your job description, the larger and more diverse your talent pool will be. If you’re writing a job description for the first time, make sure to avoid gendered, racial, ableist, and ageist language. For example, don’t assume the gender of potential hires (“he/she will report to…”) and don’t use phrases like “native English speaker” that could exclude candidates whose first language isn’t English.
2. Include an EEO statement in job postings
Equal Employment Opportunity Statements can be easily overlooked at the bottom of a job posting, but they’re integral to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. It sends a strong message that the company is encouraging people from marginalized communities to consider applying, and provides necessary information to support applicants with disabilities who might not have the information or tools needed to apply.
3. Don’t discount non-traditional resumes
Not everyone has a linear career or education track—women whose resumes show employment gaps, lower education levels, or include veteran and military language shouldn’t be discounted, but normalized and celebrated. Solely searching for candidates with continuous employment or a prestigious degree excludes otherwise qualified leads. Even consider adding “returnship” programs to support the reentry of said groups into the workforce.
4. Watch out for your own biases
We all have unconscious biases that influence the way we view certain situations, and for hiring managers, it’s incredibly important to acknowledge these personal biases. For example, when scanning a resume that includes a candidate’s age, take a step back and think about any assumptions you’re making. Ageist stereotypes like “old people don’t understand technology” can lead you to subconsciously rule out an older candidate who’s perfectly adept.