Not deadly or dangerous, blind recruitment can be an excellent way of creating a more diverse and equal workplace

Leading organisations increasingly view diversity as a key influencer in its success, with studies showing a clear link between increased workforce diversity and better revenue and sales performance. Beyond financial measures, a more diverse workforce carries significant benefits, including enhanced retention rates. Yet many organisations still find it difficult to recruit a greater mix of people, due, to a variety of reasons including ranging from lack of technology or ingrained organisational biases. Blind Recruitment, which has been gaining momentum as policymakers and employers worry about social mobility and homogeneous workforces, remedies this by anonymising the recruitment process.

More than just a name

David Cameron recently announced that the civil service will introduce Blind-Name Recruitment when people apply for public sector jobs. Although this is a positive step forward, it only focused on one part of a wider process – the name. It is not just about hiding the candidate’s name, it is also about anonymising anything not relevant to the stage of the process recruiters are dealing with at the time. It has become common practice to ask ‘legacy questions’, which can indirectly reveal an applicant’s age, sex, education, race and much more. These factors end up influencing recruitment decisions, allowing unconscious bias to appear during the process and must be removed.

Recruitment technology enables the application process to be fully anonymised up to the interview stage, only allowing recruiters and managers to see information relevant to the task at hand. For instance, in the cases where screening is based on competency questions, recruiters can only access candidates’ answers to these questions, and nothing else, focusing selection on merit and nothing else.

Remaining information is made available to recruitment teams as and when it is required. Additional information including personal details is typically automatically unanonymised at the interview stage, which ensures the interview can take place as usual.

Why is it necessary?

Market trends show that organisations in general are getting increasingly more efficient when it comes to unbiased recruiting, but it is not all positive news. Research[i] shows that there are only six ethnic minorities in the top 268 leadership roles across the most prominent public bodies outside government and local authorities. Plus, while 51 per cent of the UK population are women, there are only 23 per cent of females at board level.

Increasing gender diversity by just one per cent will boost your bottom line by three. This is also true for a one percent rise in race equality, but three times the difference, as it will increase your revenue by nine percent.

Diversity not only plays a major role in creating a forward thinking and proactive organisation, but it also has an impact on brand reputation and success. There are 189 different nationalities in the UK, 17 percent are black and minority ethnic (BME). This number is set to rise to 20 percent by 2021. Recent statistics[i] show that diverse groups outperform non-diverse groups in an employment situation, so it’s becoming increasingly important to attract a diverse workforce.

At the moment one in six of the working population in the UK is from an ethnic minority or non-white background. Collectively they boast a spending power of £300 billion, making it clear to see just how much a brand could lose if their recruitment process is not engaging and inclusive of all cultures and beliefs. In a similar vein, 20 per cent of working adults in the UK have a disability of some description, yet many application processes do not take this into account, losing out on the £120 billion market.

Right now, diversity recruiting in many organisations mostly relies on users knowing what to do; rather than enabling better diversity recruitment through technology, but technology and more specifically Blind Recruitment is taking away the opportunity for mistakes to be made.

 So…why isn’t everyone using it?

 While this type of recruitment has been championed by forward thinking organisations like Civil Service Resourcing, it is still facing a significant resistance from other less proactive companies. The key reason for this push back is the major worry of line managers not buying into the whole process. These managers feel that integrating a new system would mean the recruitment process would suffer, slowing down, and would possibly have an impact on candidate experience.

Other key concerns surround the technical challenges attached to anonymising/unanonymising data, which requires flexible solutions. Plus many managers and interviewers feel this method of hiring implies they are not trusted to make an unbiased and fair decision.

Blind Recruitment in Action

Some companies recognised the need for a more diverse workforce early, setting plans in motion to ensure they were attracting the top talent no matter the sex, age, race, disability of the candidate.

Civil Service Resourcing is a prime example of that. Civil Service Resourcing is the largest recruitment portal in the UK, used by over 100 government organisations (including HMRC, MoD and Home Office to name a few) to manage their recruitment activities. Civil Service have made the decision early on to set up anonymous recruitment for all of its departments.

The Civil Service recruitment process now has anonymisation set at a department level, with all campaigns remaining anonymous by default. Once a campaign has been created, only someone with ‘recruiter’ access rights can remove this anonymisation. This process is fully audited. Not even vacancy holders or hiring managers have access to the candidate files.

WCN’s e-recruitment software allows the anonymisation process to be automated and protected, so no one is able to bypass the system. It hides an array of personal details – title, first and last name, employee numbers, email addresses, home address, telephone number, nationality, sex, immigration details – which allows the top talent, no matter their background, to be recruited, rather than a series of workers in the same image as the interviews.

 The Last Word

Whilst it is fantastic news that the Prime Minister is getting involved in the subject of recruitment and particularly recruitment technology, there is still so much more that can be done. If we want to hire a diverse workforce it’s essential to remove any systemic or unconscious bias that might have crept into our processes, and Blind Recruitment, whilst only one of the challenges to diversity recruitment,can have a major role to play. The war for diverse talent is on, and you better be ready to up your game.

[i]2014 research conducted by Green Park consultancy

[i] Statistics provided by an American Sociological Association study

This article was put together by WCN, a recruitment software provider, which has helped organisations around the world hire great people.





Robert joined the HRreview editorial team in October 2015. After graduating from the University of Salford in 2009 with a BA in Politics, Robert has spent several years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past he has been part of editorial teams at Flux Magazine, Mondo*Arc Magazine and The Marine Professional.