Posted on Oct 30, 2015
David Cameron announced on Monday that several high-profile employers, including the BBC, NHS, HSBC, KPMG and the Civil Service, have pledged to operate recruitment of University graduates and apprentices on a "name-blind" basis. This means that the names of applicants will be removed from CVs and application forms during the job screening process, so employers will not know the names of the candidates they are selecting for interview. It is hoped that the new measures will eliminate "unconscious bias" against potential recruits from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and will encourage employers to consider candidates on the strength of their skills and experience.
The announcement follows the Prime Minister's conference speech last month in which he railed against employment discrimination. He pledged to tackle discrimination during the recruitment process, citing research showing that people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to receive job call-backs as people with ethnic-sounding names.
The organisations which have signed up to the new initiative employ almost two million people in the UK. As the initiative has the support of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (who are incorporating the measures into their training courses), it is anticipated that name-blind recruitment will be widely adopted within the private sector, particularly amongst employers who are keen to avoid discrimination claims arising from the recruitment process.
Deloitte has gone one step further, and has announced that it will also be adopting a university-blind recruitment process, removing the names of schools and universities previously attended by job applicants.
It is encouraging to see a commitment from the Government, as well as from major employers, to join the fight to end discrimination in the workplace. Indeed it has been good practice for a number of years to already anonymise CV's before shortlisting for interview and indeed involving more than one person in that process. However, the new measures are by no means perfect. Candidates will still attend at the interview, and unconscious (or conscious) bias may seep into the hiring process at that stage. It is also the case that name-blind recruitment will not improve an employee's chances of promotion once they are inside the company. Furthermore, whilst candidates' names will be removed, other information contained within an application form or CV (such as home address, hobbies and interests or schools attended) might give an indication of a candidate's race, sex and/or age or socio/economic background. Whilst some commentators argue in favour of the removal of further personal information from a candidate's application, this must be balanced against the employer's requirement to be able to assess a candidate's suitability for the role and workplace in question.
Whilst the introduction of name-blind recruitment is primarily aimed at eliminating race-related discrimination, research has shown that female candidates can still face discrimination when applying for certain roles or professions. The new measures may go some way to eliminating gender bias during the recruitment process. However, as the measures currently apply to University graduates and apprentices (generally a younger demographic), it is unlikely to have a significant impact on age-related bias within the recruitment process.
The Prime Minister himself acknowledges that name-blind recruitment will not solve the issue by itself. However it is fair to say that the new measures are a solid and positive step in the fight against inequality in the workplace.