Name-Blind Recruitment

The Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has conducted a study exposing discrimination in British recruitment patterns. British ethnic minority graduates are 5% to 15% less likely to be employed six months after graduation than white British graduates. The find once again highlights the topic of name-blind recruitment: a method that sees recruiters dealing with nameless applications in order to deter bias and discrimination.

In late 2015, David Cameron introduced the concept of blind recruitment in the UK, promising hopeful future career executives: “If you’ve got the grades, the skills and the determination, this government will ensure you can succeed.” Britain also saw a number top companies pledge to operate their recruitment process using this same system, including KMPG, the NHS, HSBC, Virgin Money, Teach First, the BBC and the civil service. Even UCAS, the UK’s online university application system will be using nameless applications from 2017, replacing names with unique candidate codes.

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte, another British company which has committed itself to name-blind recruitment, says: “The introduction of name-blind recruitment processes…will help prevent unconscious bias and ensure that job offers are made on the basis of potential – not ethnicity, gender or past personal circumstance.”

There is no denying that a person’s name can at times determine whether an application is taken further or not, with even the Prime Minister acknowledging this: “One young black girl had to change her name to Elizabeth before she got any calls to interviews. That, in 21st-century Britain, is disgraceful.” But however positive that the issue of diversity within UK companies and workforces is being discussed, one has to question just how effective the method of name-blind recruitment is.

Author of The One Page CV, Paul Hichens, writes, “If an institution discriminates on the basis of ethnicity they will do it regardless of whether it is at the application stage or the interview stage.” In such cases, name-blind recruitment would not actually prevent discrimination, just delay it.

As mentioned above, some have taken to changing or Anglicising their names on applications, but as Hichens mentions, this too can have unintended consequences: “…you could Anglicise your name, and you may even get more interviews because if it…However, some interviewers may feel tricked if they expect a ‘Mr Jones’ but someone else turns up.” He also goes on to highlight the risk of potentially losing out on a job that a candidate from an ethnic background could otherwise have had on the basis of their own individual perception of the employer’s view of ethnicity.

Whilst the system is still some distance from perfect, British businesses are making progress on this issue, and should still be applauded for actively working against discrimination in the workplace. Though it may not end discrimination, it certainly indicates a willingness to.

Written by

Cambridge University graduate and professional career sector writer.

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