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What Is Blind Hiring and Should You Use It in Your Hiring Process?

January 21, 2016

blind-hiring.jpgHiring is like a science to some degree. We try to collect as much data and information about candidates as possible to make an informed conclusion about whether they would be successful on the job or not. However, as much as we’d like to believe that this science will lead us to the right answer every time, it’s not always the case. Sometimes, the information we collect is not fully representative of the candidate and, therefore, we are missing key information about him or her that’s important for the role.

Other times, we give weight to pieces of information that are not as critical as others and, as a result, our “formula” for coming up with a decision is off-base. Outside of this data collection and processing phases, I would be remiss to say that hiring is purely objective based on inputs and outputs. Hiring involves human beings and, therefore, it would be very difficult to remove all subjectivity when making a decision. While not all subjectivity is a bad thing, it can lead to biases which may prevent us from making a good decision.

Some companies are taking notice of potential biases individuals bring to the table and are trying to reduce or eliminate those. In particular, a new buzz in HR is blind hiring.

What is blind hiring?

The goal of blind hiring is to judge potential hires exclusively based on their abilities. Meaning, all personal information about the candidate is not considered. In this sense, resumes are a thing of the past. Names, previous companies worked for, alma maters, and so forth are not weighted at all before making a decision about a candidate. Opinions about job candidates are solely based on their demonstrated work and skills.

Some small companies in the U.S. and U.K. have incorporated this kind of hiring into their process. Instead of collecting resumes, they are having candidates complete work samples or take a battery of  assessments. Bigger companies, such as IBM and Deloitte, are also considering removing all personal identifiers from their process and focusing only on information collected about the job candidate’s skills.

Anecdotally, hiring managers who have adopted this process are saying that blind hiring helps to reveal true talent and results in more diverse hiring. They suggest that since there is less noise (information that can lead us astray), they can make better decisions.

Is this the new way to hire?

Truthfully, this might be more of a trend/fad for some companies to adopt. However, there are a lot of positives from utilizing blind hiring. In particular, blind hiring recognizes and confronts unconsciousness biases that inevitably occur during the selection process. For instance, if a candidate from our alma mater applies for a position, we may be more inclined to hold her in high regard. Alternatively, if we read through a candidate’s resume and see that his past employer was one that we think highly of, we might assume he has great skills. These biases can lead us to make unfair and inaccurate decisions.

Alternatively, blind hiring focuses on what’s critical to determine successful performance—skills and abilities via work samples or assessments. A robust hiring process should be collecting this type of information in multiple steps and multiple ways.

Realistically, avoiding the collection of personally identifiable information is logistically difficult. In fact, some of the companies that have adopted this practice recognize the challenges associated with this. Additionally, using blind hiring may discount the practice of referrals, which remains to be a powerful force in hiring. Referrals alone aren’t the best way to make a decision, but can provide helpful information when deciding between candidates.

Additionally, by only focusing on skills and abilities by way of work samples or assessments, there is less of an opportunity to determine “fit” within the job and the company. Motivational fit, which is a good predictor of job satisfaction and turnover, is another piece of information that helps you to decide between qualified candidates.

The take home message

While your company doesn’t have to adopt the practice of blind hiring, it is a good reminder for all of us to keep those unconsciousness biases in check. When making decisions about candidates, ensure that you are focusing on their skills and abilities and not the “noise” that has no bearing on performance.

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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.