Can Anonymised CVs Improve DE&I? Research Says No.

Anete Vesere

Content Marketer

Rafael was looking for a job. He wasn’t having much luck. He’d submit resumes and applications, sometimes more than 15 a day. Nobody was emailing him or calling him back. Then he decided to conduct an experiment. Rafael became Ralph. Suddenly employers wanted to talk to him.

Was it a conscious decision by hiring managers to deny a job to someone with a Hispanic name? Some may have. For many others, the culprit may have been unconscious bias

Discrimination based on personal information mentioned in a CV is still more common than you think, for example, a study found that  distinctively Black names on applications significantly reduced the likelihood of hearing back from an employer, compared to distinctively White names. 

Yet, luckily a recruitment trend – anonymising CVs has become a standard practice to use as means of limiting the influence of implicit bias when it comes to recruitment. 

But is it really that effective? Or is it potentially harmful, delaying discrimination based on your appearance and name to a later stage in recruitment? Well, let’s dive in…

What statistics say: The need for using anonymised CVs

Have you been rejected from a job because of your name? Have you been rejected because of your age? In case you haven’t been, do you feel privileged about that? And in case you have, do you think that’s unfair?

Bias is a bigger problem in hiring than many people realise. Unconscious prejudices from a culture or upbringing influence the decisions of even well-meaning, socially conscious people.

The impact of implicit biases are truly terrifying, take a look at the following statistisc: 

  • A study shows that ethnic minority applicants are discriminated against in favour of white applicants in 29% of cases. 
  • Resumes with Black-sounding names are 50% less likely to receive a callback for an interview than those with White-sounding names.
  • Another study found that applicants with Turkish-sounding names and headscarves had to submit 4.5 times as many applications to receive the same number of interview calls as those with German-sounding names and no headscarves.
  • On top of all that, research from PwC found that 1 in 5 women experience gender discrimination in recruitment.
  • Women have a statistically significant 4.7 % point advantage in the callback rate over men when the recruiter is female .
  • Psychology faculty members from the US were randomly assigned to evaluate one of two identical CVs for a person who was applying for an assistant professor position, differentiated only by the gender of the candidate. When asked if the candidate would be competitive for a tenure track position in their department, the faculty who evaluated the man’s CV responded affirmatively 72% of the time, compared to just 44% for those evaluating the woman’s CV.

 

Don’t believe the results? Especially the latter research is easy to reproduce within your own company. Put you and your peers to the test, beware of the possible outcomes though! 😉

To tackle these forms of systemic discrimination many companies have decided to use blind hiring (also referred to as anonymised CVs). A process that involves intentionally hiding (or blurring out) the personal information of candidates, such as their name, gender, address and so on, that might unconsciously impact the hiring decisions. Blind hiring is perceived as one of the most powerful tools for reducing the risk and impact of unconscious/implicit biases on hiring decisions and leading to more fair and objective recruitment practices.

How anonymised CVs can contribute to improving DE&I

Anonymised CVs can increase diversity in the workplace by allowing recruiters and hiring managers to be more objective when evaluating a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and potential to succeed, free from biases of the candidate’s race, gender, age, and education level. On top of that, increasing diversity has tangible business benefits, too.

However, it's not all black and white (yes, you read that right)

By intentionally hiding the personal information of candidates we will make the hiring process fairer and allow to ensure more equal opportunities, all while improving diversity, right?

Yes, anonymised CVs can help you screen candidates more objectively and has the potential of reducing implicit bias from interfering with your hiring decisions. Unfortunately, it does not improve DE&I and ensure equal opportunities in hiring directly.

  • Anonymised CVs cannot eliminate bias during interviews. Once candidates arrive for interview, conscious and unconscious bias still creep in. Research shows that hiring managers still tend to hire people whose backgrounds mirror their own, leaving women and minorities at a disadvantage in the hiring process, especially in sectors like tech and finance.
  • Anonymised CVs can’t solve your diversity problems on its own. If you assume this will be a fix-all for all your diversity problems, you might as well just not focus on ensuring DE&I at all.
  • If you cannot attract a diverse candidate pool, blind hiring won’t help. How you talk about diversity, and the opportunities you offer for progression will all affect whether you attract a diverse pool of candidates in the first place. If the candidate pool isn’t diverse, anonymised CVs won’t change that.
  • Implementing anonymised CVs and hiring diverse candidates is not sustainable if there is no internal inclusion in the company. Blind hiring does nothing to ensure that your workforce is welcoming to different people once they walk in the door. At best, it’s one tool in a bigger diversity and inclusion (DE&I) toolbox. Think about it – diversity cannot thrive without inclusion, both go hand in hand with one another. Diverse hires will end up leaving out the door quicker than you hired them.
  • Anonymous hiring doesn’t guarantee minority background hires. Save the “best” for the last as always – blind hiring gives absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be providing minorities with an equal opportunity of getting hired. In fact, research shows that anonymising CVs widened the interview gap between non-minority and minority candidates by 10.7 percentage points, from 2.4 percentage points in the standard procedure to 13 percentage points in the anonymized procedure. At the hiring stage, the recruitment gap widened by 3.7 percentage points.

 

Like with most things in life, not everything is as black and white as it comes across at first glance. So please don’t assume that by making CVs anonymous you’ve done all there is to be done when it comes to ensuring DE&I.

Start hiring based on what matters: cognitive abilities and behaviour

Using anonymised CVs isn’t going to overturn systemic inequality or racism. It’s a tool to achieve the means, yet it’s not a solution to ensuring long-lasting and sustainable DE&I strategy. 

If you want to ensure equal opportunities in hiring for all and look beyond bias, I strongly encourage you to start measuring cognitive abilities and behaviours, the most predictive candidate characteristics for work performance. 

At Equalture, we help you get to know your candidates, beyond what’s written on their CV. 

You might be wondering how. We have built a library of scientifically-validated gamified assessments, which enables you to get to know both your teams’ and your candidates’ cognitive skills, cultural preferences, and behaviours. Candidates are asked to complete these gamified assessments, which take around 15 minutes, at the start of the hiring process. This ensures a first impression based on science, instead of gut feeling. 

A first impression that’s fair. Equal. And not prone to errors. 

Curious to see what our games are like?

Not ready to implement a new assessment tool?

Help those recruiting and yourself to appreciate diversity and understand unconscious biases & sign up for unconscious bias training

That way you and others can learn how to manage bias and actively promote inclusivity and the benefits of diversity!

Cheers, Anete.

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