Scrub-a-dub-dub, 3 resumes in a tub

You’ve probably read articles explaining how implicit bias shows up early in the hiring process—even before the interview. Resumes with “white-sounding” names get 50% more callbacks than those with “black-sounding” names, for example.[1]

After reading how effective blind auditions were at helping orchestras reduce gender bias[2], a number of leading business thinkers have recommended that companies adopt a blind hiring process, hoping to adjust behavior to reduce bias.[3]

This means stripping resumes of information that could trigger implicit bias, including names, religious affiliations, and gender-identifying information. Hiring managers (or recruiters) review resumes without these details and then decide who gets interviews. We’ve been using this best practice with our clients since 2017.[4]

What it is not

First, let’s stop calling them “blind” resumes or “blind” processes. This misnomer obscures what we’re actually doing, which is making it easier for hiring managers to see what they really need to see: talent, accomplishments, and experience.

What we are doing is removing information that clouds their vision. We’re getting rid of tainted information, cleaning up the process, and making the truly important information clearer. We’re scrubbing away the useless data. “Clear” or “highlighted” processes might be more accurate terms.

This is, however, limited to the resume-viewing process. Hiring managers eventually see candidates via video or in person. We can scrub a resume, but we aren’t seeking an entirely “blind” process, like that of an orchestra.

What it is

When we share a resume with our client, it is missing a few of the usual data points. You won’t see:

  • Names: Removing names eliminates data that could potentially communicate race and gender. It also reduces other implicit biases, like class and education discrimination.
  • Sorority or fraternity information: This information implies gender, and removing it also helps combat affinity bias.[5]
  • Religious-specific information for volunteer activities: The intention is highlighting the charitable work experience and de-emphasizing the specific religious communities it was centered around.
  • Any other details that could unintentionally flag a person’s gender, ethnic heritage, religion, or race and prevent them from getting their fair chance at an interview.

We can’t remove all traces of identifying data since some important information, such as alma matter, could hint at country of birth, gender, or race, and dates and years at companies can hint at age. But we do as much as we can to ensure a scrubbed, fair resumes process.

If you are interested in learning more about this process and why we do it, chat with me on Twitter: @anikalehde. And check out these resources:

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[1] The original study, “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination” (http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873), published in 2003 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, has been reconfirmed with related studies about biases based on names. Additional research has been done about candidates “whitening” résumés to get more callbacks.
[2] https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2013/oct/14/blind-auditions-orchestras-gender-bias
[3] https://hbr.org/2016/07/designing-a-bias-free-organization
[4] Some of our clients opt out of this process and choose to receive the full résumé—and we know why. People are uncomfortable omitting information they think should or could impact a person’s job performance. They want to see (and use) all available information, such as gender. They fear losing control.
[5] http://www.diversityjournal.com/13763-affinity-bias-conundrum-illusion-inclusion-part-iii/