Whenever we are thinking about the application and suitability of anonymised recruitment, we should probably remember that it was just as much a product of necessity as it was of desire. While there are thankfully very few people who stand in opposition to the goal of a diverse and inclusive workforce, historically, this has proved hard to achieve. To play devil’s advocate for a moment, though, is there really any need for it in a modern workplace? Surely there is no room for anything but an unbiased, balanced selection process when it comes to recruitment? So, do we still need to consider anonymised recruitment processes or do the cons of using them now outweigh the underlying good intentions? 

Just to clarify terms, anonymised recruitment is the process whereby applicant information is anonymised to avoid anything that could result in specific pre-knowledge of the candidate. While this seems relatively easy to achieve, there are some grey areas. Clearly, there is no need for gender, race, age, religion, culture, and so forth to be a consideration in any job application. Removing these items and anything that indicates them, names being the obvious one, means that candidate selection can be based solely on appropriateness for the role. However, it isn’t always that simple, and there are some downsides to anonymisation that need to be considered. 

The pros of anonymised recruitment

Without doubt, we should start with the most positive aspect of anonymised recruitment and one of the core reasons for its existence. It removes pre-judgement, and that means there is no opportunity for conscious or unconscious bias when selecting candidates. This should result in the erosion of notable inequalities and hegemonies. Gender bias in particular industries and the white male bias, for example. Removing any pre-knowledge of the candidates will also inevitably lead to a skill-based initial selection that should encourage a more diverse workforce. 

Perhaps one of the most interesting potential effects of anonymised recruitment is that candidates from minority groups are potentially more likely to apply for jobs if they feel the employer is aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion. For businesses looking to bridge a skills gap and during the current candidate shortage, the benefits of increasing the number of applications is clear. 

 

The cons of anonymised recruitment

It all sounds very positive and admirable, and indeed from the perspective of wanting to encourage a more diverse, fair and inclusive employment policy, anonymised recruitment is a powerful tool. However, it is far from a universal panacea for the problem of bias. 

Anonymised recruitment is all about removing information that could generate bias. The issue is that this also has the potential to remove information that could help drive diversity and inform the recruitment process. Worse still in, a well meat effort to negate potential bias based on factors such as education and age, it has the potential to actually generate exclusivity. For example, if to hide information that could indicate age, you removed extensive experience from a candidate’s application, you are potentially disadvantaging them. 

If you take a step back and ask why this kind of anonymity is needed, you begin to see a wider issue. It could be argued that if you are concerned about bias in your business, then you need to be dealing with that problem rather than compensating for it. Anonymised recruitment will certainly reduce any initial bias, but if your team are resisting diversity, whether unconsciously or not, it could simply be postponing the effects. The next step will be face to face interviews and, of course, appointment, at which point the existing bias will re-assert itself. In two of the worst-case scenarios, it can result in expensive bad hires or a constant churn of employees who are never going to be fully included in the team. In both of these cases, the anonymised recruitment will have been, at best, a well-meaning attempt. 

Using anonymised recruitment effectively

Anonymised recruitment is often mistakenly used to combat a problem with culture in a company, but it is not an effective answer to that behaviour. Cultural changes are gradual but also multi-faceted and require integration. Anonymised recruitment is a wonderful tool – it can ensure that the initial contact from candidates is fair and even, and if done right, it achieves the desired goal of neutrality by default. However, as with all tools, it works best when wielded by a skilled operator who knows what it does and what it can do best. Anonymised recruitment is probably best thought of as a bandage rather than a cure. Alone it will do little to change a culture of bias, but combined with training, awareness, and a desire to promote diversity, it will work well for some job roles. 

Call us, and we can look at helping you build a more inclusive and diverse team.