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Could Anonymous Recruiting Cut Discrimination?

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News comes that various groups are lobbying the UK government to legislate so that an applicant’s gender and race are not revealed during recruitment, leaving only their experience and qualifications as the basis for whether to invite them for interview. At first glance, it seems like a good idea, but I’m not sure how it will work in practice.

The main impetus for this measure seems to come from the results of a survey where it was found that applicants with “ethnic” names would have to send out nearly twice as many applications than those with “white” names before being invited to interview. As I said in my post on sexism, people will tend to recruit those who fit the mould of what they are most familiar with. It’s wrong, lazy, and should be addressed; stripping out any identifying characteristics at the earliest stage of the recruitment process might help with this. What it won’t do, however, is change behaviour beyond that point.

If legislation is put in place to make initial job applications anonymous, more ethnic minority candidates might be able to get their foot in the door and secure interviews; but will they then stand a better chance of securing a job? That depends, not only on how well they perform at the interview, but also on the behaviour and preconceived ideas of the person or people interviewing them. Even if they are best applicant to be interviewed, if the interviewer holds a set of prejudices that leads them to believe that “those people don’t make good workers,” they will still be at a disadvantage. Companies may pay lip service to eliminating discrimination in their employment practices, and may even have procedures in place to that effect, but it’s impossible to police individual thoughts and behaviour.

One would hope that businesses were always fair in their recruiting practices, but this is plainly not the case. While the proposed legislation might level the playing field for the first stage of the job application process, it does nothing to address discrimination that might occur during the interview. For this, companies need to be aware of the anti-discrimination laws that they are already governed by, and should probably ensure that interviews are carried out by a panel, rather than an individual. It won’t cut out all discrimination by any means, but it will go some way to ensuring that it is not just one person’s set of beliefs that is deciding somebody else’s future.

[Image by Scragz]


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