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Can Blind Applications Reduce Bias and Discrimination in the Workplace?

October 12th, 2020
blind applications

Efforts have been made to reduce biases and employment discrimination, and blind applications may provide a neutral application process compared to the standard procedure. It is important to understand how blind applications work and what benefits they can provide to businesses and workers.

Blind applications are used in some work venues. For example, symphony orchestras often host blind auditions where the musician is behind a screen and only the music they play is used to adjudicate them. A previous study at Harvard University showed that blind auditions improved the chances of female musicians being hired by up to 50 percent; however, some experts have scrutinized the study. An expert from Columbia University noted that there are too many statistical errors in the study. According to some critics, there may not be a perfect way to remove biases from the hiring process.

Does a Blind Application Make a Difference?

A blind application or audition process can assist many companies when handled properly. Blind applications can benefit companies and workers in certain ways, including the following:

  • Showcase the skills of the employee over their name, school, grades, and other identifiers.
  • Prevent implicit biases from becoming issues at work.
  • Help hiring managers review candidates more quickly.
  • Prevent hiring managers from leaning towards their implicit preferences.

A blind application shows the potential of the application instead of their background. A manager might be inclined to only hire people who have worked for large corporations, those who have gone to certain schools, or those who have certain grades. In this case, a blind application may be helpful. Hiring managers cannot hire based on their biases if they only see skills on an application, and they can easily look through the applications instead of considering the implications of the hire.

Do Blind Applications Cause Problems for Employers?

Blind applications can be both costly and time-consuming because the information from each application must be constructed to provide only the anonymous details about each candidate. Blind applications often put hiring managers on standby to make decisions that will be seen as fair.

Stress and anxiety within the Human Resources (HR) department or management community often causes leaders to ask questions outside of the normal realm. Since blind applications are intended to prevent normal patterns of biases, it can be difficult to get optimal results.

Furthermore, the blind audition study conducted on symphony orchestras does not take into account the completion of the hiring process. Orchestra members go through a probationary period where they play with the orchestra to ensure it is a good fit for everyone. If the orchestra is not accommodating to female musicians, they could be let go when this probationary period is over. The same is true of states where employees have a probationary period. Any affirmative action or fair hiring that was done could be eliminated after a few weeks on the job.

Is a Blind Application Process Needed?

A blind application process seems to be in great demand considering research on the impact of names, sex, race, and even religion have on hiring processes. A study out of the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that names that sounded Caucasian would get one call back out of 10 resumes sent, but someone with a name that sounded African American would receive one call back after 15 resume submissions.

Seemingly, some hiring managers have implicit biases based on names. Someone with a name that sounds like a woman’s name might be passed over more than someone who has a man’s name. Biases can go even deeper when men are applying for jobs that are thought of as jobs reserved for women. A man might be passed up for a teaching job or a position as a receptionist. While a woman might be hired in his place, implicit biases were still part of the hiring decision. A completely blind application would be one way to eliminate these biases. Some companies might remove all demographic information except for the name and that would invalidate the anonymization of the process.

Even seemingly innocent details about an applicant might make the hiring process unfair. For example, if a hiring manager at a technology company has a choice between someone who went to a technical college and someone who attended a traditional university, they might be more likely to choose the candidate who attended a technical college.

Are Individual Traits Lost During the Blind Hiring Process?

While a hiring manager might mean well when using a blind application process, they might remove all individuality from those who have applied. The personality of each person can contribute to or detract from the team. For example, a hiring manager who chooses an applicant based on all the right qualifications might discover that that person is extremely abrasive or not team-oriented when they get to work. The hiring manager might be forced to let that person go and start the process over again. The personality traits of the applicant were not tested before they were hired.

Is Blind Hiring Made More Difficult Because of the Limits of Technology?

Blind hiring can be completed by a well-meaning company, but that does not mean that the company can easily institute a blind hiring process in a few moments. Technology must be used to complete each application, test, and interview. A company can invest in software that will review all applications of identifiers up to and including their names.

Technology can be used to test applicants on their knowledge of a particular subject area. Software might even be used to help applicants explain their goals, skills, and personality. However, the applicants cannot remain anonymous while sitting for a traditional interview. Voices make interviews difficult to anonymize, and hiring managers may not want to hire someone without at least speaking to them on the phone first.

A hiring manager might start a seemingly innocuous conversation about life experiences, and the applicant might reveal that they are from a town that the manger does not like, been in a fraternity or sorority that the manager objects to, or even support viewpoints that are irrelevant to the position but offend the manager. If the anonymous application process ends with an interview where a hiring manager can apply their implicit biases to hiring decisions, the process was not truly anonymous.

What Should I Do if I Believe a Hiring Process is Discriminatory?

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal, including during the hiring process. If an applicant believes they were not considered for a job position because of their gender, race, or another illegal reason, they should speak to a lawyer about their options. A lawyer will review the situation, collect the facts, and determine if the worker should pursue legal action.

Bucks County Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Assist Employees Who Have Experienced Discrimination in Hiring Processes

Our Bucks County employment discrimination lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. help discriminated and harassed clients. We understand how potential employees can face discrimination during hiring processes, and we strive to protect these victims. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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