At first glance, the notion of anonymous job applications seems absurd. How can an applicant’s personality possibly stand out if the application process is anonymous?
On the other hand, it is an unfortunate reality that many applicants for positions are disqualified based purely upon their age, ethnicity or gender. If it’s not a person’s qualifications but rather their surname, date of birth or marital status that’s decisive for being invited to an interview, then how can that possibly be fair?
Studies have shown that discrimination (whether unconscious or otherwise) can be a particular problem during the pre-selection process. Anonymous applications offer a way of circumventing that discrimination.
What would an anonymous job application look like? An anonymous CV is identical to a regular CV except that the candidate’s age, photo, ethnicity, address and gender are all omitted. Only the qualifications of the applicant play a role in the initial selection round. In the second round of job interviews, the retained data is then released. Initial pilot projects have shown that significantly more women and people from a migrant background are hired if the process is anonymised.
Anonymous job applications have already been trialled by governments and organisations in many European countries, including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Judith. She told us the story of her roommate, whose boss had once confided in her that he would never have hired her if he knew she was a woman. How can this sort of discrimination be prevented?
To get a response, we put Judith’s comment to Emanuela Pozzan, who specialises in gender equality and discrimination at the International Labor Organization (ILO). What would she say to Judith?
It’s really unfortunate that these types of attitudes and comments are still part of the hiring process. It becomes apparent that managers or HR managers who make such comments have many prejudices – in this case against women. Such prejudices are not accepted in most countries. International labour law and, in particular, Convention 111 on discrimination in employment and occupation should prevent this. Someone who has such an attitude and is responsible for applicants is clearly out of place. Many companies today are very concerned about their image and want to emphasise how inclusive they are. As a job seeker, I would advise Judith to check who she wants to work for before applying.
Next up, our reader Necula would like to see applications anonymised in order to reduce issues such as gender bias. Would Emanuela Pozzan agree?
We have seen a lot of progress over the last decade with ‘blind’ application processes. If personal characteristics such as name, age, gender or religion are removed in the first stage of the selection, this has led to very positive developments. New talent was hired and more diverse employees were found.
How does an anonymous application work? It begins when the job is advertised, when gender-specific language should not be used, but rather inclusive language that encourages very different candidates to apply. Companies are increasingly removing demographic and academic information because they create prejudice and are now only concentrating on the qualifications of the candidates. Anonymous tests and interviews are becoming more and more attractive.
Of course, you have to introduce yourself personally at some point, but that should be the last step in the application process so that nobody is discriminated in advance. Even then, it helps if there is diversity among the HR managers themselves. It would be best for men, women and minorities to be present during job interviews, which also prevents decisions from being influenced by prejudices, and thus ensures the process is a neutral as possible.
Should job applications be anonymous to reduce bias? Would recruitment processes be fairer if information such as age, gender or ethnicity were left anonymous until the interview? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!