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!

Image Credits: Bigstock © lolostock; Portrait: Portrait Credits (c) International Labour Organisation


49 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Pamela

    It all depends on the job, qualifications are Important but so is age and gender. I don’t want young girls or any age males working for me. I have a women’s boutique, and I only employ older women, the ones others think they are too old. They are 10 times more efficient and more responsible. So there would be no point of interviewing someone who doesn’t fit my preference.

    • avatar
      Tatjana

      With this post you just broke multiple labor law against distrimination.

    • avatar
      Carlos

      .. I believe what she mentioned is much more ‘positive descrimination’…

    • avatar
      Pamela

      discrimination? I’m not an enterprise not an ONG, it’s MY business, I know what I want, what I need, and NOBODY has anything to do with it.
      For example I would never employ someone with your age or your mentality. I worked too hard to have what I have, no government or organization helped me, why should I obey labour laws that do not suit me???

    • avatar
      Uli

      so what is wrong with you receiving an application and AFTER decide if its fitting to your standards, instead of doing so before? Its about giving people the chance to present themselves and change your mind

    • avatar
      Pamela

      no, I’m in this business for too long, nothing will make me change my mind. Read carefully what I wrote, why I want certain type of person. The debate is about whether interviews should be sort of a blind date, why should I loose time interviewing someone who doesn’t fit my preference. My preference is not a matter of being stubborn is based on years of experience, I already had young girls working, too many days not showing up, for one reason or another, too many personal problems that end up affecting their work, they go out at night and the next day they are worn out, etc.
      So, for the last 20 years I only employ women above 40 years old… never a problem with them.

  2. avatar
    Francisca

    .in doubt but tend to say yes….. since 2010 unemployed….meanwhile the argument is too long unemployed…. “too old”
    . not fit to nowadays needs….. yet worked 20 year with a multinational operating EU market…

  3. avatar
    Rajesh

    i am tour and travel company most of my clients come from india if ichoose indians living in europe am i biased in private sector its a choice cos its my money my business but in public sector yes everybody should get equal opportunity base don merit only because public sector is funded by public tax money

    • avatar
      Andreea

      why do you need to hire Indians living in Europe and not anyone speaking the language at a native level instead?

    • avatar
      Rajesh

      because it’s my business my choice i decide whats good for me and my client.

    • avatar
      Rajesh

      part of the infrastructure (roads, phone lines etc.) that your company uses to function is also funded by public money

    • avatar
      Rajesh

      hahahahah now you are loosing it that’s no argument

    • avatar
      Andreea

      is it not true? Why should my tax money support companies who discriminate based on nationality or skin colour, instead of looking at the ability of a candidate to speak the language and fulfill the other tasks that the role demands?

  4. avatar
    Rajesh

    i am european and if i choose tesla over BM,W MERCEDES OR RENAULT am i biased

    • avatar
      Andreea

      if you choose them based on their merits (mileage, fuel type, resilience), then you’re not biased. If you choose a tesla just because it’s Tesla and you like the name/prestige, then you’re biased, by definition.

    • avatar
      Rajesh

      i beg to differ

  5. avatar
    Gabor

    That is stupid. A significant part of the interview is personal contact, just because a candidate will have to engage in person-to-person contact with the future colleagues. This is not bias but a test of compatibility. Another thing is that some might abuse their power and that should be dealt with separately, without generalization.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Gabor, we’re talking about pre-interview.

    • avatar
      Gabor

      @ Debating Europe how is a pre-interview different? The ability to communicate is measured (or should be) on all stages.

    • avatar
      Gabor

      Debating Europe i don’t want to be rude, but I believe that such studies are highly questionable and manipulative. As we all might have learned – correlation not always means causation. We cannot just rely on statistical numbers as they remove the most important – the “why?”, they remove personalities and only return cold, dead numbers or facts that are out of their context. That is bias right there. And the answer to this question is key to understand the right way of action in each separate case. Generalizing a rule because of a certain percentage of events that are not even appropriately researched instead of applying common sense and creating a legal regulation on this basis is a typical trick of those in power to create a false illusion of protection and deep concerns in regards of a given topic. Unfortunately this approach is only good for creation of a world where anyone can report anyone for anything and the real problems still remain unsolved, many times it even becomes worse that before, because now everyone is afraid of bringing up the topic and openly discussing it. Another important illusion on which this question is founded that human beings can make unbiased decisions. I am sorry, but they (we) cannot. We are all biased and that is fine. We just have to have respect, understanding and common sense. If you want to do something about discrimination you should first do a proper research on why people discriminate, or is it even the right word to use? If lets say I am selecting workers for a construction site or a mining project, am I being discriminatory if I select males with strong muscles and not lets say females? I don’t think so! I just know from basic anatomy classes that males have higher bone density and can cope with higher physical loads, and if that is the requirement for the job, than that is what I select. I made this point regarding another topic you had here – may be our foundational social concepts are wrong? If we are so open minded and progressive, why we discard this option and keep asking mainstream and likely irrelevant questions?

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Thanks for your feedback. Keep debating!

    • avatar
      Uli

      so the question is.. who is going to be hurt when its anonymous? so much text but no answer for this question…this is about the early stage..where one should decide by education etc. not the brightest smile on the picture or the nicest name. Nothing is changed once they are invited.. They are not sitting in the interview with a bucket obn their heads…in the end such approach would at least on paper guarantee equal chances..nevermind if it imagined or not! not sure what this has to do with any research. People are biased..you dont need to ask the question of “why” (even though i believe it has been analysed a lot) when you control it like that. This is about buerocracy and here one can have a little more instituionalized standards than ” respect, understanding and common sense”. noone is stopping you from using these standards anyway

    • avatar
      Gabor

      Well I guess we really need to clarify this “pre-interview” early stage thing, because is seems to be something that is not really a thing that can be described in s tandard way. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these days it is pretty popular to have an account on that famous work related social media site where people advertise their carreers intentionally.
      So before asking who would be hurt I would ask – do we really need to ask this question of anonimity, or instead may be we should try working on the root cause of the problem?
      Also you forget about jobs where your looks or even the way your name sounds makes a difference, like a movie role or may be a public person? Yes, there are cases where you have to account for things people don’t like to account for and you can be ignorant and close your eyes or again – apply common sense. I believe that every stage of the hiring process should be as transparent as possible. Just open your cards up, because only than it will be a mutually beneficial relationship. Anonimity is a way to manipulate. You are who you are. If you are below the avarage hight – don’t apply for a basketball player job.

    • avatar
      Bruno

      if recruiters/business managers would be scrutinized most of them would be in jail, because they fail to comply with human rights and constituitional laws in the most civilized nations. Recruiters in many cases are crooks.

    • avatar
      Gabor

      Unfortunately you are right, but anonimity will not change this, or you believe it would?

  6. avatar
    Debating Europe

    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.

  7. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should job applications be anonymous to reduce bias?

    Then there is nepotism, followed by friends who will devise a code in order to make it easy for detection of their chosen one at time of selection.

    However, the biggest of all fears you have here is, if you find it is all above board and because those you want to push for the highlighted position, repeatedly turns out to be downright mediocre. Which is very likely to be the case, what will you do then? Claim equality doesn’t exist after all?

    And as an addition to the equality nonsense. Take all the nations across the world over the centuries for at least 5,000 years and ask, who has been productive in the terms of genius in way of worthwhile living, science, architecture, extraordinary achievements, such as simple telephone, fridges, medicine, air conditioning, swimming pools, roads, petrol stations, sewers, TV, movies, cameras, and on and on, and tell me who were the productive obsessors producing a life worth living, and then look at others, even with the knowledge of how to bring these projects to their own back yard, from a real life idea to a real life benefit. And look at those who have not moved an inch in self improvement or productivity. What do you find is the awful truth that blows your theory wide open?.

    And yes you can look closely at all previous civilisations, even pre Egyption, Greek, Roman and on and on, with their miraculous achievements and see with each of them what caused their downfall, and the end of their exceptionalism. Massive acceptance of the worlds mediocre into their midst. The intruders did not have the ability to improve on the society they invaded. As a result the amazing progress ended, the way a candle dies in blowing wind. Those interlopers were unable to continue the structure they found or improve on its production for the good of the society they took over. Their inability to function with the same basic cognitive skills no longer existed in the society they coveted.

  8. avatar
    Melvin

    It really depends on the job, because certain jobs background information are needed for the qualifications for the job. At a restaurant or grocery store etc. I feel that it is unneeded for a application due to the fact that it’s not really needed.

  9. avatar
    Andre

    Should job applications be anonymous to reduce bias?
    I believe that this topic is a very good debate, it raises a lot of good questions because just like job interviews it comes with important questions. I feel that employers are not fond of the idea of not getting the physical picture in their mind of who they might be hiring. Although this may be a good thing to help people get more jobs, it may cause more problems then good when it comes to hiring. When going to an interview you are asked questions, the questions depending on the employer may be more qualifications based or personal based. Many people get the job because of how their personality reflects them as a person and the employer can gain the personal contact, but if anonymous applications are implemented then that option is taken away and it is only qualification based. For others that have lots of experience this will be good for them but if someone is applying for their first job then they will always be overlooked because they lack experience. People will still be able to become employed but for people who lack experience or have not had a job before, it will definitely make it harder for them to acquire one.

  10. avatar
    Bob

    Even doing that won’t make anything fair because racism and biasism can be found everywhere in Europe. This is something they should learn from American companies because their hiring process is very fair and gives equal chances to everyone. They don’t biase applicants based on esp. race & ethnicity.

  11. avatar
    Franck

    Maybe we’ll see Turkish kebabs and Chinese restaurant hire white peoples then?

  12. avatar
    Ricardo

    Obviously yes! Why do you need a photo on CV? To pick the pretty ones? The blondes? It’s sexist and doesn’t make sense, unless…

  13. avatar
    George

    hat will be impossible to enforce, and may result in lack of diversity (as anyone can claim it will be impossible to make sure diversity exists)

    • avatar
      Chris

      surely you should just take the best candidate not pick to achieve some quota?

  14. avatar
    Olivier

    Nonsense… Discrimination is part of life…. We all are discriminate.. Am bald…

    • avatar
      Bruno

      You are part of the problem, then.

  15. avatar
    Bruno

    unfortunately the recruiters destroyed recruitment. Recruitment should have never been about selling people. People are not products, and this ideology is destructive. The fact is: productivity in the west has not increased in the last decades, despite all the technological developments. This means, managers and recruiters are hiring the wrong people, based on wrong assumptions and on wrong practices. Hiring people should be about finding the most capable people, not on the subjective and destructive “most fit” talk, which in the end it’s always the most corrupt people and the “boot lickers” who make it to the top, preventing the real decent people to make a change for better, not only in the organizations but also for the society, in general. Hiring people has ceased to be the finding the best people and has led to the monstruous corruption of hiring people for loyalties games and power strategies, and not for real work, as it was supposed to be.

    • avatar
      Suzy

      This is the exact reason I will never make a CV ever again. I will never sell myself on a piece of people ever again. Luckily I am in the position to be self employed now.

  16. avatar
    Franck

    So white people would have a chance to be employed in kebabs, Asian restaurants, building, and all the jobs where bosses only hire their own ethny, for once.

  17. avatar
    Chris

    You will still interview face to face so what’s the point. If someone wants to discriminate and not pick the best person for the job they will. Why would anyone want to work for a company that doesn’t just pick the best person anyway? I don’t care about who they are I just want the best talent.

    • avatar
      Bruno

      the point would be: to change the organization from within. We are always on time to change what’s wrong! And that’s exactly where this corrupt hiring system is blocking, it is blocking the opportunity to change what’s wrong.

  18. avatar
    Maria

    Maybe is the only way at least im countrys like Portugal

  19. avatar
    Michał

    If you read the relevant studies, you will find that men benefit the most from blind applications.

    • avatar
      Oraianthi

      actually it’s the exact opposite but sure

    • avatar
      Desto

      By your name only one can be identified if he or she is a man or a women, that has got nothing to do wirh men being rhe benefactor of blind application. But i do believe in blind applications to give way to diversity , but acknowledging immediate disponible position. No matter who you are and where your from, hence you can do and handle the job position well, it’s yours.

    • avatar
      Michał

      @Orainithi judging by your “staythef***home” picture, I can safely conclude that you wouldn’t recognize empirical data if you were locked in your house with them for three months on end.
      We can trade studies, if you want, in the meantime, I’ll give you an easy googleable example: When Amazon started using algorithms to judge job candidates “blindly”, they ran into a problem because it heavily favored men.

    • avatar
      Ricardo

      who made the algorithms? Not woman for sure… Computers do what they are made to do… Right?

    • avatar
      Michał

      Well, the algorithms were actually designed by neural networks. I can give you more examples, if you give me one to the contrary.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.