Would anonymous resumes curb unconscious bias?

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Women of black, Pakistani and Bangledeshi heritage who ‘anglicise’ their names on job applications experience a 50% drop in the number they submit before they are given an interview. This was the finding of the UK all-party parliamentary group on race and community, which released its report last December.

As a result, the group has recommended that businesses be encouraged to use blank name, anonymised application forms that prevent a recruiter from seeing the candidate’s name, background and schooling in an effort to curb unconscious bias. The recommendation is an echo of MP Lynne Featherstone’s 2009 effort to include a clause in the Equality Bill to make nameless CVs mandatory.

However, People Management reported that the idea was dispensed with subsequent to negative feedback from HR practitioners. And it seems that there is still reluctance. “Any good recruiter will tell you that it’s a combination of experience, companies worked for and sometimes education that make a good CV. If you have this, the name and ethnic background is irrelevant,” Tim Baker, of Frazer Jones, told the UK magazine.

In New Zealand, however, there are already businesses that adopt a process of anonymising CVs in order to circumvent unconscious bias. “Some larger organisations are actually doing the same thing, not blacking out their names, but ignoring the names on some of the CVs that come through and looking at skills and experience first before they bring people in for interviews, which has been quite an interesting thing,” Bev Cassidy-McKenzie, chief executive – Equal Employment Opportunities Trust, said.

Cassidy-McKenzie did not express explicit support for the idea of anonymising CVs, but said that she believed that businesses would continue to undertake similar measures. She also emphasised the importance of recruiting talented migrants.

“The reality is there are people out there that have skills, that are migrants, and they do bring the best that they have to offer to a job. We should be taking into account the skills that they bring to a job, because we don’t have the skills available to do those jobs here in New Zealand,” she said.

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