The Case for Blind Hiring

Blind hiring gets you the diversity you want, but what about the cultural 'fit' you need?

learn more about Heather R. Huhman

By Heather R. Huhman


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Imagine being hired without your future employer knowing your name, educational background or work experience -- or even shaking your hand. This practice is known as "blind hiring," and it's become more prevalent across industries as a way to reduce bias and improve workplace diversity.

Related: 5 Top Mistakes Hiring Managers Make When Recruiting Software Developers

Not that such goals aren't widely shared: Sixty-nine percent of the 228 executives surveyed in an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report in January 2014 said their senior leadership teams recognized the value of workplace diversity and strived to embed diversity into their respective cultures.

But, with a traditional hiring process, there's no way to ensure that the actual process to attract and hire such diverse talent is free of potential bias.

Blind hiring may help in that regard. Yet the term itself is confusing: It can mean different things, depending on the role being filled, and the specific industry. Many of us, for instance, automatically think of blind music auditions, which The Boston Symphony Orchestra began in 1952, and still uses to ensure fairness and diversity in hiring.

However, companies newly testing the waters might try out blind hiring by employing something more simple, like a skills assessment, an applicant challenge or a writing test.

To better make the case for your own company's blind hiring, here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pro: Unconventional applicants can shine

For hiring managers trying to fill positions requiring strong skill sets, simply accepting a resume isn't going to cut it. Take the tech industry, for example. A tech startup seeking to hire a gifted coder isn't truly going to be able to verify skill levels based on a college degree and work history.

Instead, startups and other companies might use blind hiring techniques like a coding challenge to land their next skilled employee.

The candidate who comes out on top of such a blind hiring skills assessment might not have otherwise made it through a startup's standard application process or culture-fit test -- and bias (realized or subconscious) may have been the reason why.

Related: An Executive's Tale of Persistence in Hiring a Diverse Workforce for a Scrappy Startup

Con: 'Cultural' fit is harder to assess

We live in an era when hours spent at work are increasing, and when more companies are responding by blending work and play. Such workplaces accordingly call on their hiring managers to assess potential hires, to ensure they will harmonize with a team in a unique work environment.

But by focusing on the kinds of skills and abilities reflected in work samples or assessments, these companies have less opportunity to determine whether a candidate "fits" into the job -- and the company.

Companies like Google are focused on hiring for a cultural fit because they know it leads to greater job satisfaction, better on-the-job performance and employee retention. However, when Google first shared the makeup of its workforce in 2014, it turned out that only 30 percent of its employees were female. A staggering 61 percent of staff were white.

Given a context like Google's, it's hard not to question what blind hiring techniques could have done, and still could do, in this situation.

Pro: Opportunity for improved workplace diversity

A March 2014 study, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that both men and women surveyed were twice as likely to hire a male candidate for a math-intensive job, even when another candidate's skills were identical.

It's this type of bias that makes breaking away from a traditional hiring process imperative.

Blind hiring can open the door to unexpected hires. This in turn can impact your employee makeup, helping to ensure that women, minorities and those individuals with completely different backgrounds have the opportunity to add their talent to a team.

Con: Fad or future?

Many hiring managers may see blind hiring as merely a fad and not a long-term investment to improving their company's hiring process. However, it's important to note that a shift toward skills-focused hiring has already become a mainstay in tech and computer science industries.

A better way to present blind hiring is as a tool to add to the hiring toolbox. Overall, we can understand the benefits of skills-based hiring. But companies and hiring managers seeking to change how they recruit are unlikely to make that shift overnight. So, if you're looking to improve the diversity in your workplace, blind hiring won't be a quick solution.

Pro: Skills may make for a better long-term match.

Top industries throughout the United States are suffering from a lack of talent due to the skills gap. From startups to Fortune 500 companies, a skilled, competitive workforce is often the winning factor that drives businesses of any size to achieve more.

But, first, those companies need to ensure they're hiring the most skilled individuals to join their team and stay for the long term.

TalentSky, an online skills professional network for both employers and workers, is helping companies like Foot Locker assess internal skill sets and truly understand what they need from their future hires, to achieve new heights.

Related: A Culturally Diverse Workforce Could Be a Boon to Your Business

Overall, leveling the playing field doesn't mean missing out on talent. Blind hiring offers companies an opportunity to let skills and expertise come to the forefront during the hiring process.

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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