During his Conservative party conference speech, UK Prime Minister David Cameron pointed to research suggesting that job applicants with “white-sounding names” were “nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names” even if they had the same qualifications.

Another study published last year by the Russell Group of leading UK universities suggested 36% of ethnic minority applicants from 2010 to 2012 had received places, compared with 55% of white applicants.

 

‘Name blind’ Applications

Following such findings, the Prime Minister announced that UCAS, the UK’s university admissions service, will carry out ‘name-blind’ applications from 2017. The same will apply for graduate, apprentice-level and some other applications for organisations including the civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, KPMG, HSBC, Deloitte and Virgin Money.

The Prime Minister said:

“I said in my conference speech that I want us to end discrimination and finish the fight for real equality in our country today. Today we are delivering on that commitment and extending opportunity to all.”

As usual, there is a lot of back slapping and pontification, however, does ‘Name Blind’ recruitment actually address the issue?

In this day and age, we would hope that discrimination is a thing of the past, but unfortunately workplace discrimination can still be a big problem – whether subconsciously or more overtly.

Whilst ‘Name Blind’ may help remove an initial bias based on a name written on a CV, where do we draw the line?

Names of schools?

Date I took my GCSEs (or even O-Levels!)?

Even past experience is a good indicator to age.

Would it not therefore be better to acknowledge that all of these details, and yes that includes a candidate’s name, will become visible to a potential employer pretty quickly – and certainly at the face to face stage.

 

Technology as a way to address discrimination

Video Interviewing Software allows for a much more robust and auditable way to combat discrimination.

For a start, each candidate will receive the same questions, delivered in the same way. An individual interviewer cannot modify the question, the tone or the presentation to take account of personal prejudices. Everybody is being judged on exactly the same criteria.

 

Everybody in the hiring team, or even the wider team can get involved. Not only do multiple opinions lead to a much more rounded view of a candidate, it removes the impact of any discriminatory attitude held by one individual.

Finally, everything is recorded and audited. The recorded video interview can always be replayed and referred back to. The notes, thoughts and ranking from the interviewer and the wider team are stored, and need to be able to justify any decision that has been made.

In fact, if that robust process exists, an organisation will be able to prove that they did NOT discriminate in the event of a claim.

 

A Challenge to the Prime Minister

The agreement – signed at a recent Downing Street roundtable – means that the names of graduate applicants to the civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, HSBC, Deloitte, Virgin Money and KPMG will not be visible to employers. The practice has already been adopted by Teach First in its recruitment of new teachers.

We would like to challenge Mr Cameron, and the HR teams at each of these organisations to think whether the policy will actually make a tangible difference, and could the use of technology be a more effective way to overcome prejudice.