Re thinking recruitment: blind hiring as the key tool to attract a diverse workforce

In the 1970s, blind auctions (almost) solved the problem of gender equality in symphony orchestras. Forty years later, companies are coming back to the same method to attract a diverse pool of applicants.

Nowadays hiring resembles choosing a romantic partner more than an employee. What a candidate might be like in a conference room at 10 a.m. has become almost as important as what he’d be like playing Ping-Pong after a few beers from the office kegerator. And companies are acting accordingly.
Google for example needs 25 interviews, SAT scores check and questions such as: ‘You’re shrunken down to the size of nickels and dropped to the bottom of a blender. What do you do?’’ before taking the final decision on an applicant. Race is still a critical factor that deeply influence HR decision, as shown by Researchers from the University of Chi­cago and M.I.T.. They created phony résumés with the same qualifications, giving half of them black-sounding names and the other half white-sounding names. Those with ‘‘white’’ names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than those with ‘‘black’’ names. Similar results can be found compared the rate of male and female hiring.

As a matter of fact, HR decisions Decisions are often made on flawed human judgment. According to decades of research similarities in things like leisure activities and personality seem to be the most important factor in HR evaluation of candidates. To try to combat these biases, Iyer and Petar Vujosevic founded GapJumpers, creating a list of skills required for each job, then designing a relevant test that the applicant completes online. In this way they can screen job applicants without showing employers any biographical information. The first piece of information the hiring company sees is applicants’ scores, and, based on those, it selects candidates to interview. Only then does it see their names and résumés.

GapJumpers has conducted more than 1,400 auditions for companies like Bloomberg and Dolby Laboratories. According to the company’s numbers, using conventional résumé screening, about a fifth of applicants who were not white, male, able-bodied people from elite schools made it to a first-round interview. Using blind auditions, 60 percent did.

Employers say, ‘If you can show me your skills in this role, I am willing to interview you, regardless of where you come from, what you look like or who you are

Iyer says. A new study from Harvard Business School backs up this line of reasoning. It found that when service-sector employers used a job test, they hired workers who tended to stay at the job longer — indicating that they were a better match. When employers overruled the test results to hire someone for more subjective reasons, the employees were significantly more likely to quit or be fired.

GapJumpers is just one of a handful of Silicon Valley start-ups peddling technological fixes for hiring practices. Its story appeared in the New York Times issue on rethinking workplace.
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