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What's in a Name? - Latest Blogpost
The Government has recently pledged support to a scheme aimed at ending what the Prime Minister called “disgraceful” discrimination – where recruiters reject CVs based purely on reading the names of applicants.

He announced that the civil service will begin to process applications on a so-called ‘name blind’ basis, where only the skills, not names of applicants are considered. This is to try to end bias where applicants with “ethnic-sounding” names are apparently not as likely to get through the first stage of short-listing as those with “white-sounding” names.

UCAS, the processing body for university student applications, will also work to name-blind applications from 2017 and several major organisations, employing around 1.8 million people, have also pledged to recruit on a name-blind basis. They include the BBC, NHS, KPMG, and HSBC. The aim is to help prevent unconscious bias and ensure that job offers are made on the basis of potential – not ethnicity, gender or marital status.

Some people argue that this could be taken further, but some candidates often don’t help themselves by attaching photographs or include personal details such as ages, marital status and numbers of dependants in their CVs.

In my view the best way to deal with this is not to accept CVs but to use application forms to ensure that you get a comparable sets of responses and that the application form is designed around the needs of the employer and the vacancy. In small organisations, it may not be possible to have a separate recruitment team who can separate the personal details from the applications before passing them on to the panel for assessment, but at least you will be able to make direct comparisons between the applicants.

Using recruitment agencies is another option, but make sure you choose a reputable agency and be very specific about your requirements. It reminds me of one I was asked to work with over a decade ago now, who submitted detailed reports on candidates including their religion (and surprisingly, that of their parents); how many times they had been married; what childcare arrangements they had and details of the working arrangements of spouses. Given that this was to recruit to the post of an in-house lawyer, I was appalled. None of this information had any bearing whatsoever on the ability of the candidates to do the job. I summoned the recruitment consultant to ask him to explain these illegal discriminatory practices to me and was told that this was how his boss (the owner of the agency) liked to do things. Needless to say, I told him that he was to remove the reports he had submitted as these would not be put to the selection panel and that I would not do business with them if he ever did anything like it again!

Unconscious bias is much more difficult to guard against, but if you have a clear job description and person specification and short-list the applications against those, you should be able to come up with an objectively fair list of potential candidates to interview.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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