How many times have you been turned down from a job interview due to your gender, pedigree, or age? I presume that we all have experienced this at least once in our career life cycle. And how unfair or annoying it may feel when you are discriminated against for something that has nothing to do with your capabilities. While we may have faced the trouble of making our career moves against our desires, yet we hardly take a moment to try finding a solution to this age-old common problem.
What about bringing in some innovative changes that can make hiring more about actual skills than a mere keyword in one’s resume? One way companies are doing this is by blind auditions
The evolution of blind audition
The concept of blind audition evolved in the music industry while selecting members in an orchestra. Traditionally, the new members were selected by the music director or the top player of each section. And historically, the selection criterion was filled with sexism and nepotism. Due to the hand picking process of new members, women were underrepresented in American and European orchestras. Implicit biases like female musicians having the lesser technical capability, or that they are more temperamental and unsuitable for orchestras dominated the hiring and selection process in the music industry. In fact, most orchestras at that time employed nearly all white men.
Finally, the concept of ‘blind audition’ was introduced around the 1970s and 80s when symphony orchestras began to use this selection technique to challenge the implicit biases embedded in traditional methods. In a blind audition, the applicant and the orchestra members were separated by a screen. The orchestra members could hear the musician play and not see them, hence unaware of their gender or skin color.
Blind auditions targeted diversification by removing focus from everything but - performance. In fact, a study by researchers at Harvard and Princeton found that blind auditions increased the chances of women being hired by 25 - 46%. And thankfully, over past decades, orchestras have significantly changed the way they hire musicians.
How can we use this technique in corporate hiring?
While we fully acknowledge the fact that organizations are finding difficulty in closing their hiring targets. Traditional and conventional methods are losing their potential to tap the right talent. Here, blind auditions can play an important role. Use of this method can bring in a different perspective, especially when it comes to entry-level jobs. This technique is productive when used to have a good number of vacancies filled at entry level.
Blind audition or blind hiring, whatever you may want to refer to, is being embraced by companies like Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Victoria Police, Westpac Bank, and many other organizations. In this method, organizations screen applicants without accessing information like race, gender, age, college attended, previous employers, or socio-economic status. All these ‘bias inducing information’ are removed from the resume beforehand. The main focus is on skills, knowledge and job performance related information.
Work samples are generated through blind audition. Applicants are asked to answer work assessment questions and complete the given challenges that provide evidence of their skills, knowledge and how they approach a different set of problems in the project. It may include writing a case study, cracking a code, editing a document, developing a computer program, or designing a website. The work samples are given the highest priority as they provide concrete evidence of job performance.
Some of the immediate benefits of blind audition technique are:
- Reduction of implicit biases
- Creates workplace diversity and gender parity
- Helps in building a skill-based culture
- Eliminates discrimination during the selection process
What tools can be used to implement blind hiring in your organization?
In a blind hiring process, one needs to remove all personal and demographic information from the hiring process so that the hiring managers can assess the candidates’ ability alone. These two tools can help you plan to implement the technique in your hiring process.
This tool hides the data that's not relevant using technology. This helps in reducing unconscious bias and highlights data that is relevant to assess the performance of the candidate. Blendoor captures candidate data from your existing applicant tracking systems or online job boards. Candidate profiles are then ‘blendorized’ - displayed without name, photo, or dates to mitigate unconscious bias.
With GapJumpers you create blind auditions to test candidates work readiness. They help employers eliminate bias in the hiring process by screening applicants using blind auditions rather than a résumé or application.
Not a perfect science
Apart from all these advantages, this technique too is not without its flaws. For instance, a candidate’s personal information can only be hidden during the initial screening stage. When you apply a blind hiring principle to resume screening, you may get a more diverse pool of first-round interviewees; however, during subsequent interview stages, there is no way to mask a candidate’s name, gender or ethnicity. Hence, employers will subsequently be faced with the same hiring diversity challenges.
Another challenge is related to culture fit versus culture add. A homogeneous culture subconsciously discourages diversity. In spite of hiding the personal information under the blind hiring method, hiring managers will prefer to hire employees who share the company’s philosophy and who will work well with their fellow coworkers. In their quest to find candidates who share similar attitudes, beliefs, and experiences, the process can get diluted. Hence, employers should exercise caution when planning to use blind hiring technique.
I leave my readers with these two question that if an industry like the music industry, can implement blind auditions successfully, why can’t our organizations use it? How can we evolve the concept of blind audition scientifically so that you can reduce the little flaws and yield maximum benefit from such unconventional method of hiring the right talent?
Image Source: Quartz at Work