How to Anonymize Resumes to Enable Fair Recruitment


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Unconscious bias is hard to tackle in the recruitment process, but anonymizing CVs is one way to implement a fairer system.

Article 4 Minutes
How to Anonymize Resumes to Enable Fair Recruitment

Everyone likes to think they’re fair, especially when it comes to something as important as recruitment. Putting unconscious biases aside is easier said than done, however, meaning HR teams require systems to take any potential influencing factors out of the equation all together. 

This is where anonymized resumes come in, allowing qualified candidates to move through the recruitment process on the basis of experience and skills alone. Blind hiring helps to ensure no decision is made with biases such as gender or race influencing even the smallest of micro-decisions. 

What is an anonymous (or blind) CV? 

An anonymous, or blind, CV is a resume that has been intentionally stripped of any information that could lead to bias. While key personal data such as a person’s gender or nationality is an obvious place to start, dates of birth, surnames and even email addresses can compromise the process. 

Examples of blind recruitment can be found off the page as well as on it. As far back as the 1970s, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra erected partitions at auditions to ensure it was hiring on merit and to move away from having mainly male, white musicians on its staff. Following in its footsteps, The Voice has made blind auditions its USP for 22 seasons. 

What is the purpose of blind recruitment? 

Blind recruitment takes into account the fact that cognitive biases aren’t anybody’s fault, but the result of ingrained processes in the brain. HR managers and recruiters are constantly making decisions based on the information in front of them, which can be vast but also incomplete. 

Despite the best intentions, everyone is biased and can’t control the way fragments of data influence the most complex decisions. A study from the University of Oxford used identical applications with only the name of the candidate being changed and discovered individuals from ethnic minorities sent out 80% more CVs to get the same result as someone from a white, British background. 

In an anonymized process, factors such as background, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation and disability shouldn’t influence any decisions. Top talent should therefore be able to progress unhindered. This is vital for a diverse and effective workforce. After all, Mckinsey found that organizations with gender diversity at the executive level were 21% more profitable than homogenous companies. 

Structure of a blind CV 

When anonymizing a CV, it’s important to retain the structure and formatting of the original document. Not only does this ensure it’s readable, but demonstrates important skills you may be looking for in a candidate. Previously, personal information was redacted manually, but there are now tools to enable the process to be carried out automatically. 

This protects against oversights, such as pronouns being left in or any other small identifying detail. Use an anonymizing tool that covers all the parameters you need. These can include everything from date of birth and location to identifiers in language. Blind CV software often replaces names with numbers so individuals can be matched back up with their resumes once the selection process has been completed. 

Why should you anonymize CVs? 

Recruitment is not just about businesses deciding which individuals they want to work for them, but also top talent being drawn to those organizations. A Glassdoor study highlighted the importance of diversity in this when it found 76% of job seekers take it into consideration when evaluating job offers. Companies therefore can’t afford to let unconscious bias slip into the hiring process if they want to stay competitive. 

The pros of blind recruitment 

Some of the pros to take into account when weighing up whether to introduce blind hiring to your organization: 

  • Hiring managers won’t be able to advance candidates that look like them, either consciously or subconsciously 
  • Anonymizing resumes can lead to greater diversity in the workplace 
  • Each individual is assessed on an equal basis 
  • Eliminates the opportunity to advance candidates based on who they know 
  • Focuses on advanced skills 

The cons of blind recruitment 

Among the cons of adopting a blind recruitment approach are: 

  • A lack of diversity can’t be proactively addressed 
  • Overlooks the need for a cultural fit between the candidate and the company 
  • Prevents the chance to see the business environments where individuals have thrived in the past 
  • Prevents referrals, which is widely used in hiring 
  • Stops networking groups from filling positions 

How to enable blind recruitment 

The hiring culture in countries like the US and UK already discourages candidates from including their photos along with resumes, as it’s seen as a road to a biased process. Taking this a step further means deciding on the best way to anonymize CVs and putting someone in the HR department in charge of the task. 

Their role will include deciding on CV redacting software to suit the business’ needs and which identifiers to remove from submitted resumes. There must also be a system in place to ensure the contact information for the chosen candidates is then successfully linked back to the successful CVs so they can be invited to interview. 

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