What’s in a Name? Managing Recruitment Bias


Petal Bovell-ProffittFounder of DISC Bodhi

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Recruitment bias can be a big problem and could lead to businesses missing out on great talent. But reducing recruitment bias becomes incredibly tricky when you don’t even know you’re doing it.

Article 4 Minutes
What’s in a Name? Managing Bias Recruitment

When a parent gives a child a name, that name is given a lot of thought, to help define the child based on what’s essential to that parent and the potential future of that child. A name is often a well thought out process with meaning.  When it comes to recruiting, a name often has the opposite effect than what parents anticipated for their child.

Individuals applying for interviews struggle with this and will often mask their identity to protect themselves from the subtle bias of the recruiting process.

Even well-meaning organizations, with EEOC statements, may demonstrate subtle bias when recruiting.

A name may cause you or your recruiter to make assumptions about a candidate and their ability to perform.  Unique, distinctive names can provide light into an individuals’ socio-economic status, and often, candidates’ who come from poor socio-economic backgrounds, are minorities.  A name can allow your recruiter or manager to make assumptions about the candidate’s ability to perform.

Organizations publish on their website that they value diversity, embrace inclusiveness, yet this simple recruiting process can impact the talent that is allowed to enter your organization and have an impact on your diversity goals.  Subtle bias to a candidate’s name can influence your recruiting strategy and deny talented individuals the opportunity to work, without you even realizing.

As the war for talent continues to impact recruiting, why not implement strategies to hire the best talent and gain the skills that are required for your organization to succeed?

Implement a Blind Recruitment Process

A blind recruitment process removes any personally identifiable information such as name, gender, address, education, and years of experience.  

In a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found that

"[j]ob applicants with white names needed to send about ten resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback."

Determine how the recruitment process will work for you

You decide how far to go with the blind recruitment process.  You can use blind recruitment as a screening process to screen the right talent for an interview, or you can go all the way and have the full recruitment cycle, including interviews, go through the blind process.  

You must decide what works best for you.  What works best for one organization may not necessarily work for your company.

For example, blind recruitment included as part of the screening process allows you to remove all identifying information from the application stage of the recruiting process.  The recruiter can then filter through the resumes to identify the best fit on paper and then interview the candidate.

To take the blind recruitment process a step further, recruiters can filter through resumes with the identifiable information removed. An assessment can be embedded, such as PXT select, which identifies if the individual is a good fit for your organization and role based on thinking style, behavioral traits, and interests.

Champion diversity throughout the business

Blind recruiting alone will not change the outcome of your diverse recruiting strategy.  You will also need to equip Recruiters and Managers with an understanding of your organizational goals, diversity target and why this matters.  

Championing diversity from you as the Senior Leader and embedding diversity into the fabric of your organization is necessary to get the buy-in from all employees.

While we can continue to train employees on unconscious bias and lead them to make the correct judgments, employees can be very resistant to diversity training and often look at it as a box-checking exercise.  Whilst we can check the box on this, the broader goal is to have individuals embrace diversity in the workplace and find a way to connect and create an equitable environment.

Therefore, your Recruiters and Managers must see and understand why this matters.  In some cases, diversity is critical because you have a diverse customer base.  How can you have a diverse customer base, yet have a completely homogenous workforce?  How can you answer and solve the concerns of minority customers if you have no employees' that understand their experiences?

In conclusion

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." - William Shakespeare

Let us work to implement policies and practices that embrace a diverse and inclusive workplace.  While many organization are actively doing so, some of the policies and procedures, such as our recruiting practices, may prevent us from accomplishing our goals. 

Assess where in your recruiting lifecycle you can implement new strategies to engage a diverse candidate pool and help recruiters and managers understand why diversity is important for your business.

A diverse workforce should mimic your diverse customer base.  It should enhance how teams collaborate and solve problems.  And as a result, it will bring different perspectives and experiences to innovation and problem-solving within the business.

Petal Bovell-Proffitt

Founder of DISC Bodhi


Petal Bovell-Proffitt is the Founder of DISC Bodhi, an HR Consulting firm focused on Talent Management and Assessments.  Petal founded DISC Bodhi in 2017 bringing more than fifteen years of experience in Human Resources working at large global organizations.


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