Are anonymous resumes the answer to discrimination?

by HCA15 Jan 2013

Are anonymous resumes the answer to discrimination?A “damning” British report has put the spotlight on resumes again after a study found those who Anglicise their names double their chances of getting an interview.

A study from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community in December found that women of black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage who ‘Anglicized’ their names saw a 50% drop in the number of applications required before getting an interview.

The Group recommends businesses use blank-name applications forms that screen out a candidate’s name, background and schooling from recruiters, to eliminate these biases.

However, Tim Baker, manager of commerce & industry at global HR recruiter Frazer Jones, is among those who doubts anonymous CVs would make a difference. “The name is usually the first thing you look at when you open a CV, but any good recruiter will tell you that it’s a combination of experience, companies worked for and sometimes education that make a good CV. If you have this, the name and ethnic background is irrelevant,” Baker told People Management.

Sarah Gordon, chair of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum and associate director of SME recruiter The Sammons Group, advised jobseekers to look for employers and agencies who advertise their diversity credentials. “We prefer to use names and just work with clients who operate fair and objective recruitment based on merit and nothing else.”

Despite the doubts, the idea clearly has momentum, though evidence of its effectiveness is inconclusive.

When the Department for Work and Pension sent 3,000 applications for 987 jobs using false identities in 2009, the number of interviews granted appeared to show a bias against those with names recognisably from ethnic minorities.

A 2012 German study using more than 8,000 blank applications concluded they leveled the playing field for women and immigrants. However, a widespread French government experiment found the chances of people who were born abroad or lived in disadvantaged areas being offered an interview was more than halved when their details were left off applications. Researchers suggested the practice restricted positive discrimination.

“Companies have a vested interest in employing the best person for the job, regardless of gender and ethnicity,” Neil Morrison, group HR director at Random House commented. “But the parliamentary report is a sad reflection of how ethnic minority groups feel about their treatment by employers, and collectively we should be looking to change both perceptions and treatment.”


  • by A 15/01/2013 3:12:50 PM

    Call me a cynic, but maybe you should have got a quote from someone without a name such as Tim Baker to give the opinion he gave a bit more credit.

    As someone with a very ethnic sounding surname from one of the "undesirable continents", I have been specifically told to anglicise my name by friends that worked in recruitment. I have also been told to call up once I have applied for jobs so they know that I don't have a foreign accent. Not that it all matters anyway, as I have also been told that hiring managers have made specific requests to not be given resumes of people from certain ethnic backgrounds. Personally, I like Sarah Gordon's approach, but would go one step further and look at the make-up of the management team (if possible) to see if there is real diversity rather than just words on a website. It’s either that or every person from a different ethnic background to the one that is dominant must be really rubbish at their job for the whole management team to be from the same ethnicity/race…nonetheless, at the end of the day, if someone wants to exclude you due to your ethnic background/race, they will do it at interview regardless of what protocols have been put into place or what you decide to call yourself.

  • by Heike 16/01/2013 9:40:33 AM

    As the HR Business Partner of an International Organisation and an employee with a completely foreign name. I have experience on both sides of the recruitment process.
    Communication is the key. A potential candidate that can communicate effectively both written and verbally and meets the criteria of the position will get an interview regardless of gender, ethnicity, name, etc

  • by Alan Harrison 16/01/2013 6:33:35 PM

    If its just a name issue, this reflects very poorly upon recruiters' skills. There are dozens of other cues that indicate the origins of applicants. There is another issue however, and that is culture. There is aquite a literature addressing the adapting of western employees for wortk in other cultures - but we see almost nothing about the need for people from non western backgrounds to adapt to western organisational culture. There is an unfortunate assumption on the part of too many non western candidates, that the business has to adapt to them - a hangover from the aformentioned literature and the way the Australian government interprets the meaning of multi culturalism. This is most naive and presumptuous and is a sure way to send contra cues to prospective employers. Those operating in the competitive, real economy just cant afford to deviate from selection of the best possible candidate for the job - not that we always achieve this! It's not damning for recruiters to try to achieve this.

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