Blind Au­di­tion Helps Re­move Gen­der Bias in Re­cruit­ment

Process in­volves mask­ing non-job spe­cific in­for­ma­tion to help re­cruiters make un­bi­ased choices

The Economic Times - - Career & Business Life - Varuni.Khosla@ times­group.com

New Delhi: A per­fect world would be one with­out bi­ases of the sort that we as­so­ciate with work­places and life in gen­eral. Some com­pa­nies are em­brac­ing the con­cept of “blind au­di­tion” to do away with one such pow­er­ful bias – gen­der – ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey. Man­age­ment con­sul­tancy Capgem­ini is one such com­pany. Its di­ver­sity head Gay­athri Ra­ma­murthy said the com­pany is set to adopt blind sieving to pre­vent bias in the first phase of re­cruit­ment.

The process in­volves mask­ing in­for­ma­tion on gen­der, eth­nic­ity, age and other such non-job spe­cific el­e­ments re­lated to can­di­dates to help re­cruiters make un­bi­ased choices.

“IT com­pa­nies hire in large vol­umes for which up­dated tech­nol­ogy is a great en­abler in re­cruit­ment. It’s also cost-ef­fec­tive with scale. Blind hir­ing is a new idea which we think will pick up,” Ra­ma­murthy said. “But I see an ap­pli­ca­tion of a lim­ited na­ture of this tech­nique in the en­tire re­cruit­ment process,” she qual­i­fied.

In the re­cently con­cluded study by TimesJobs.com ‘Blind Hir­ing: Con­cept, Chal­lenges and Com­pe­tence’, nearly 60% of In­dian em­ploy­ers listed work­place di­ver­sity as their prime fo­cus this year.

Soft­ware ex­porter In­fosys’ hu­man re­sources head Richard Lobo said the com­pany gives can­di­dates an op­tion not to dis­close in­for­ma­tion un­re­lated to the se­lec­tion process.

“A com­pany’s re­cruit­ment process should be de­signed to give ev­ery can­di­date a fair chance and al­low se­lec­tion on merit. This is done by in­ter­viewer train­ing as well as hav­ing a strong as­sess­ment mech­a­nism. But we rarely en­counter a need to hide rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion from the se­lec­tion panel,” Lobo said. Con­sul­tancy Ernst & Young sim­i­larly with­holds in­for­ma­tion on gen­der when hir­ing in bulk. Only pro­files of can­di­dates are sent for­ward to re­cruiters who are trained to over­come bi­ases that af­fect re­cruit­ment. EY’s na­tional di­rec­tor for hu­man re­sources Sandeep Kohli said that this process will have a lim­ited ap­pli­ca­tion in tech com­pa­nies as well un­less they look at hir­ing on the ba­sis of a writ­ten test.

As a first fil­ter in the re­cruit­ment process, though, the move can al­low com­pa­nies to im­prove di­ver­sity at work­place, ex­perts said. But com­pa­nies must be equipped with the right kind of hir­ing teams with an ex­per­tise to gauge can­di­dates based on this tech­nique, they said, point­ing out that the im­por­tance of face-to-face in­ter­views dur­ing the re­cruit­ing process can­not be ig­nored.

Soft­ware in­dus­try lobby Nass­com’s head of di­ver­sity Ashok Pamidi said such hir­ing is preva­lent in the Nordic coun­tries. “In In­dia too, as the law of the land, com­pa­nies can­not force you to share gen­der sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion ini­tially that can in­flu­ence their de­ci­sion. If they do, it’s mal­prac­tice. But go­ing for­ward, it should be­come a com­mon prac­tice for them,” he said.

As per the TimesJobs.com study, this kind of au­di­tion­ing will help re­duce the gen­der bias at the work­place which is a prime is­sue for most par­tic­i­pants given that cur­rently there is a huge skill gap in the work­place. Nearly 60% of the re­spon­dents in the study cited gen­der bias as a prob­lem.

Moor­thy K Up­paluri, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Rand­stad In­dia, said that the hir­ing process must be com­pre­hen­sive enough to in­volve can­di­date as­sess­ment on the ba­sis of as­pects re­lated to the job and cul­ture fit to en­sure that the right tal­ent is in­ducted into the right job to en­hance pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Another con­sul­tant said blind hir­ing could be a suc­cess­ful fil­ter as the first layer, to elim­i­nate bi­ases at the ini­tial stages of re­cruit­ment. “If it is suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented, we would need to see how one judges the emo­tional in­tel­li­gence of a can­di­date through blind hir­ing too,” said Zu­bin Zack, chief recog­ni­tion strate­gist at OC Tan­ner In­dia.

He said that while this may be a good move, it is un­likely to curb bi­ases which are an in­her­ent in so­ci­ety and may come into pic­ture even af­ter the per­son is hired. Poonam Barua, founder chair­man of Fo­rum for Women in Lead­er­ship, said such bi­ases will only dis­ap­pear once em­ploy­ees are pe­nalised for these of­fences. “These are quick-fix so­lu­tions for hu­man re­source of­fi­cers. They don’t aim to re­solve the ac­tual prob­lem,” she said, stress­ing that the bias must be busted at its very foun­da­tion.

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