The Argument for Blind Hiring

Last month, as part of its work issue, The New York Times Magazine published an article on blind hiring - i.e., an application process wherein the applicant is completely anonymous.

What are the arguments for this? One major example of the need for blind hiring comes from the 1970s. A  high-profile racial discrimination case had been brought against the New York Philharmonic, which was mostly made up of white men. Afterwards, many orchestras began using blind auditions to hire musicians: the musicians performed behind a screen to conceal their identity from the judges. Later on, economists from Harvard and Princeton studied the results of actual auditions and found that blind auditions increased the probability that a woman would advance from a preliminary audition by 50 percent, and between 25 percent to 46 percent of the subsequent increase in the percentage of women in orchestras since 1970s can be explained by blind auditions.

The discrimination that was happening in the orchestra world may also be happening in the tech world: more Black and Hispanic students major in computer science degrees at elite universities than work in tech jobs. This shows that it is not purely lack of interest or training that results in low numbers of Black and Hispanic tech workers.

The New York Times Magazine

A 2015 study gives one reason for why this might be occurring in tech (as well as other fields): researchers sent resumes with either African-American- or white-sounding names in response to help-wanted ads in Chicago and Boston newspapers. They found that a candidate with a white-sounding name received as many callbacks as a candidate with an African-American-sounding name who had eight additional years of experience, and “African-American” candidates from elite universities did as well as “white” candidates from less-selective schools. Whether it is conscious or not, there appears to be a racial bias.

The solution to problems like this may well be blind hiring. A software company called GapJumpers was started with this purpose in mind. It helps employers screen job applications without seeing biographical information (such as an applicant’s name) by designing a test with its client that is relevant to the skills required for a job. Applicants complete the test online, and companies select who to interview from those results. According to GapJumpers, not only has this resulted in increased hiring of traditionally underrepresented groups of people, the employees hired are also more likely to stay at the job longer.
Erica Liao

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