What’s in a name? Major employers commit to name-blind recruitment

Written on 28 Oct 2015

Major employers responsible for employing 1.8 million people in the UK have pledged to recruit for certain roles on a “name-blind” basis.

The BBC, Deloitte, HSBC, KPMG, Virgin Money, learndirect, the NHS, Teach First and local authorities have all agreed to remove names from job applications for all graduate and apprenticeship roles, whilst the Civil Service has committed to the same for all roles below Senior Civil Service level. Deloitte had previously announced that they will also be adopting a university-blind recruitment process, removing the names of schools and universities previously attended by job applicants. 

This move follows the recent government pledge to tackle discrimination during the recruitment process, during which it cited research commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions which showed that those with names indicating that they belong to an ethnic minority have to submit nearly twice as many job applications before receiving a successful outcome, compared to those applicants with names which indicate that they are white. Whilst the introduction of name-blind applications is primarily aimed at eliminating race-related bias, it is clear that negative bias persists towards female candidates applying for some roles and professions and this development may go some way to reducing the incidence of sex-related discrimination in recruitment too. 

What difference will name-blind recruitment make? 

The commitment made by these major employers is undoubtedly a positive step forward, but it will be interesting to see to what extent these measures have a meaningful impact on the ethnic diversity of the participating companies. Employers meeting applicants at the interview stage may still apply unconscious or conscious bias to the decision making process. Further, name-blind recruitment processes will only be of value if equal opportunities monitoring forms completed by applicants are kept anonymous and processed after the decision making process is complete. 

All employers, including those adopting name-blind recruitment, will continue to need appropriate equal opportunities and recruitment policies in place to ensure best practice during the recruitment process. Other information, including hobbies, home address and schools attended can all give an indication of the applicants race, sex and age and therefore discrimination in recruitment is likely to continue in some form even in spite of these measures. 

It is expected that name-blind recruitment will start to be adopted more widely throughout the private sector following support from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the professional body for HR and people development. It may well end up the case that name-blind recruitment becomes the norm, particularly for those employers keen to avoid the cost and reputational damage caused by claims for discrimination arising out of the recruitment process.