I was on my way home today and switched on Marketplace on NPR. They were reporting on how Google and other tech companies are making efforts to diversify their work forces. From there, they branched off into a story of how the New York Symphony diversified their musicians.
It used to be that the symphonies were dominated by white males. To counteract this, the New York Symphony instituted (mostly) blind auditions. They went to great lengths to prevent the judges from seeing the auditioning musician, or being able to determine any other facts about them such as gender, height, weight, etc. This resulted in a 50% increase in the hiring of women!
So, if Google and others wish to (and should!) remove bias from their hiring practices, maybe they should find a way to prevent interviewers from seeing or even hearing candidates?
Consider this, large companies almost always have online forms that candidates fill out to apply for a job. These necessarily collect potentially telling information. For example, a name or email address can suggest a gender and ethnicity. The duration of past employment and schooling can suggest age. When you show up for an interview, whether on the phone or in person, more judgements can be, and are, made.
What if a hiring manager only received the bare bones information about a potential hire? Maybe they see an unsigned cover letter, a list of previous employers, previous responsibilities, areas of expertise, etc, but not length of employment. The hiring manager could exclusively communicate with the user via an anonymized email address generated for the user, or directly through the HR software being used. The phone would not be used. This would help avoid any hints from the user’s email address or voice.
Instead of a traditional interview, an online meeting could be established where there is either a third party relaying messages back and forth (like translation services for phone calls) or they communicate exclusively though instant messaging. Questions are asked, answers given, etc. Additionally, screen sharing and other collaboration tools could be used for things like coding tests, white boards, etc. Now the hiring manager can only judge the candidates based on their responses. With this more restricted type of communication, I think there’s a better chance that implicit bias could be removed from the process.
As I think about, all of the various tools exist, but perhaps not in one place. Perhaps this approach could even be facilitated by the major job boards and/or HR software? They could provide the tools I described in one integrated package, allowing hiring managers to be blind.
Would this be a perfect system? No. But, could this be a better system? Maybe. It might help lead to increased diversity, which has been shown to improve financial performance.
What do you think?