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James Herbert


CEO and Founder

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Blind recruitment: A small step forward, but how do we make the leap?


The CBI’s recent call for the removal of names on CVs is one example of ongoing attempts to combat prejudice in the world of recruitment.

A number of big name employers, including BBC, NHS and Virgin Money have jumped on the bandwagon too by incorporating so called ‘blind recruitment’ into their hiring process.

But, while there is certainly a lot of evidence to suggest that it is harder for people with a ‘non-white’ sounding name to secure an interview, I’m not convinced that the removal of the name from a CV provides the solution.

The reality is that if any of the HR people have an ounce of bias in them, unintentional or not, that bias is likely to show through at some point in the process, leading to decreasing probability through each stage of the person in question being successful. As Jon Williams, global leader of people and organisation at PWC recently correctly observed:

“All you are doing is papering over the bias in the first instance, so you may get a 10% benefit, but you are still relying on people to make decisions based on interactions with other human beings.”

The obvious response to the seemingly unsolvable problem is to address the roots of the bias, educate people and attempt to wipe out discrimination all together. This is something that tens of years of anti-discrimination measures haven’t managed and probably never will – a level of ‘discrimination’ or pigeonholing for want of a better word is built into the human survival instinct.

The emphasis on education

So what is the answer? My years of experience within the industry tell me that the recruitment process needs to be fully overhauled and that ‘CV blindness’ needs to be taken one step further, particularly in the grad market; to move beyond the objective of just preventing discrimination but with the intention of removing the huge emphasis currently placed on CVs and their contents.

I believe that the obsession with qualifications and academic history that currently exists in the graduate and emerging talent market is outdated and harmful to the process.

In reality 75% of students begin university not knowing what they want to do when they finish, so why should such importance be placed on what they studied at university?

75% of students begin university not knowing what they want to do when they finish

What really sets one candidate apart from the rest, and delivers success and longevity in a role, is the applicant’s aptitude, experience and alignment with company values. Race, gender and qualifications (aside from those working towards occupational professions), shouldn’t even come into the equation. Which is why at Brightsparks we’ve ripped up the rule-book and developed an entirely new recruitment system, where CVs and superficial information play minor roles and the human aspects of the candidate play the lead.

Looking beyond CVs

We put the CV to one side, educate our clients not to discriminate using set standards. We run our assessments on a 100% blind process, whereby on arrival at assessment days, clients still haven’t seen the list of names nor the CVs. In the main, it is only once the interview is booked that we send the CV as a talking point for interview discussion – it isn’t used to decide whether or not to interview.

This type of selection process is only really made possible by in-depth knowledge and network of candidates. We have created a unique business model that directly employs thousands of students within demanding, client facing roles, over 14,000 to date, which drives our talent pipeline as they graduate and progress through their early careers. Here they can develop and we can assess their skills and values to gauge their employability and understand where they are most likely to succeed in their careers.

It is only once the interview is booked that we send the CV as a talking point for interview discussion

But how can this be applied to the industry as a whole? Clearly our method of creating and developing a pipeline of talent is unique. However, I believe that certain aspects of our process can certainly be applied to more general recruitment:

  • Less emphasis put on traditional CVs with more human interaction, use of phone interviews and video applications, and understanding the transferability of work and non-work experience to prove the candidate’s suitability
  • interviews and assessments that draw out the candidate’s cultural alignment with the organisation and the role
  • Highly trained and un-biased third party involvement in the initial recruitment stages, therefore minimising any bias

One Response

  1. I fully agree with James.
    I fully agree with James. Employers need to re-imagine the recruitment process – focus on assessing candidate’s transferable skills, ‘coachability’ and cultural fit with their organisation. Rather than focusing on CVs, which are after all, nothing more than a historical record written by the subject of the document.

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James Herbert

CEO and Founder

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