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Nick Pritchett

Shoosmiths

Employment Law Solicitor

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Introducing the CV Blind interview

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The recruitment process is a crucial stage of any employment relationship. Ensuring you end up with the best person for the role depends upon having the right systems in place, from the initial job advert through to final interview.

Organisations are continuously looking to innovate in this area, and whilst some tend towards abstract questions in order to assess a candidate’s ability to think laterally (e.g. Google’s question “Why are manhole covers round?”), Clifford Chance are seeking to make strides in this area by introducing a “CV Blind” policy. Staff conducting interviews now sit down across from hopeful candidates with no information other than the candidate’s name.

This is reportedly to mitigate perceived bias towards candidates with Oxbridge or leading independent school backgrounds. It also accords with the shift away from traditional university “milk round” drives to online campaigns using social media, where getting access to professions of your choice does not depend on being in the right university lecture room on the right evening.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

The move also seems to be benefitting Clifford Chance’s diversity statistics, with an increase in successful graduates from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.  This suggests a degree of ‘blindness’ in recruitment processes can help avoid pitfalls other than unconscious bias, such as discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Section 39 of that Act states:

“An employer (A) must not:

  • Discriminate against or victimise a person (B):
    • In the arrangements A makes for deciding to whom to offer employment…”

The “arrangements” that businesses put in place for recruitment are key.  In the same way that medical questionnaires are typically no longer sent out until a job offer is made, inferences of discrimination can be minimised by interviewers not having access to information about a candidate that could lead to stereotypical assumptions being made before the individual has even entered the room. 

Character assessment involves a degree of subconscious subjectivity, and CV data such as academic background and geographical history may trigger assumptions about the candidate at this stage. The risk of perceived discrimination can be enhanced where these assumptions overlap with demographic factors, such as gaps in employment history suggesting childcare responsibilities, or jumping to conclusions concerning ethnic backgrounds based upon the interviewer’s knowledge (or latent prejudice) of where an applicant lives.  Where this occurs before an interviewer has even met a candidate, it becomes clearer to see how a ‘blind’ policy may increase the objectivity of the process and afford greater protection from discrimination complaints.

However, employers should remember that candidates should be asked whether any reasonable adjustments need to be put in place for the interview, irrespective of a ‘blind’ policy being applied.

Top tips for a ‘blind’ process

  • Does such a policy suit your business? CVs and responses to application form questions can be useful topics for discussion at interview. Does your business actually have a bias issue needing to be addressed? Where interviews are predominantly based upon practical demonstration of technical skills, and such assessment is readily quantifiable (such as engineering or IT jobs), a candidate’s background is likely to be less relevant, and any stereotypical bias less likely to make an impact on an interviewer’s decision.
  • Ensure the interviewers are trained. Assumptions can still be made the instant the interviewer meets a candidate.  Your key decision makers need to be trained to recognise subjective elements in their thinking so they can actively discount these, and be able to assess objectively against the job requirements and competencies.
  • Document the process. A ‘blind’ process may involve less paper in one sense, but you should ensure any interview involves accurate and professional notes being taken, as well as documenting any subsequent moderation or decision-making forums. This will allow you to show the reasons for a candidate being unsuccessful should a complaint of discrimination be made.
  • Use standardised questions and avoid those not relevant.  Any good work originating from the ‘blind’ policy can be undone with questions that could infer discrimination e.g. asking about family arrangements.
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Nick Pritchett

Employment Law Solicitor

Read more from Nick Pritchett
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