Name-Blind Hiring


The BBC reports that

Leading companies and universities are being asked to remove names from application forms in an effort to stop “unconscious bias” against potential recruits from black and ethnic minority backgrounds… Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that Ucas, the UK’s university admissions service, will carry out “name-blind” applications from 2017. The same will apply for graduate, apprentice-level and some other applications for organisations including the civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, KPMG, HSBC, Deloitte and Virgin Money.
(via Dan Dennis)

Studies have shown a bias against job applicants with names that do not “sound white.” From one:

A job applicant with a name that sounds like it might belong to an African-American – say, Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones – can find it harder to get a job…

Now a “field experiment” by NBER Faculty Research Fellows Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan measures this discrimination in a novel way. In response to help-wanted ads in Chicago and Boston newspapers, they sent resumes with either African-American- or white-sounding names and then measured the number of callbacks each resume received for interviews. Thus, they experimentally manipulated perception of race via the name on the resume. Half of the applicants were assigned African-American names that are “remarkably common” in the black population, the other half white sounding names, such as Emily Walsh or Greg Baker.

To see how the credentials of job applicants affect discrimination, the authors varied the quality of the resumes they used in response to a given ad. Higher quality applicants were given a little more labor market experience on average and fewer holes in their employment history. They were also portrayed as more likely to have an email address, to have completed some certification degree, to possess foreign language skills, or to have been awarded some honors.

In total, the authors responded to more than 1,300 employment ads in the sales, administrative support, clerical, and customer services job categories, sending out nearly 5,000 resumes. The ads covered a large spectrum of job quality, from cashier work at retail establishments and clerical work in a mailroom to office and sales management positions.

The results indicate large racial differences in callback rates to a phone line with a voice mailbox attached and a message recorded by someone of the appropriate race and gender. Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback. This would suggest either employer prejudice or employer perception that race signals lower productivity.

I know that a couple of philosophy departments are asking that job candidates’ writing samples be prepared as if for anonymous review. Are any departments removing identifying information from all application materials prior to their review by members of the search committee? Would that be a good idea? Is it feasible?

There are 13 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  
Please enter an e-mail address