Recently, a UAE-headquartered business consultancy in collaboration with a Brazilian hiring platform resorted to an extreme case of recruitment by masking the face of the candidate and modifying the person’s voice with voice masking technology. But how is this extreme kind of blind hiring? What are the risks and challenges involved in the process? What kind of job roles are suitable to be fully blind hired? 

These days, companies are getting really serious about minimising unconscious biases while screening candidates. No, it doesn’t limit to just hiding the potentially biased information from recruiters or NO SEE hiring! Recently, a UAE headquartered business consultancy in collaboration with a Brazilian blind hiring platform resorted to an extreme case of recruitment by masking the face of the candidate and modifying the person’s voice with voice masking technology. The firm has claimed to hire the world’s first person (in the HR manager position) via this fully blind hiring cycle.

But how feasible is this extreme kind of blind hiring? What are the risks and challenges involved in the process? What kind of job roles are suitable to be fully blind hired? ETHRWorld interacted with HR leaders to understand how welcoming the blind hiring intervention is in the industry.

Is it really practical?

Dr Kiran Bala, Chief People Officer, SG Analytics, says while blind hiring has benefits like removing unconscious bias in the screening stage and helping in pushing the DEI agenda of the organisation, there are some studies corroborating that blind hiring doesn’t work in all situations, countries and organisations.

“It has also been found that even companies with well-stated DEI goals, at times can miss out on potential candidates given that demographic details are hidden,” Bala adds.
Sagar Pandey, Head - Human Relations, Swastika Investmart, says a few variables that affect the feasibility of blind hiring are:

  • The size and complexity of the business
  • The nature of the roles being filled
  • The availability of technology to assist the process

Pandey is of the opinion that in a small business, blind hiring might not be too challenging. But in a large organisation with a complex hiring process, it might be more difficult to implement and manage.

According to Pandey, following are some of the risks associated with blind hiring:

Candidate Assessment: Determining a candidate's talents and qualifications without any prior knowledge of them might be challenging. This is especially true for jobs that call for a particular set of qualifications or expertise. An employer might find it difficult to assess a candidate's technical skills without seeing work samples or talking with them about their experience.

“Also, without being able to see or hear a candidate, it may be challenging to evaluate their soft skills, such as communication and teamwork,” Pandey says.

Diversity at the workplace: The workplace might become less diverse as a result. Thus, firms that practise blind hiring won't have to consider candidates from underrepresented groups. For instance, research by the National Bureau of Economic Research discovered that employing women for STEM positions was reduced as a result of blind hiring.

High Cost: It might turn out expensive to implement and maintain. A few of the costs associated with implementing blind hiring include the cost of the software, the cost of the training, and the cost of changing the corporate culture.

Practical challenges

Ritu Rakhra, Head of Human Resources, Broadridge India, says that while the concept of reducing biases in hiring through advanced technological measures is appealing, practical implementation poses significant challenges. According to her, its feasibility rests on the organisation's commitment to diversity, technological readiness,
interviewer preparedness, and the candidate’s acceptance of this innovative and unconventional method. Elaborating more, she puts forward:

  • Technologically, creating and maintaining real-time avatars and voice modification systems requires substantial investment in both resources and expertise. Ensuring seamless functionality, accuracy and reliability of these systems is essential to avoid technical glitches that could disrupt the interview process. 
  • Interviewer adaptability is crucial. Shifting from traditional assessments to solely skills-based evaluations demands thorough training and adjustment. Candidates' potential discomfort with interacting with avatars and modified voices may affect their performance and overall experience.

Rakhra also shares a few possible challenges involved in the blind hiring process:

  • Candidates might feel uncomfortable interacting with avatars and having their voices altered, potentially affecting their performance.
  • Risk of impersonation is another challenge with this approach and most organisations witnessed that during Covid times when personal interactions were eliminated.
  • Technical challenges could arise, disrupting the interview process. Unintended biases could be introduced during the avatar creation process, potentially counteracting the intended bias reduction.
  • Assessing cultural fit might be compromised due to the absence of personal interaction.
  • Ethical concerns could emerge surrounding transparency and candidate consent, while legal implications might arise concerning data privacy.

“Organisations must carefully weigh these risks against the benefits of reduced bias. Successful adoption of any new technology requires thorough evaluation, strategic planning, and alignment with organisational values and goals,” Rakhra points out.

Rakhra further asserts that organisations must weigh the potential benefits against the formidable challenges and consider contextual factors before embarking on this path. “Ethical and legal concerns must be navigated adeptly. Transparency, data privacy and candidate consent are critical, and potential biases introduced during avatar creation need careful mitigation,” she says.

Roles suitable for blind hiring 

Rakhra says that role suitability is another consideration. Certain positions heavily reliant on specific physical attributes, facial expressions, or non-verbal communication might not be effectively assessed using avatars and voice modification. “A careful evaluation of job requirements and alignment with the principles of unbiased assessment is imperative when considering the applicability of extremely blind hiring to various job roles,” she points out.

According to Bala of SG Analytic, blind hiring should be for roles that are not relationship-heavy or personality traits dependent. Given that extreme blind hiring can de-personalise the hiring process, it can impact hiring for roles that are relationship-heavy like sales, customer service, HR, etc.

Pandey of Swastika Investmart says it is essential to think about both the advantages and disadvantages of the blind hiring method before deciding whether or not to use it. 

He suggests companies can deploy blind hiring in customer-facing positions, and problem-solving positions by adopting following practices:

Customer-facing positions: During the interview, the hiring manager can ask questions that will give them insight into how the candidate works with customers and how they handle difficult situations. The responses will give the interviewer an idea of the candidate's ability to handle customer complaints and resolve customer issues.

Problem-solving positions: Critical and creative thinking are typically required in these roles. This can be assessed using exams and interviews that require the candidate to solve problems. 

In technical roles, Pandey says, exams and interviews can be used to quickly assess the knowledge and experience that are commonly required for these professions. For instance, the candidate's expertise in several programming languages might be assessed by a coding test and an interview for the role of a software engineer. 

Though implementing blind hiring during the initial screening and shortlisting stages is practical, the feasibility of maintaining anonymity during later stages, such as interviews and assessments, can be more complex. Also, as the extreme cases of blind hiring even alter the voice of the candidates, this cuts the possibilities of non-verbal communication as it would be difficult to catch the real intonation and inflection of the said words.

In practice, going forward with a fully blind hiring process appears to be not completely feasible. Instead, the focus can be on creating a balanced approach that combines elements of blind hiring with efforts to address biases at different stages of the recruitment process.

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