Screening & SelectionTalent Acquisition

Recruiting in the Dark

While resume redaction in recruiting is gaining ground, key limitations exist.

By Larry Basinait

A recent HRO Today research study, sponsored by Sevenstep, examines the prevalence of the use of resume redaction in the recruitment process. The objective of the study was to estimate the incidence of companies using the practice, the goals of employing the practice, and the outcomes obtained from it. Further, the study examined candidates’ reactions to the concept of resume redaction and preferences for how it is used, and compared those with the perspectives of HR leaders.

Results showed that companies are increasingly interested in experimenting with resume redaction to reduce bias and establish a diverse workforce. Resume redaction, also known as blind recruitment, is the process of removing identification details from job candidates’ resumes and applications. The types of information hidden could include name, home address, veteran status, or affinity group memberships, among others. The goal is to help recruiters evaluate people on their skills and experience instead of factors that can lead to biased decisions.

While the intention of this practice is laudable, does it meet the goals of improving workforce diversity and reducing bias? How prevalent is the practice and how is it being implemented? The survey results reveal some key trends.

The implementation of resume redaction remains limited. Despite increased energy around diversity initiatives, few companies are using resume redaction. In the study, only 10.7% of companies employ the practice, though 81.6% are familiar with it.

Among the group currently redacting identifying information on resumes, many only use it in certain circumstances, such as more junior level roles where job
history and experience is less impactful on selection.

Findings from job seekers support the contention of recruiters that the implementation of resume redaction is limited. Only 13.9% indicated they have had information hidden.

Despite limited application, support for the concept is high among both job seekers and recruiters. Because resume redaction is not generally known outside of the recruiting world, job seekers were shown a brief definition. The reaction to it was highly favorable, with 80.7% indicating a favorable response.

Recruiters have focused goals for resume redaction. Recruiters were asked to indicate their goals for resume redaction, and respondents unanimously agreed that a goal is to eliminate the possibility of bias in the recruitment processes. However, interestingly, less than one-half (45.5%) cited diversity as a goal. A more diverse workforce may be the outcome, but the primary driver is clearly to eliminate bias, which does not necessarily lead to a more diverse workforce.

While recruiters aim to eliminate bias, they have marginal success. Respondents indicated the practice of blind hiring has not positively impacted the achievement of diversity goals. In fact, nearly three-quarters (72.7%) indicated no change. Overall, resume redaction has little to no impact on achieving diversity goals.

Job seekers’ concern over limiting accomplishments is high. Candidates are concerned about blind recruitment inhibiting their ability to distinguish themselves. They were asked if they feel the practice of blind recruitment could prevent them from including information to a potential employer that would distinguish them from other job applicants. Despite a very positive reaction to the concept, respondents were divided about the potential for valuable information being masked. Overall, 40.7% felt the practice could inhibit their job search, while 38.2% felt it would not.

Implementation of the practice is manual. Recruiters were asked how they implement resume redaction. Overwhelmingly, 80% of respondents manually hide the fields. This is often done by simply crossing out the information with a Sharpie or going through a resume and blocking out select fields of text within a document application. The problem with this technique is that there is still the potential for recruiter bias in the process, partially negating the point of the exercise.

Tags: Recruitment, September 2021, Talent Acquisition

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