Name-blind hiring had no significant effect on visible minority candidates: study

 Canadian Press

The federal government says hiding the names of job applicants had no significant effect on whether those who identified as visible minorities were called in for an interview over a six-month period.

A pilot project launched last April by the Public Service Commission of Canada sought to compare the results of traditional screening methods with name-blind recruitment in order to bolster diversity and inclusion in government ranks.

The practice involves removing names and other identifying information such as country of origin from job applications to fight bias against people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

In a report released this week, the commission says there was no significant difference for candidates from visible minority groups when their personal information was concealed.

It also says applicants from all other groups were less likely to be brought in for an interview under that system compared to a traditional method.

The commission notes that the results can’t be generalized to the entire public service because the pilot relied on departments that volunteered and used a non-random selection of external hiring processes.

The project included 27 external job postings across 17 departments between April and October of last year, resulting in a sample of 2,226 candidates, of which 685 self-identified as visible minorities.

The report is “just one of the many ways the PSC is exploring innovative approaches to ensure a diverse and representative workforce while supporting bias-free recruitment within the federal public service,” Patrick Borbey, president of the Public Service Commission of Canada, said in a statement.

“We will continue to push boundaries in this area while maintaining the integrity of the federal public service’s non-partisan and merit-based staffing system.”

The government said it will conduct audit work beginning in May to look at the success rate of applicants at key stages of the appointment process. It will also examine how name-blind principles could be included in the design of future technology changes to its recruitment systems.

The report said audits have the advantage of analysing decisions that have already been made, which eliminates the possibility that people might change their behaviour because they know they are part of a pilot project.

The federal government has said there is no evidence of bias in its current hiring practices.

A 2012 study by University of Toronto researchers found job applicants with English-sounding names were 35 per cent more likely to receive a call back than those with Indian or Chinese names, which they said suggested an unconscious bias.

Many orchestras made the switch to blind auditions, in which musicians play hidden by a screen, in the 1970s and 1980s, which led to a dramatic increase in the number of women hired, studies have shown.