Independence Blue Cross currently employs 3

Independence Blue Cross currently employs 3,800 people that can be slotted into the following demographic percentages: female 68%, male 32%; minority 47%, non-minority 53%; over forty 63%, under forty 37%. These numbers could be sliced and diced even further, but for the sake of argument, let us focus on gender, age, and ethnicity. Out of the gate, we know our organization is primarily women over the age of 40 with the ethnicity breakdown at almost 50/50. In a male-dominated society, these numbers should be surprising yet the health insurance industry has many administrative functions to it – and females have historically filled these roles. If the hiring pipeline is disproportionately women, then it’s logical that the organization would be experiencing female dominance in their demographic. Should IBC want to hire more men to balance out the equation even further, the company could certainly benefit from a blind recruitment process.
Throughout my tenure, I’ve noticed various positions being created to accommodate an executive referral headcount without being announced to the active population seeking opportunities within the company. Referrals that come into the company through executive relationships do not necessarily equate with solid performance. Because these allowances are known throughout the company as a common hiring practice, a foundation has been established when it comes to corporate culture. Being able to hire candidates who “fit” on paper and in person may sometimes be more important than selecting a candidate who is qualified to get the job done. In a world where many of us are expected to be plugged into our jobs outside of the normal 9-to-5, cultural fit is an important piece of the hiring puzzle and finding a good candidate who works well with others would be removed from the equation with blind recruiting measures.
First introduced to the concept of blind auditions in Malcolm Gladwell’s blink, I experienced an Aha! moment when I realized the possibilities of a more equal playing field in regard to gender biased job opportunities. Gladwell explains the use of blind auditions by the National Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s and 1980s to reduce biases against the candidates elected to play for the orchestra. Historically, the world of classical music was reserved for men. Women were relegated as the weaker sex and considered to be lesser than their male counterparts in stamina, resilience, and overall physical form related to the strength required for playing symphonic music. But with blind auditions, judges are able listen with their ears and not judge what their eyes are seeing; and therefore, are able to select the most qualified candidates without unconscious bias disrupting the process (Gladwell, 2005).
In 2014, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur created a software company called GapJumpers when he realized large groups of talented IT programmers were being overlooked in the conventional recruitment process due to their lack of formal education pedigrees. Many coders are self-taught by using online courses and by attending coding boot camps, but if an organization is seeking a more formal educational background, these self-starters won’t make in to the first round of interviews, let alone the second. The GapJumpers platform has promoted blind audition practices for the corporate world by creating a series of timed job-related questions and challenges for candidates to answer anonymously. The responses are then reviewed and ranked by combining the results of both algorithms and human subject matter experts. The final outcome is to evaluate how well the candidate responded to the blind interview instead of the recruiting team poring through countless resumes in search of the right candidate. When properly used, employment testing may be helpful in identifying qualified job candidates; however, if employers place too much faith in these methods, they may be unable to discern predictive test scores with actual job performance. Just because someone tests well does not mean they will be successful in their role (Bachman, 2017).
Blind recruitment was originally introduced to overcome unconscious bias and promote diversity in the workforce. It has gained attention after studies have shown that people with ethnic sounding names needed to send out 50% more resumes before they got a callback than recruits with “white” sounding names (Grothaus, 2016). This process is not a one-size-fits-all approach and needs to be customized to fit each organization. There are varying degrees of blindness – some companies may want to omit names, gender, and education from an application, while others may want to omit the information that their own company is biased against. The key is to find the person who possesses the job capabilities and not the person who fits the existing culture’s model of the ideal candidate. Once the requirements that an applicant must possess are defined, it simplifies the degree of blindness you can use when recruiting. To get the best outcome from the blind hiring process, education of the existing staff is crucial so they may recognize and overcome their own unconscious bias. While many people think they are not biased towards or against a particular slice of the population, it is a part of human nature.
In face-to-face interviews, research shows that managers tend to hire applicants who are most like them on paper. But a growing number of companies are beginning to experiment with the blind hiring process to eliminate bias by hiding a candidate’s identity. There are growing concerns around this type of recruitment process since it defies the focus on diversity hiring. If companies use blind hiring as a fix to eliminate bias, they might stop actively recruiting people of color or a specific gender. Working for a company that employs a majority of female workers, this approach may be able to swing the hiring pendulum towards male applicants who would otherwise not be viewed as qualified.
While IBC maintains a strong diversity and inclusion program in support of the 47% minority saturation in the workforce, many of these employees are lower-level customer service representatives who are overworked and underpaid. Should we incorporate a certain level of blind recruitment, I wonder if this number would change and, if so, would we see a greater minority shift into management roles? The same assumptions can be made around the primarily non-management roles held by females while the men (at a lower headcount) obtain the lion’s share of management positions within the company.
Although the blind recruitment approach seems to allow hiring managers an unfettered view of the talent pool, there are some pros and cons to consider. The main advantage of a blind hiring process for job applicants is that it allows the skill sets of unconventional candidates to shine without letting educational background, gender, or ethnicity to take center stage. This initiates a tendency to lean away from a company’s unconscious bias and allows for a more holistic view of prospective candidates (Martin, 2017). Conversely, adopting this type of hiring process prevents the prospective candidates from highlighting their personality traits so it becomes challenging for the recruitment team to sense a good culture fit outside of professional experience. All things considered, the blind hiring method may escort the ideal candidates to the next round of interviews but the final face-to-face meeting with HR may not be able to seal the deal should there be a personality conflict with the management team and the unconscious biases will prevail.
From an ethical standpoint, blind hiring practices best align with the fairness approach in that all prospective candidates are treated equally when removing the indicators of gender, ethnicity, or educational background from the recruitment process. Also, by adhering to a virtue approach, the inclusion of blind hiring processes are the result of honesty and integrity intertwined in the corporate culture. Recruiting qualified candidates with a value system that aligns with the mission and vision of the company will help ward off the unconscious bias during the hiring process.
Independence Blue Cross embodies a corporate culture of integrity with a set of clear values and if we adopt a hiring process based on values — and the behaviors that follow those values – it can help combat discrimination during the hiring process. My previous research on the gender pay disparity afflicting women all around the world reinforces why blind recruitment would help create a more even playing field for all prospective job-seekers. That’s not to say any one gender, age group, or ethnicity is more deserving of a job opportunity than another but it creates a level of fairness that has yet to be seen in corporate recruiting.