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    Anonymous applications

    by Rumbold
    2nd January, 2010 at 11:40 am    

    Several studies have found that people with non ‘Anglo-Saxon/European’ (for wont of a better term) names (such as Muhammad) are less likely to get to the interview stage when applying for jobs, despite having very similar qualifications and work experience. The studies tested this by sending out applications with different names on them, but with virtually the same qualifications and employment history.

    Now campaigners are calling for all application forms and CVs to be anonymous, building on plans by previous advocates. This seems a sensible idea. A person’s name or gender aren’t actually needed until the interview stage (for the purposes of references), and this would be a cheap and simple way for companies to reduce discrimination when hiring. Applicants applying via CVs would be told not include certain details, whilst online application forms are easy enough to change. However, you should still be required to state your age, as often companies run training schemes on the basis of having the employee for years after that. In addition, an employer would be able to work out an applicant’s age by their employment history.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Race politics,Sex equality

    41 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      Blog post:: Anonymous applications http://bit.ly/6ZavE7

    2. AndyG

      RT @pickledpolitics Blog post:: Anonymous applications http://bit.ly/6ZavE7

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      Pickled Politics » Anonymous applications http://bit.ly/6Dh5AU

    1. MiriamBinder — on 2nd January, 2010 at 11:47 am  

      Why not … whether it is actually endemic or not that certain names do not make it to the pre-selection process it cannot hurt to eliminate the potential claim that it is; and, as stated in the OP, there really is no need for names at this stage of the application process.

    2. lynne featherstone — on 2nd January, 2010 at 11:52 am  

      Yep! And I proposed this idea at 2nd Reading of the Equality Bill - after which the Department of Work & Pensions did the experimental survey work sending out 3000 job applications in response to jobs in the City - with identical applications in sets one with English sounding name and the other a foreign sounding name. By Committee Stage of the Bill when I tabled an amendment for name blank or anonymous employment applications, the results of the survey were not in but the Socitor General said that early signs were that there was ‘significant discrimination.

      Ultimately the survey showed that it took 9 applications for someone with an English sounding name to get an interview and 16 applications for someone with a foreign sounding name.

      Even so - the Government has rejected this proposal thus far in the Bill. Of course - it would be a start (given the strong evidence) if the Government introduced it in the state sector as a start - if they can’t bring themselves to accept the idea from me.

      Some firms already use this method - and I’m told that the French Government is piloting such a scheme in 50 of their local authorities.

      I am hoping that the proposals will find more support in the Lords - where it goes next - than was evident from the Government.

      It will help remove barriers and costs nothing.

    3. Left Outside — on 2nd January, 2010 at 11:58 am  

      It would be difficult to mandate this at the individual firm level. Benefits of this might be outweighed by the pain of enforcing it.

      If there is a separate HR department then forms can be anonymised before reaching selection, but at small firms there is really no way to avoid people involved in the hiring procedure from seeing this information.

      On the other hand, there’s also the point that this is the economically rational thing to do. As this will only affect unintentional bias it will lead to a better quality of recruits in the company, and each firm being more competitive etc. Its a little odd that this isn’t already common practice, so there’s a real chance that this intervention will improve efficiency in the private sector.

      Anyway, I don’t see a single reason why state employers shouldn’t do this immediately though, they could at least lead by example.

    4. Left Outside — on 2nd January, 2010 at 12:01 pm  


      Accidentally wrote more or less the same post as Lynne Featherstone.

    5. camilla — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:00 pm  

      It’s not “muslim” name - it’s typically scandalous behaviour

      the employers are not against muslims or other races in common. They want people to work and get on well with the other’s staff members - not another “discriminated” minority member… who is actually eager to be discriminated and fervently seeking it

      “Oh I need a separate praying place - otherwise you disriminate muslims!”

      “Firing me for praying to much instead of working is islamopobia!”

      “Oh I won’t take with stupid thing of my head - even if it’s againsts dress code or even safety rules”

      who is to blame for such reputation?

      should the employers be blamed for not wanting such kind of troubles?

    6. Richard — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:09 pm  

      How will this actually elimimate prejudice?

    7. Left Outside — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:16 pm  

      @Camilla, you’re nuts mate.

      @Richard, it won’t eliminate direct bias, but studies have shown that forms with funny names don’t do as well. I don’t think this is intentional, but I do think there might be something subconscious going on. Therefore, if we anonymise the forms, this goes away. Leading only regular prejudice, which is a bit hard to fight as Camilla has so aptly demonstrated.

    8. lfc4life — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:30 pm  

      camilla is obviously a daily mail reader i take it!

    9. camilla — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:38 pm  

      7. Left Ouside - why is that? am I wrong?

      I don’t really need to read daily mail, my friend,I have my own eyes…

    10. MiriamBinder — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:39 pm  

      Camilla manages in one single post to demonstrate very nicely why anonymous applications would be a good idea. Probably will come back now and either tell us that we need to wake up and smell the coffee or that the post was intended as irony or something equally ludicrous ;)

      edited to add: And lookee at that … it were done before I had time to submit my post :D

    11. camilla — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:39 pm  

      and your courts indulge “discrimination cases” gold diggers… Am I making things up?

    12. MiriamBinder — on 2nd January, 2010 at 1:48 pm  

      Some have been, others have not … you are exaggerating outrageously. However please don’t let facts get in the way of your prejudice … you’d be lost without it.

    13. Left Outside — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:03 pm  


      You are the reason that this is necessary. Thank you for this beautiful moment.

    14. camilla — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:13 pm  

      the majority of cases were actually supported, few of them, the most most most ridiculous even for liberals - were rejected…

      speaking about the facts … Miriam, would you be so kind to tell me “the facts”? But please not those “the muslims I know are nice people” (it’s your own impression - why should I trust it?).

      Miriam, once again, why I should fight facts - that you call “prejudice” - if muslims have no desire to improve their image, they just do what they are obliged to do by their religion?

      have you heard of recent caricaturist attack in Denmark? “prejudices” you say? read the muslims’ reaction

    15. camilla — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:20 pm  

      left outside, truth is the hardest things to take, especially for muslim goat-fuckers)))

      I’m not from UK, actually, but I’m sure the this idea will fail, ha-ha, so I don’t worry

      the employers need to see that the applicants are adequate (at least!), so you can’t force them hire people on the basis of anonymous applications… so you can write whatever you please…

    16. camilla — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:21 pm  

      so thank you for your pathetic attempts

    17. Old Holborn — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:24 pm  

      I advertised for a pork butcher

      No one called Mohammed applied. I would have given them the job immediately if they had. Equality eh?

    18. Shahzad Alikhan — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:29 pm  

      Camilla, just to try and rein you in a bit, let’s go back to the issue of certain types of names and the prejudices derived therefrom. Your ‘point’ is meaningless and invalid because I have an extremely muslim sounding name, of Pakistani muslim origin, but am firmly in the secular/agnostic/deist but non-religious camp.

      How can you argue that it’s fair to assume what someone’s appearance, dress, habits, religious beliefs etc are going to be from someone’s name? By your logic I should be discriminated against because I’m likely to have a beard, pray 5 times a day and be unable to socialise with other colleagues over a pint. Funnily enough I quite like a beer and actually couldn’t care less about any religion. Luckily I work as a doctor and the Royal Colleges have somewhat fairer, merit and achievement based recruitment strategies, so I’m unlikely to ever have problems with employment due to stupid prejudices such as those which you clearly hold.

    19. camilla — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:35 pm  

      then Shanzad point out tyhe fact that you are non-religious, secular and so on

      and by the way did you personally have any difficulties with finding a job? any prejudice among your collegues?
      any cases when you behave normal but people still treat you as islamist or something?

    20. Left Outside — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:37 pm  

      Sorry Camilla but I would never hire you.

      You’d leave feathers all over the place and you would have someone’s hand up your arse the whole time.

      Its just not going to work out.

    21. bernard — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:50 pm  

      Are you an employer then, Camilla? A fucking captain of industry, are you?

      Thought not.

    22. Shahzad Alikhan — on 2nd January, 2010 at 2:54 pm  

      Camilla I don’t wish to engage with you further because I already feel like by continuing this interaction I’m dropping IQ points, and you’re asking childish and slightly insulting questions.

      What do you mean by “behave normal” ? Is that some sort of joke? “Islamist”? wtf?

    23. MiriamBinder — on 2nd January, 2010 at 3:04 pm  

      Camilla is really not a serious debater. Camilla is a parody.

      Give fact Camilla and you will have the right to ask for facts. You state that it is the evidence of your own eyes. Why should the evidence of your eyes be more acceptable then the evidence of mine?

    24. Firehorse — on 2nd January, 2010 at 3:27 pm  

      When I was younger I worked as a mothers help. I applied for a job in Nottingham, in my application form I just used my initials and surname. I got a telephone interview, on finding out my name the lady spent several minutes trying to find out what race I am (most uneducated people think my name is of Indian origin), having got no joy (I was born in Sheffield and am not a follow of any religion) she actually asked me what I look like, having found out that I have very fair skin and red hair, I got a face to face interview - which went well until she asked me how I got my name - when I said my father was Jewish - then the interview ended. No name on a form wouldn’t have changed the out come I suspect, but it was an illuminating lesson in prejudice. I have done Sunday and Christmas cover for work mates who were Christian, I have done cover for others who were of different religions - it just seems humane and reasonable.
      In the early 1900′s my great grandfather and his 6 brothers walked across Europe to escape the Cossack pogroms - the walked all the way to England (apart from the bit the had to get a boat for, obviously), when they arrived they learnt English and then all 7 signed up as volunteers to fight in the first world war for their adoptive country. Only my great grandfather survived that war. After WWII my father tried to trace his family. The entire village had been wiped off the face of the earth and everyone had been killed. England is, historically a land of mongrel peoples and is better for it. The “indigenous” people are few and far between, and Great Britain is a better place for it. At it’s best Britain is the most tolerant place on earth, that is something to be proud of and something worth fighting for.

    25. Sunny — on 2nd January, 2010 at 3:38 pm  

      well done lynne!

      Good to see people like camilla show why this is needed.

    26. halima — on 2nd January, 2010 at 4:50 pm  

      Good post. I think though many organizations are doing this already, I am pretty sure when I applied to my present job - the personal data got separated at HR stage with all the checks on nationality, and then you’re given a number for the rest of the application - and it’s the rest of the application that the selection panel sees.

      The equal opps monitoring also gets separated at this early stage as it’s not part of the selection process, but kept on record so the organization retrospectively can monitor who is applying/isn’t to ensure the best talent is sourced from as wide as society as possible.

      Of course, I think regardless of your name, people read CVs in quite a linear fashion, when did they did finish school, did they go to college, did they do a gap year etc etc, and bingo, you’ll select a prototype person according to the milestones they should be achieving at 16, 18, 21 and then onwards.

      This is why I don’t think age should be relevant to selection either, as firms shouldn’t hire based on age and investment potential – unless they’re special training schemes for high performing young professionals. We should all be entitled to training and investment opportunities. If we followed the argument that age does matter- then some would be wanting to see the age of female employees - and some folks will think twice about recruiting a female in her late 20s of early 30s for fear that she will incur maternity costs – even with sex discrimination legislation in place.

      I personally feel the battle gets harder once you’re inside a firm, the opportunities and the resources you’re given, depending on who you are, and whether your ‘face’ fits in - and here, both ‘race’ and gender play an enormous factor in equal measure.

      In the long term we all miss out, firms that do discriminate will miss out on talent. Companies such as McKinsey have been stating for some time now, the global competition for talent will drive future economies forward, and those that discriminate will lose out.

    27. bernard — on 2nd January, 2010 at 5:48 pm  

      Excellent post Firehorse. My parents were both from Jamaica. But they would never discuss their experiences, you couldn’t get anything out of them because they were so keen for me to get on and become, basically, anglicised. So I don’t know a great deal abput my origins, in fact.

      Now I live in Burnley in an area where most of the residents are first, second and third generation Asians. Most of them are perfectly fine, and so are most of the whites I mix with. I have no complaints.

      Most people probably think I am a middle-aged or elderly white based on my name.

    28. Rumbold — on 2nd January, 2010 at 5:57 pm  

      Thanks Halima. You make a good point about the increasingly globalised world of business, and people need reminding of that.

      Excellent post Firehorse (as Bernard says). I think that sort of overt racism has declined in the last few decades, but as others were saying, there is still a fair bit of unconscious prejudice.

    29. douglas clark — on 2nd January, 2010 at 11:15 pm  


      I think this is probably right. If I remember correctly you could be identified as a Protestant or a Catholic on West of Scotland application forms. I think I am right in saying that the school you attended, the identifier if you like, was deliberately dropped.

    30. Leo Shine — on 3rd January, 2010 at 12:35 am  

      how is this a solution to the problem? it just adds to the meaningless bureacracy. anyone who wants to be racist will be racist at the interview, and having them discriminating beforehand avoids the confrontation of the interview between racist and oppressed and allows the oppressed to not get false hopes.

    31. Sarah AB — on 3rd January, 2010 at 8:31 am  

      I think this is an excellent idea for larger employers - it would work well where I work (university department) - of course nearly all unis operate anonymous *marking* arrangements for similar reasons. I read an interesting report about an experiment using identical academic cvs but gendering some male and some female. The male ones were rated more highly than their identical female counterparts. Also, when asked what downsides there might be to (excellent) ‘female’ candidates employers were more likely to come up with the idea that she might have been helped with her publications by her PhD supervisor. As this thread has unfortunately demonstrated, the potential for discrimination based on race or religion is likely to be at least as great. @Leo Shine - if you have an HR person at interview or at least have to explain why you are/n’t hiring someone on a form then discrimination may be less possible at interview stage.

    32. MiriamBinder — on 3rd January, 2010 at 10:18 am  

      A lot of prejudice is subconscious; acquired almost automatically. Once most reasoning and resonable individuals are required to articulate their prejudice, as opposed to merely expressing it, they realise how utterly baseless it is.

    33. Rumbold — on 3rd January, 2010 at 10:35 am  


      Well, that’s another example of something that was easy to get rid of and which benefited a lot of people (in Scotland).

    34. camilla — on 3rd January, 2010 at 2:43 pm  

      22 Shahzad, thnak you very much - just as I thought!

      speaking about total discrimination so much, you (not you personally) find it insulting (insulting?) so share your own experience…

      there must only one reason for that… and of course it is insulting to show with your own example that there is not so much “discrimination” or “phobia” - if you try to make get on with people yourself

      I could never imagine that in Uk (in your culture?) proving your point is an “IQ dropping” experience … funny

    35. camilla — on 3rd January, 2010 at 2:53 pm  

      23 MiriamBinder, I’m all for giving and sharing the facts, but .. come on! be honest! I have given you a lot of facts previously - on a diffent issue, to be precise - but there are not “facts” for you, and they will never be, right?

    36. MiriamBinder — on 3rd January, 2010 at 4:13 pm  

      Camilla, if you have, they must have been so minuscule that they have escaped my notice …

    37. Lee — on 4th January, 2010 at 12:31 am  

      In a way, I like the way it is now, because if a company is not willing to take a chance to recruit someone because of their background, then I don’t want to work for them. When I’m rejected because of my name, basically what the company is telling me is ‘We unfairly discrimate and you wouldn’t want to work at a place like ours’.

    38. lynne featherstone — on 9th January, 2010 at 8:39 am  

      Lee - that’s not quite what happens. Mainly this is to stop people being discarded at first sift from getting to interview stage in a company or organisation. Once you get to interview - if the company or interviewer is racist - then you wouldn’t want to be there.

      But the interesting thing about the research on names etc is that the way the brain works (according to research in America) is that it feels warm and comfortable with the familiar and rejects the unfamiliar. Removing the name removes the problem of unconscious or sublimanal discard.

      The proposal does nothing to stop real racism or discrimination by those like Camilla - but it would make a step-change in getting a foot in the door for those who can’t get past that first sift especially.

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