Does anonymizing applications help firms diversify?

Not necessarily. It prevents discriminatory application screening, but can undermine DEI efforts.

You're hiring and you want to make sure you interview diverse candidates. Should you remove names and addresses from resumes? Probably not.

Anonymizing applications reduces bias during application screening. That makes it a good idea for employers who, left to their own devices, are more likely to interview men and ethnic majority candidates than similarly qualified women and ethnic minorities.

But if you asked this question, chances are you're already making an effort to recruit candidates from underrepresented groups. Anonymizing resumes will make that harder.

French firms ended up interviewing fewer ethnic minorities after signing up for an anonymized application program. Likewise, an economics research center interviewed fewer women after taking applicants' names off their CVs.

What went wrong?

First, since the employers wanted to be inclusive they might have used candidates' names and addresses to select minorities for interviews.

Second, they might have used gender and ethnic cues to contextualize resume items. For example, some French recruiters forgave gaps in employment for candidates from deprived neighborhoods, where jobs were scarce. But when applications were anonymized and they didn't know who lived in deprived neighborhoods, they penalized everyone for employment gaps.

In an ideal world, gender and ethnicity should be irrelevant to hiring. But in reality, gender and ethnicity shape the educational and professional opportunities people have from childhood. To recruit diverse candidates, employers need holistic DEI strategies that account for gender and ethnic bias beyond the workplace. Simply hiding names won't cut it.

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