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Westpac pilots level playing field in recruitment

03 June 2016

Blind CVs should by rights prevent hiring bias by excluding age, gender, ethnicity, etc. details

In the Pulitzer Prize winning play Disgraced by novelist and screenwriter Ayad Akhtar, the main character – a New York corporate lawyer named Amir Kapoor - is happy, in love, and, after years of hard work, about to be made partner in the firm for which he works. Or, so he thinks. His success, however, has come at a price.

To get the job with the law firm in the first place, Amir changed his name to Kapoor - an Indian surname of Punjabi Hindu and Sikh origin. He has also said his parents are from India. Amir’s father was born a year before Pakistan came into being and so is Indian, technically. Both Amir’s CV tweaks have been made to circumnavigate negativity about his background. Amir is Muslim. Rightly or wrongly, Amir believes the truth hinders his chances of career success.

The recent announcement by the Victorian State Government and Westpac to trial blind CVs for job applicants in an attempt to prevent hiring bias would make Amir’s “small” deceptions unnecessary.

Blind CVs remove details – such as gender, age, ethnicity, where people live and interests. – which can play into the unconscious or conscious bias of anybody who may be screening job applicants.

The really big pro with blind CVs is every applicant has a chance to get their foot in the door, which has not always been the case. A 2013 ANU study found that “to get as many interviews as an applicant with an Anglo-Saxon sounding name, an Indigenous person must submit 35% more applications, a Chinese person must submit 68% more applications, an Italian person must submit 12% more applications, and a Middle Eastern person 64% more applications”.

Critics of anonymity have been quick to point out where they see the process as flawed.

Once in an interview it would be up to interviewer to remain consistent and not succumb to bias unconscious and conscious.

Westpac Director of Women’s Markets, Inclusion and Diversity Ainslie van Onselen note: “Internally, Westpac numbers show we are very good at hiring women – indicating we don't exercise bias in the interview process.”

At some stage an applicant’s social media platforms will be checked by the recruiter, revealing the applicant’s details. So does an interview. The point is anonymity ensures each applicant has a better chance of reaching the interview stage.

At Westpac, says Ainslie, the pilot will help assess whether an application/shortlist bias exists when it comes to gender.

“Our experience has shown that what gets measured matters and you can change culture; we are interested in finding out if what gets masked matters as well. The anonymous CVs pilot is another way we can review our processes to ensure we are working towards an unbiased and fully inclusive workplace,” Ainslie says.




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