Walking the talk on anonymized resumes

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Unconscious bias is one of the biggest challenges for improving diversity and reducing discrimination, with anonymous resumes often touted as a solution. Now one UK firm is trialing the system, to reduce school bias.

London-based law firm Clifford Chance has started using anonymized resumes to prevent bias towards specific schools, including Oxford and Cambridge.
The decision was motivated by a national survey which found that attending “Oxbridge” was still a necessity for success in top professions such as law, diplomatic services and medicine.

In a recent round of graduate recruiting Clifford Chance employees conducting interviews were not given any information about which university or school candidates attended to prevent any bias towards Oxbridge or the country’s top fee paying schools, the Independent newspaper has reported.
Laura Yeates, graduate recruitment and development manager at Clifford Chance, said: “All they will have is the candidate’s name for the final assessment.”

One benefit of using blank resumes, and publicizing the decision, is that organizations receive more applications from groups that have been underrepresented in the past. This proved true for Clifford Chance, which received applications from a wider range of educational institutions than the year before. Successful hires were made from universities including Cardiff, Essex, Lancaster, Liverpool and Ulster.

 “The overall object is to make sure we never lose out on talent, wherever it comes from. We need to make sure we have the very best people spread out across the whole of the UK in terms of institutions,” Yeates said.

Clifford Chance also assessed candidates on work experience, which could include working full-time in retail to cover the cost of tuition fees or more traditional work placements.

In addition, half the opportunities on its vacation programmes, which offer placements in the spring and summer to current students, are reserved for people who come through an 'Intelligent Aid' scheme. This requires applicants to write an essay on a topic the firm values and give a presentation.
The UK government has been campaigning to improve fair access to typically “elite” professions for the past two years. However, HR experts at CIPD have warned that unless employers implement serious culture changes, Britain’s class system is unlikely to be easily overcome.

“Certain professions still seem to be out of reach for many – as a quick glance at the Cabinet disappointingly confirms,” Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said. “This firm should be applauded for its efforts to truly employ people based on merit.”

 

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