Hidden job market

Blind CVs don’t deal with the real problem

How helpful are Blind CVs?

There has been a recent move towards proposing blind CVs in the recruitment process. Intended to increase diversity and reduce bias in areas such as gender, ethnicity and ageism, a number of organisations are committing to this system, including the U.K. Civil Service, the BBC, the NHS,  the European Union, KPMG and HSBC.

But will blind applications support the reduction of unconscious bias in the recruitment process, or just serve to highlight its existence? At some point the candidate has to be called for interview.


Research from Yale has shown that when women remove their names from their resumes, they stand a higher chance of being short listed for a job than when their names are visible. Although that may help in the short listing process, it doesn’t save these women from the same bias which reappears once hired into the organisation. In a recent study of code written by women, it was noted that their efforts were more likely to be approved by their peers, than code written by their male colleagues. This caveat was based on the fact that the men didn’t realise the code had been written by a woman.

There is one argument against Blind CVs and it’s a valid one. Blind CVs serve to get candidates through the first part of the process.  But after that point they only then serve to delay discrimination if it’s not being dealt with further into the hiring procedure.


Individuals with names that don’t match the ethnicity of the culture they are applying into have claimed for years that bias exists at the application stage. I have known many highly qualified North African and Arab candidates, adopt names in line with their target markets to avoid bias in the selection process, to increase their changes of landing an interview. This process of “covering” surely only serves to mask part of their unique background and experience. It also marks a shift from unconscious bias to direct discrimination.


The age of older candidates is usually clear in the career history of a candidate. I always feel that my time has been wasted when someone presents themselves as 40, when they are actually 65. If someone doesn’t put the year they graduated, it’s usual to assume that they will be over 50. Today with retirement ages being deferred until 67 or even later, a 50 year old has about 30% of a career left.  Candidates would be better advised to prove they are current.

I would also hope that a candidate should be able to embrace their age and younger hiring managers would be trained to handle generational and age differences in the hiring process.


A person’s full career history including personal details, interests and hobbies as well as background play an important part in assessing a candidate’s suitability for a job. Resume writers such as Jacqui Barrett Poindexter, suggest that we should weave our resumes with a relatable story  to showcase our personalities and personal stories. Leaving out key elements or obfuscating in any way, will not show who we are. With the spread of online profiles it is not too difficult to match blind CVs against a real person anyway.

So the question remains is whether the blind CV process is just treating a symptom of unconscious bias, or we should seriously focus on getting to the root of it. Candidate sourcing is only part of the process. If the rest of the experience is riddled with bias, not a lot of progress will be made.

Although unconscious bias can’t be eradicated, it can be managed. Competence based hiring is how it should be. But for this to be effective we have to manage all our biases in the rest of the process in all our systems. As a stand alone concept it won’t work as we can already see with our less than diverse talent pipelines.

This is why all hiring managers should receive unconscious bias training. Get in touch!



5 thoughts on “Blind CVs don’t deal with the real problem

  1. Safia Boot

    Blind CV’S might well increase the chances of under-represented people with foreign names and women getting to shortlist stage, but as you say it just delays the risk of exclusion to later stage. We need more piloting of this so it is set up properly to show meaningful results rather than become a PR opportunity. Is it ageist to say: “I always feel that my time has been wasted when someone presents themselves as 40, when they are actually 65”. People are not required to state DOB and will legitimately leave out early career to focus on last 15 years just as BME candidates will ‘whitened their CV’S – both ways to proactively respond to anticipated discrimination’. Will unconscious bias training alone solve this? It needs follow up with coaching and diversity and inclusion objectives built into individual appraisal objectives, etc. or you don’t get behaviour change.

    1. Dorothy Dalton Post author

      Thanks Safia for your comment. Massaging a CV to lose 15 years (or more) of career history is for me not a good tactic.

      I’ve noticed that it’s an approach that seems more accepted in the US than Europe. It will depend on the opening of course. For me it’s far better to present yourself as who you are, embrace your age and experience and prove your skills are current and relevant to the job in hand. Deception is usually counter productive. A person who has 40 years’ experience is in a very different place to someone with 15. I would always recommend the best candidates for the role, regardless of age, race and gender. But as you rightly, say unconscious bias and active discrimination is rife and resistance at corporate level is high. All corporations IMHO should be obliged to deliver unconscious bias training programmes.

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