Can I use blind hiring for senior roles?

Joe Caccavale

24

August

2020

|

5

min read

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Generally speaking, the more senior position you apply for, the less assessment is required.

But shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Your most senior team members (you hope) are making pivotal, high-level decisions about the direction of your organisation… but these are the people that are hired with the least scrutiny? 

Candidates for senior roles tend to rely on their years of experience and extensive networks, with deals often being sealed over a coffee and a chat.

NEWSFLASH: years of experience isn’t actually predictive of real-life ability.

It’s a mere proxy for the skills you’re looking for.. And a fairly lousy one at that.

However, there is a way to prove you’re hiring the best person for the job, using data - as opposed to taking someone’s word for it.

It’s called ‘blind hiring’.

Full disclosure - this is what we do here at Applied. We’ve re-designed the hiring process using only the most predictive, behavioural science-backed assessment methods. You can try our process out for yourself, it’s all laid out in this guide.

What is a blind hiring process?

Blind hiring does what its name suggests: anonymises the recruitment process by removing any identifying information from applications.

At the initial screening stage, all candidates are entirely anonymous, and traditional interviews are replaced by ‘structured interviews’ - where everyone is asked the same questions.

At Applied, we’ve taken this a step further using behavioural science.

This is how our blind hiring process works (the exact process we used to hire our own team)...

Replacing CVs with work samples

When it came to making hiring fairer and more predictive, the first thing we did was get rid of CVs.

Not only do they allow for bias to be the driving force behind decision-making (even when anonymous), but they’re also just not very good indicators of real-life skill.

You can delve into the science here, but the short version is this: CVs have been proven to be one of the weakest predictors of ability.

Instead, we use work samples. These are job-specific, hypothetical questions/ mini-tasks designed to test candidates’ ability to do the job.

Blind interview process

When it comes to interviews, you’re obviously going to have to meet/look at candidates.

To keep bias to a minimum, we ask all candidates the same questions in the same order, asking only how they would approach situations, and avoiding any question about their background.

Interviews are also an opportunity to simulate parts of the role, whether it be a mini case study, presentation, or prioritisation task.

It’s also recommended that you have three interviewers scoring questions independently. This uses something called crowd wisdom - the rule that collective assessment is more accurate than that of an individual.

Blind hiring statistics (it actually works!)

The data speaks for itself:

  • Teams using our process above have up to 3x as many offer-worthy candidates. 
  • 60% of people hired ‘blind’ would’ve been missed in a traditional CV sift.
  • You could see up to 4x more candidates from ethnically diverse backgrounds

But aren’t you hiring a senior team member for their experience?

When hiring senior team members, you’re probably going to be looking for someone with heaps of experience, since, in essence, that’s what you’re hiring them for.

We don’t dispute the fact that expertise learned through years of experience can make someone the better hire.

And in all likelihood, you’re going to be hiring someone with a ton of experience. 

But…

With more responsibility and money on the line, why take their word for it?

You’d use data to make any other high-stakes business decision, so why not for hiring too?

Just take a look at the Schmidt & Hunter’s landmark metastudy below.

Key takeaway: Education and experience rank poorly for predictive validity.


This doesn’t mean that experience is worthless.

It means that experience alone doesn’t make someone the best person for the job.

Why? Because not all experience has equal value.

And it might not be someone’s experience in your field that makes them the best person either.

Candidate A’s 10+ years of experience in the industry they’re applying for might make them the better hire.

But what if Candidate B’s 5 years of experience in your field - and another 5 years doing something completely different-  gives them the outsider perspective that the role needs?

By using blind hiring methods, and replacing a mere assessment of how much experience someone has with a test of how that experience has actually influenced how they think and work, you can be sure you’re hiring the right person for the role.

An essential part of our process is objective scoring of every work sample and interview question answer.

At the end of the process, you’re left with a scoreboard that will show you who the best person is, based on your initial criteria.

It’s pretty straightforward really: test for skills gained through this experience, not for experience itself.

Experience can (and often does) make someone better at what they do.

But given that a senior hire may be making high-level calls and managing others, wouldn’t you rather they prove that their experience has equipped them to do the job at hand?

Are senior candidates put off by blind hiring?

Given that a flat white and a handshake is often enough to land a job, does this mean that senior candidates will be deterred from applying?

Will they be offended that their resume alone isn’t enough?

Will they have the time to answer work samples and attend interviews?

Well, companies have in fact used our process to hire for senior roles.

And we’ve had no issue with any of the fears above.

If you do happen to run into any issues, we’d suggest a quick call to kick off the hiring process, where you sell them on the role and company, and explain how blind hiring works and why you’re doing it.

You can read up on how Comic Relief used us to hire senior team members here.

There is another way of looking at this, however…

You want to hire someone who is passionate about what your organisation is doing and the role itself, right?

So, if that person isn’t willing to answer some role-specific questions (which candidates generally find enjoyable), do you really want to bring them in (especially at a senior level)? 

Don’t be discouraged by candidates qualifying themselves out. 

The whole point of blind hiring is that you end up with a smaller, more qualified pool of candidates that genuinely care about your mission.



Find out how we blind hire here at Applied - from job descriptions through to reporting, we’ve built behavioural science into every step of the process.


Applied makes blind hiring as easy as pie by removing bias by design. Read more about how we’re reimagining the hiring process via our resources or start a free trial to see how it works for yourself.