What a difference a name makes

Thu 12th Nov 2015

The Equality Act 2010 protects current and former employees as well as job applicants from being subject to discrimination by existing, former or potential employers. Despite the protection afforded by the law, discrimination continues to be a problem in the UK employment sector.

Following a recent roundtable meeting hosted by the Prime Minister, several leading UK employers announced their commitment to introducing name-blind recruitment to combat discrimination on grounds of race. Deloitte, KPMG and the BBC are amongst some of the high profile organisations which have committed to implementing the initiative at graduate and apprenticeship level.


Whilst it may sound surprising, there is evidence to suggest that employers are sometimes influenced by the name shown on a job application or CV. There is thought to be a particular risk of unconscious bias against names associated with black or ethnic minority backgrounds. The Prime Minister cited research in a recent conference speech which suggests that in the UK people with “white sounding” names are almost twice as likely to be called for interview as those with “ethnic sounding” names.

What is name-blind recruitment?

Quite simply name-blind recruitment involves removing the names of candidates from CVs and application forms during the written application process. The employers do not know the names of the candidates that they are choosing to invite to interview and are therefore encouraged to assess candidates based on their relevant skills rather than their names.

Some organisations have already incorporated name-blind applications into their recruitment process, whilst others have taken steps to remove alternative information on which candidates may be unfairly judged. The leading law firm Clifford Chance has made the decision to remove information about a candidate’s university and school when conducting final interviews with a view to preventing bias towards candidates who have attended Oxford or Cambridge or a fee paying school.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has also announced that it will be backing the initiative as part of its role in improving practice amongst HR Professionals.

The future of name-blind recruitment

The involvement of a number of high profile organisations, the CIPD and the Prime Minister is likely to increase the profile of name-blind recruitment significantly over the coming months and years.

The initiative may ultimately give some candidates an opportunity to progress to the next stage of the recruitment process; an opportunity which would not necessarily have been available had their name been visible on the initial application.

The use of name-blind recruitment is however limited by the fact that the written application is only one stage in an often lengthy recruitment process. It is highly likely that the candidate will be required to attend a face to face interview at which point their ethnicity will of course become apparent to the employer. Organisations therefore need to ensure that they are aware of the risk of bias within their company at all stages of the recruitment process (and during employment) and that they take adequate steps to reduce such risks as far as possible.