Are Anonymised CVs the Key to Eliminating Unconscious Biases in Hiring?

An anonymized CV may be just what you need to eliminate unconscious bias at your HR department.
January 18, 2023
7 minutes
Anonymised CVs are a great way to reduce unconcious bias.

As an HR specialist, you know that if you want a dynamic team that thinks out of the box, challenging the status quo to take your firm to new levels, you want a diverse team. The Harvard Business Review ran a study back in 2018, and found— no surprise— that companies with higher-than-average diversity were also more innovative. This translated directly into increased revenue; these more diverse companies saw 19% higher revenues.

It’s easy to hire people who look like us, but most human resources departments today are taking steps to eliminate any bias that pops up in the recruitment process and in hiring.  It’s the unconscious biases that are the most tricky. For these, you need to take special measures. Like anonymized resumes.

What is an Anonymized Resume?

An anonymized CV is one in which potentially bias-inducing fields have been automatically redacted. Ideally, it’ll exclude most personal information and include only the fields which are actually relevant to the job being filled. An anonymous CV is also known as a blind CV. It is an effective first step to blind hiring, where you choose someone for a role without being influenced by any irrelevant background information.

An anonymous resume will typically include:

  • Education (possibly with names of institutions redacted)
  • Job history (possibly with names of employers redacted)
  • Skills 

Fields that are often redacted in an anonymous resume are:

  • Name (both first and last)
  • Birthplace, address, location-specific information
  • Names of educational institutions
  • Names of employers
  • Phone numbers
  • Social media links
  • Headshots and other extraneous information not relevant to the job 

How an Anonymous Resume Works

Imagine you’re hiring for a software development position, and you get two resumes from job seekers. There’s Paul Edwin, who graduated from the same school you did three years after you. He’s not kept any one job for long, but seems to have been hopping around in the industry and his last position was at a really great firm. He’s got a picture with his resume, and you can see he is a friendly, open-faced fellow you’d love to have a drink with.

The second resume is from a Precious Imani Zebeneth, and you don’t recognize the name of her school from anywhere. She graduated the same year Paul Edwin did and has been working steadily at one firm since, with regular promotions, but the name of her company doesn’t ring any bells— it’s a place on the other side of the country. 

Research from Oxford University shows that if you’re forwarding just one of these candidates on to the interview stage, it’s going to be Paul Edwin. You’d love to hire him, and you hope he’s got a good explanation for all that job-hopping he did. It’s not that you don’t want to hire someone who doesn’t look like you, but the intuitive, unconscious part of your brain unconscious bias is at work, and unconscious bias prejudices you in favor of the school chum who looks and feels familiar. 

If you used an anonymizer though, and reviewed the candidate CVs after all irrelevant data had been redacted, you’d be asking Precious for an interview. Her employment record is much more impressive, and she’s got all the skills you are looking for. 

Benefits of Anonymous CVs

Now that you know how it works, what benefits can you expect to see from anonymous CVs? Anonymizing CVs can help you protect against discriminatory biases, promote fair candidate selection, and foster increased diversity. You’ll get a more effective team; a team that was chosen because they’re best at what they do, not because they look a certain name or have a name that sounded familiar.

Eliminating bias in hiring has been shown to:

  • Increase innovation
  • Increase revenue
  • Improve profits

Having a diverse workforce has also been shown to increase engagement.  Workers love being part of an inclusive team everyone is treated fairly and is valued for their contributions. This might seem counterintuitive— you’d think a self-selected team of look-alikes would have great internal cohesiveness— but there’s something unique about a diverse team all passionate about your company mission. Your team culture will take off like never before, and everyone will start thinking out of the box. 

What Kind of Bias Do Anonymous CVs Combat?

An anonymous CV can combat a whole host of biases that might unconsciously affect the selection process.  A few of the biases that can be effectively eliminated by a resume redactor anonymizing your CVs include:

  • Similarity /Affinity bias (when a decision maker is biased to choose someone like versus someone unlike)
  • Confirmation bias (when a decision maker unconsciously seeks for a rationale to justify a quick intuitive decision)
  • Gender bias (where a decision maker assumes one gender or another is best suited for a particular role)
  • Distance bias (when a decision maker prefers applicants or job histories from near rather than far)
  • Halo effect (when a trait or piece of irrelevant information colors everything else a decision maker reads about a candidate)
  • Minority pool bias (where a decision maker judges certain ethnicities with a different benchmark than others)

How to Use a Resume Redactor to Anonymize Your CVs

It used to be that when you wanted to anonymize your CVs, you needed to physically use the whiteout or else type out an entirely fresh copy of every applicant’s CV. You’d assign a number to each resume, and use these to match the redacted copies with the original resumes once a decision had been made. 

Today, you can use a resume redactor to automate the process. Affinda’s resume redactor API is one great option for HR teams. Based on the same cutting-edge AI that powers Affinda’s resume parser, the redactor reliably eliminates the details you choose. These could include personal details, work details, referees, locations, dates, and gender.  Your developer can integrate the redactor right into your applicant tracking system, allowing you to generate redacted resumes with the click of a button. 

If you don’t have a developer and don’t want to integrate the redactor directly into your applicant tracking system, there is a software option that does the same thing. You can try this out for free— no signup required. Here’s the procedure.

  1. Head over to https://affinda.com/resume-redactor.

  1. Upload your resumes to the secure server. Using the free tool, you can upload up to 25 at a time.

  1. Choose the parameters you’d like redacted. These are the fields your AI will find, locate, and eliminate in the redacted resume.

  1. Download your files. It typically only takes a few seconds to redact resumes, so you won’t have to wait long for a download. Now you’re ready for an anonymized review process with unconscious bias completely eliminated! 

Using a resume redactor to generate anonymous CVs and jumpstart a bias elimination initiative turns out to be incredibly easy. Diversity equality and inclusion have never been more within your reach— all it takes is a few clicks of the mouse, and a willingness to commit to decision-making based on what matters.

If you’d like to find out more about how Affinda’s resume redactor can help you, drop us a note and we’d love to chat. You can also find out more about our other HR solutions like our AI-powered resume parser and matcher.