NEW POLL: is it time to make job applications anonymous?

Followers of Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone’s blog can’t have failed to notice her latest campaign – to bring in mandatory anonymous job applications “to end the subliminal discrimination that creeps in with some applications being discarded because of the names on them.” Specifically Lynne wants employers to remove names and replace them with a number on application letters/forms – otherwise “we end up with people not being discarded from the first sift of applications because their name shows they are black, female or old”. Lynne explained further:

… initial findings [from research by the Department of Work & Pensions] are of significant discrimination. And whilst it is clearly early days and the DWP is going to do more work – it seems clear to me that – first – those who argued there isn’t a problem which needs fixing in particular need to look very closely at what the DWP has been finding, and second – here is a simple proposal which costs business nothing but could actually deliver enormous benefits in removing discrimination in the job market.

Removing such discrimination is not only important in itself – but by providing people with equal opportunities to earn their living, it opens up all sorts of other knock-on benefits in terms of social cohesion and economic efficiency, which we all benefit from.

What do Lib Dem Voice readers think? Is Lynne right to pursue this campaign as the party’s equalities spokesperson? Or do you think it’s unworkable – and, if so, why? Here’s the question:
Do you support the idea of job applications being made anonymous?

And here are your options:

  • Yes, it should be made mandatory for all businesses to remove all discrimination
  • Yes, but it should be voluntary not mandatory for businesses
  • No, this is an unnecessary measure
  • Other [please state in comments]
  • Don’t know
  • Feel free to continue the debate in the comments thread below…

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    20 Comments

    • While it may prevent discrimination at the interview selection stage, it will not prevent discrimination at interview.
      Furthermore, to be totally anonymous, the applicants CV or application form would have to contain no address, names or dates of previous employers or places of further education.
      I think this means that an anonymous application is rather, well…pointless.

    • Nigel Quinton 2nd Jul '09 - 11:13am

      Surely the poll misses the point. Discrimination on grounds of sex, religion and ethnicity is already outlawed, what Lynne is proposing is a mechanism to help remove subliminal discrimination by allowing a more level playing field at the fist stage of the process, based on the research done at DWP.

      It does not mean, as Jay implies above, that the whole interview process is carried out anonymously! It is simply to ensure that everyone has a chance of an interview without regard to their ethnicity or gender.

      So the poll ought to be specifically about this measure, not about discrimination generally.

    • Tony Greaves 2nd Jul '09 - 1:01pm

      What utter nonsense.

      I suppose you could have anonymity at interviews by requiring everyone to wear a balaclava (or niqab) and speaking into a voice synthesiser type thing to disguise the sound.

      The fact that this is being put forward by a usually sensible MP is a real indicator that the whole world is going daft.

      Tony Greaves

    • Tom Papworth 2nd Jul '09 - 1:20pm

      A couple of points I would raise. Firstly, “significant discrimination” is vague; just how extensive is it. We’ve seen enough legislative sledgehammers being used to crack rather small nuts in recent years.

      It is also worth considering whether the DWP survey reinforces previous evidence.

      Interestingly, while there is some evidence for discrimination based on ethnicity, “Blind Trials” (as they are called) suggest that there in fact is no discrimination based on gender. The Gender Pay Gap is therefore definitely not due to discrimination.

    • Tom Papworth 2nd Jul '09 - 1:28pm

      “Followers of Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone’s blog can’t have failed to notice her latest campaign…”

      I’m not sure you meant to say that, Stephen!

      It sounds a bit like “Followers of popular music can’t have failed to notice the new single by T’Pau…”

    • Tom Papworth 2nd Jul '09 - 1:29pm

      Hang on. I’ve misread that, haven’t I?

      Apologies. Do feel free to delete that comment :o)

    • Aye- we should be able to send in applications under pseudonyms 🙂

    • As an examiner I am used to marking exam scripts with a number at the top. Then, at the end, when the marks are all agreed and the candidates degree class worked out, the names are revealed. We could easily do the same for job applications.

      One area where I definitely think it would be worth doing is univ applications. Maybe subconsciously I am biased for or against one group or another, and having just a number rather than the person’s name would eliminate that risk. It is a risk I would like to see eliminated.

      Academic articles are also submitted to the editor with a name, but to referees without names. It works reasonably well, although inevitably as a referee you sometimes know who wrote it – as you will with job applications, if the field is small and specialised.

      (“I would like to apply for the job of Prime Minister. I think that my experience as Chancellor over the last ten years, along with my Scottish background…”

    • “It is an affront to the liberal notion of free association.”

      If you allow employers to discriminate, then you end up with the vast majority of those employed being white, middle class people. Non-white people wouldn’t get employed by the employer of their choice, even if they were the most qualified. If they did get a job (and weren’t forced into extended unemployment), it would be a job that wasn’t the one they wanted, again, even if though they might be better than that. It would almost likely be lower paid, longer hours, and overall worse working conditions. But they would need work, so they couldn’t exactly turn that job down.

      That’s not the liberal notion of freedom of association. That’s freedom of association for companies and “favoured ethnicities” (i.e. whites), and no freedom of association for everyone else, particularly ethnic minorities.

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