non-white names

Will name-blind hiring work?

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business_people_line_door_1600_wht_9932David Cameron seems keen to introduce it for recruitment to the civil service, the BBC and leading private companies in order to reduce discrimination against candidates with ethnic minority backgrounds.

This is because research suggests that there is bias against non-white names. Cameron cited the example of a graduate called Jorden Berkeley who couldn’t get an interview until she used her middle name Elizabeth. Well for a start all graduates have to make many applications before they get an interview – unless they’re well-connected of course.

Secondly, to me her first name doesn’t seem a non-white name just one of those modern, sometimes made-up, names we see proliferating such as Jadon, Rafferty, Dexter, Barlow, Chase and Galore, to name but a few and not including compound names . In some cases the name doesn’t even give you a clue as to the person’s gender. I wouldn’t have known whether Jorden was male or female for example. (Is there any research into bias against non-traditional names?)

And removing the name alone is only part of the problem with applications. What about the district you live in, the school and college you went to? Your hobbies and interests? All potential clues to your ethnicity. (And we won’t even mention your Facebook page!)

And what about other biases, for example against age?. We’re all living longer yet the research suggests that over-50s get a raw deal applying for jobs.

Cameron’s promise to “finish the fight for real equality” follows moves to get more women on FTSE100 boards – despite evidence that it doesn’t necessarily improve a company’s performance and leads to the “Golden skirt” phenomenon – and more transparency about pay.

It all seems a bit of a PC “tick a box” to me. After all they’re not going to require applications for top jobs to be hired on a name-blind basis. Where does he think the bias starts?