If you were trying to get rid of hiring discrimination (on grounds irrelevant to the ability to do the job), you’d think a good way to do it would be to reduce the ability of the hiring manager to discriminate, by restricting their access to irrelevant (but possibly prejudicial) information. It’s certainly what I might come up with as an early idea in a brainstorming session.
I’m not alone: France had this same idea, and gave it a go, by passing a law requiring companies to anonymise resumes before they got to any decision makers.
So far, so average. But rather than just coming up with an idea and inflicting it on everyone by a blanket law, they did what should be done with all new ideas: they trialled it (with 50 large corporations, according to the report) before making it universal, to make sure that the theory matched reality. Then, after giving it a good shake, they examined the evidence, and found that the idea had some unintended consequences:
Applicants with foreign names, or who lived in under privileged areas were found to be less likely to be called in for an interview without the listing of their name and address. Researchers reasoned that this was because employers and recruiters made allowances for subpar presentation or limited French speaking if their performance could be explained by deprivation or foreign birth.
The icing on the cake is that now the evidence is in, they’re now planning on making it “optional” (I’m not sure how that’s different from killing it entirely, but I guess it’s worth the same in the end).
So we’ve got the quinella of decision-making awesome:
- An idea was had
- A trial was run
- The evidence was examined
- When the evidence didn’t support the idea, the idea was abandoned
Far too often, we get far too attached to our ideas, and don’t let them go when reality doesn’t fit our preconceptions. Kudos to the people involved in this idea for not letting their egos get in the way of good government. Let it be an object lesson for us all.