Welcome to the Canadian governmental chapter of the color-blind recruitment

This April, the Liberal Government announced a new recruiting pilot project that aims to ‘reduce unconscious bias’ and increase  minority job seekers’ chance to land a job. As a starter, 6 federal departments will take part in the ‘name-blind’ hiring process to test the effectiveness of such process. However, this initiative raises several disturbing questions!


You have been looking for a job in your field, one that will fulfill your desires and matches your skills. It’s been 5 five years now since your engineering master degree is on your wall. You stop dusting it because it reminds you of all the endless and unsuccessful efforts you’ve put in to find a job where you can finally apply your genius skills in designing software.

As studies show however the chance for a female black candidate like yourself to find such job in Canada is very thin because your name does not sound Anglo enough. You then decide to take a leap of faith and try the new name-blind recruitment policy that the federal government just put in place. You sent a résumé without your name on it. You were also careful enough to change any information that may lead the recruiter to think you are not from the White Anglo majority group.

Oh! Miracle! You just got your first phone call and you’re invited to an interview. Oh! Think God your accent didn’t betray you, you thought. These university years going out with friends have finally paid off. Now you just need to get ready for that interview.

Nevertheless, you can hardly control your nervousness because you cannot help feel like somehow you tricked the recruiter. And you just used the new recruiting policy.

Would they have called you if you haven’t used this recruiting approach?

Will the interview be awkward because they were expecting someone with a different physical appearance?

It’s a good thing you took out your LinkedIn profile photo. Should you do the same for your other social media profiles?

Will they cancel the interview if they find something on the Internet that show them what you really look like?

In all this anxiety, you don’t have the strength nor the time to prepare for your interview tomorrow. Oups!

Welcome to the new proposed color-blind resume policy!

This scenario is purposely far-fetched to portray minority job seekers job hunting experience. It also reflects what U of T Sociology Professor Jeffrey Reitz recommends for the success of such initiative.

“To conduct name-blind screening, he said, recruiters must remove any information on a resumé that would show the ethnicity of the person, such as name, birth place and membership in an association before coding the candidates in the talent pool”, recommends Reitz (the star.com)

The fact is, we live today in the digital age. Even if recruiters, exempt of bias, remove personal information from a résumé, candidates would still have a big job to do in clearing the Internet from any obvious information that can betray their origin.

A very trendy topic

The Canadian Government is now joining the bandwagon to test the success of name-blind recruitment for minority candidates. The advocate of this trendy technique, liberal MP Ahmed Hussen, said in Parliament last year that  “It is crucial that Canadians who have got the grades, skills, and the determination succeed.” (from CBC)

As a matter of fact, ‘resume whitening‘ seems very popular and may have even doubled the chances of  ethnic candidates to receive callbacks as reported by the Guardian. It has been tested in European countries such as France and United Kingdom.

In France, the idea is “to strip résumés of anything that could tip off recruiters to a person’s racial, ethnic and national background or other information that could be used to discriminate — name, age, sex, even residential postal code.” (Washington Post)

Name-blind hiring processes are also in place in the private sector in the US and in the Canadian musical sector.

The Canadian governmental chapter of the name-blind recruitment is in direct answer to a joint study conducted by the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, which proves that Asian candidates have a very less likely chance to receive callbacks after sending out resumes. And it’s all in the name as recruiters will likely throw away resumes with non-anglophone names.

In fact, “applicants with English-sounding names were 35 per cent more likely to get callbacks than those with Indian or Chinese names with similar results in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver”, said Philip Oreopoulos, a U of T economist who co-authored the study. (Ottawa Citizen)

Six departments will be part of the pilot project: National Defence, Global Affairs Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Despite the good intention of this recruiting initiative, it raises uncomfortable questions.

What happens during the phone call if you have a foreign accent?

According to previous tests, your name and other information that may lead to discrimination will be concealed. How exactly this will be done is not sure.

If federal recruiters will be responsible for clearing applications from information that could lead to discrimination, how will the government make sure that recruiters don’t have bias themselves?

Despite this clearing process, how well will this scenario play for you if  you don’t speak like the majority?

How will the so-awaited phone call go?

What happens to candidates with extensive foreign education, work experience, and skills?

Another disturbing concern is on the recognition of newcomers’ foreign credentials and work experience.

What if you are a highly qualified candidate with foreign education and work experience? What if all that can make you suitable for a job is international competences, education, work experiences?

Will the color-blind recruitment process prevent newcomers from finding jobs because adding these important professional skills might reveal their non-Anglo affiliation character?

What will happen to existing measure for minority candidates?

“We hope as the government moves proactively to ensure diversity in hiring it will review the existing program and strengthen it to ensure the intentional inclusion of racialized and indigenous job seekers,” said Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. (thestar.com)

If the government is applying a color-blind hiring policy, how will it affect the policy to facilitate women, people with disability, Natives and people from visible minority group? Will this measure no longer be in force?

How will name-blind recruitment affect cultural diversity?

celebrating ethnic differences and cultural diversity can only be beneficial for a country. Unfortunately, while the proposed bill is acknowledging an unacceptable level of racism in the Canadian society, it is in the same time denying the beauty and benefits of diversity.

Why not promoting foreign skills, the richness of various cultures, the beauty of different accents?

Why not fostering a cultural work environment in which the country can benefit from different ways of doing things?

In this new technological time, diversity is key.

Why not instead coaching recruiting managers to better understand different cultures, ethnicities, to learn more about others and put their fears of anything different at rest?

We hope the questions raised here can help in bettering the recruiting process.

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