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Hello, I am ?, ? years old and born in ? – and I am applying for the vacant job!

In some countries – for example Germany – it is usual to attach a picture and some personal information like age, gender and nationality to the application. Does this procedure support discrimination? As the increase of diversity is almost everywhere on the agenda it seems to be at the right time to have a closer look at some common arguments concerning the pros and cons of anonymous applications.

Some studies proofed positive effects on the diversity of candidates invited for an interview when the applications are anonymous regarding the age, gender and ethnic background. For example a study of the ‚European Working conditions Observatory’ conducted that the probability of being interviewed regardless of gender or ethnic origin increases by about eight percent due to anonymous applications. Similar results were shown in a pilot study by the German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency in which eight different governmental and non-governmental companies of different sizes took part. But only three out of eight companies are continuing the procedure now the pilot is over. So, what are the negative aspects? First of all it takes a long time and thus is expensive to blank applications out (as it is usual to give the personal information with the application – and concerning some information as e.g. the name and address it is definitely needed – all applications must be reworked). Another interesting aspect is the question, if this system is stopping discrimination or just delaying it until the interview process. Perhaps it would be the better approach to provide the employees with trainings to get the whole application process rid of discrimination? For women the study mentioned above showed that the chance to get a job offer increased by almost seven percent because of the anonymous applications but no such effect was found concerning ethnic origin. For the pilot study no clear statistics are available because of privacy policies.

It seems as if there is not the one way to go – but that every company has to figure out which is the right recipe to ensure an application process without discrimination. If for example a company purposely wants to invite and hire applicants from minority groups as a part of the diversity-strategy blanked applications would not fit the needs. Fact is that – regardless of the instruments used – it is important to fight against discrimination in the application processes – for companies in equal measure as for candidates and the society.

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