According to CIPD research, companies with above-average age diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT), on average. This is because age-diverse teams can increase a company’s creativity, innovation, strategic thinking, and collaboration in complex decision-making.

Yet, studies show that 36% of 50-69-year-olds in England feel that they’re at a disadvantage when applying for jobs because of their age. Other research has shown that more than one-third of organisations in the UK haven’t promoted someone because of their age, race, gender, or accessibility needs.

As well as the social, emotional, and financial impacts of ageism in the workplace, these findings are also concerning for the future of the workforce. We live in an ageing population with declining birth rates; meaning, today, one-third of the workforce is over 50 and almost all population growth in the next 20 years is predicted to be from this demographic.

If employers want to tackle labour shortages and boost business performance, it’s essential that they take steps to make hiring processes as age-inclusive as possible.

So what can employers do to prevent hiring biases from the very start of the application process? Research from Adecco suggests that more UK businesses are looking into the concept of ‘blind hiring’ to remove identifying factors from CVs and choose candidates based only on their skills and competence.

But what is blind hiring and how can you introduce it to your recruitment process?

What is blind hiring?

Blind hiring is a technique recruiters use to remove bias from the hiring process by hiding parts of information about a job candidate, such as their name, age, and gender.

Age-blind hiring, in particular, aims to remove any information that could reveal the candidate’s age from their application, such as their date of birth, graduation year, or years of work experience. This way, hiring managers can focus on the candidate’s suitability for the role, and make more objective and merit-based decisions.

What is the purpose of blind hiring?

Blind hiring aims to hire the best candidates most fairly. Even if an organisation doesn’t feel that it has discriminatory tendencies, it can still be helpful to hire blindly. This is because individuals can have inherent biases they may not be aware of, that can affect who a company welcomes through its doors.

For example, a hiring manager may not realise that they have an automatic preference for a younger university graduate over a seasoned professional with decades of experience – regardless of the huge range of skills and experience the older candidate may have to offer. This may be because of the younger candidates’ perceived adaptability and tech-savviness.

As previously mentioned, age-blind hiring can also benefit employers by increasing the diversity and inclusivity of their company, which can improve their performance, innovation, and reputation.

By hiring people from different age groups, employers can access a wider range of perspectives, experiences, and talents, fostering a learning and collaboration culture. In addition, age-blind hiring can help employers avoid legal risks and costs associated with age discrimination claims, which can damage their brand and reputation.

The UK's leading work and careers site for the over 50s

Rest Less is the UK’s fastest growing digital membership community, built to inspire the over 50s – through jobs, advice, volunteering, courses, health, lifestyle and more.

If you’re looking to recruit age diverse candidates from our talent pool of one million members, we’d be delighted to help you.

Get in touch

Does blind hiring work?

Blind hiring has certainly been identified as a technique that can help to hire candidates based on what they can bring to a company, rather than characteristics such as age and gender. However, there are also drawbacks to consider.

For example, blind hiring can…

  • Be difficult to implement and maintain, as it requires changes in the recruitment software, processes, and culture.

  • Be ineffective or inappropriate for some roles or industries, where certain characteristics or qualifications are essential or relevant.

  • Not always eliminate bias, as it only applies to the initial screening stage, and bias can still occur in later stages, such as interviews or assessments.

  • Be less effective when there’s a lack of diverse candidates from the start. In this case, employers may need to consider what they can do to expand their talent pool.

Therefore, age-blind recruitment may work for some organisations and roles, but not for others. It’s not a silver bullet solution and should be complemented by other measures.

For example, this might include placing more focus and weight on a candidate’s skills throughout the entire application process; making sure that applications are assessed by a panel, rather than just one person; and, if the application has questions to answer, chunking these up to avoid the ‘halo effect’ (more on this later). Hiring managers should also be given inclusion and diversity training, workplace diversity statistics monitored, and an inclusive workplace culture promoted.

How to introduce blind hiring into your recruitment process

How to introduce blind hiring into your recruitment process

Every organisation is different so blind recruitment strategies may vary. However, it can help to…

Decide which personal identifiers you want to remove from applications

This could include names, ages, genders, sexual orientations, photos, addresses, number of years of experience, educational dates, and institution names.

Create a system that can remove personal identifiers

Employers may choose to use an automatic system – such as an applicant tracking system (ATS) – or a manual process – such as asking someone not involved in the hiring process to remove them. Instead of names, you could identify each candidate by a number.

Consider ways to test people based on their skills

A person’s skills are the most important indicator of whether or not they’ll be capable of doing the job well. While education and experience can also tell us something about a candidate; they’re essentially just a proxy for skills.

With this considered, it’s worth exploring ways to assess candidates based on their skills, as early on in the application process as possible. This could include coming up with real-life scenarios that people would encounter in the role and asking them what they would do. Offering answers in multiple choice format or as a scale can make answers easier to compare.

If the candidate is interviewing for a job where the work is computer-based and can be completely remotely, you could also ask them to submit a sample – for example, for a writing role, candidates could submit 300 words on a topic of your choosing.

Randomise the order in which candidates are reviewed

The order in which candidates are reviewed can also impact how favourably they’re seen by hiring managers. For example, those reviewed first thing in the morning when a manager is fresher and more engaged may have an advantage – while those reviewed last or just before lunch (when the reviewer is hungry and dipping in energy!) may have a reduced chance of being hired.

Therefore, it can help to make sure that applications are reviewed by more than one person, and in a different order, to avoid bias. Another useful tactic is to chunk up candidates’ answers to avoid the ‘halo effect’ – whereby, if someone answers one question particularly well, the view of the rest of their answers become tainted.

Consider how to make the rest of your recruitment strategy more age-friendly

Removing identifiers from applications before they’re reviewed by hiring managers is just one step in the process. It’s also important to make your entire recruitment strategy – including the interview stage – as age-friendly and inclusive as possible.

Our articles, 5 ways to make your recruitment strategy more age-inclusive and 5 tips for creating age-inclusive job adverts, offer advice on how to do this. You can also reach out to us for support by emailing [email protected] or by filling out a form here.

The UK's leading work and careers site for the over 50s

Rest Less is the UK’s fastest growing digital membership community, built to inspire the over 50s – through jobs, advice, volunteering, courses, health, lifestyle and more.

If you’re looking to recruit age diverse candidates from our talent pool of one million members, we’d be delighted to help you.

Get in touch

Final thoughts…

Age-blind hiring is a progressive approach that removes age-related biases from the recruitment process. By focusing solely on skills, qualifications, and experience, organisations can promote diversity, reduce discrimination, and ensure that candidates are evaluated based on merit rather than age.

This is not only beneficial for employees but also for companies who may be missing out on attracting and hiring top talent over 50.

Do you use blind hiring practices? If so, how successful has it been so far? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.