Blind Recruitment – the Drive Forward way

No matter whether you work for the private, the public, or the third sector, the pandemic has forced all of us to get creative in order to achieve our goals, and for some of us, to simply survive. For Drive Forward it meant finding realistic, affordable, and effective ways to keep the young people we support as well our corporate partners engaged. Lucky for us, our partners have been at the forefront of showing passion and commitment, and driving innovation.  

In 2019 Drive Forward forged a partnership with Distilled, a London’based internet marketing company. Having recently merged with  Brainlabs, a global digital marketing firm, their recruitment team decided to start over and do things differently.  

Brainlabs wanted to break with the tradition of recruiting from a pool of Russell Group applicants and become a more inclusive employer championing equal access to opportunities. Having a positive impact and making a lasting difference would take many hours of careful planning, preparation, and organisation. After months of bouncing off ideas, research, and intense discussions, we successfully developed two bespoke opportunities for young people working with Drive Forward.  

Both successful candidates started their placement in January and are now thriving in a full-time roles within the company.  

A new way of recruitment?

With the under-25s seeing the biggest rise in unemployment, the current economic recession, and the strain the pandemic has put on existing relationships, we still needed to go further and find ways of changing the way employers look at recruitment in the long-term.  

Once again, our partners at Brainlabstrail-blazed ahead, “We got another opening in our company and we want to fill it with a Drive forward candidate”. It didn’t take long until our Head of Corporate Engagement had an idea, blind applications.   

Blind recruitment isn’t new. In fact, one of the first versions of blind hiring has been around since the 1970 when the Toronto Symphany Orchestra put up a screen so that they could only hear the musicians auditioning. In the business world, a blind recruitment process means the removal of any personal identification details from candidates’ resumes and applications. This way, your hiring team are more likely to evaluate people on their skills and experience, and less likely to make biased decisions.  

Recruiting, the Drive Forward way 

Eager to ensure that we develop a new process whilst meeting the requirements of our partners, we worked very closely with the team at Brainlabs to develop a recruitment strategy that works.  

Step 1: Vetting  

Based on the specific job description and the nature of the employer, our Head of Corporate Engagement closely works with each Employment Consultant to identify the most suitable candidates to put forward for the opportunity.  

Step 2: Initial statement  

We then invited 10 individuals to compose a short paragraph laying out why they’d like to take up this particular opportunity within this particular company. Using the candidates’ initials as the sole means of identification, the statements were sent to the team at Brainlabs. The HR team had no idea what somebody’s gender, age, previous experience or educational trajectory.  

Step 3: the telephone interview  

From the initial statement, Brainlabs chose 9 individuals who were invited to a telephone interview. The rules were clear: don’t ask candidates’ names, specific education, age or personal background (e.g. where they’re from). The aim is to gauge whether individuals possess the motivation, interest, and curiosity needed for the role. What made you decide to apply for this role? What’s your interest in this industry? Why would you like to work for Brainlabs?  

Step 4: Skills assessment  

By now, Brainlabs’ HR team had gained a better idea of candidates’ personality; they had learned about the motivations and interest in the role as well as their company. However, they still didn’t know anything about individual’s education, personal background, their age or professional trajectory, and only knew them by their initials.  

Brainlabs still needed to make sure that the successful candidate also possessed the specific skills needed to perform the role. A mix between client interaction and data analytics, the role required an individual to be a good communicator as well as capable of understanding and interpreting large amounts of data. In order to confirm individual’s suitability for the specific role Brainlabs invited 4 individuals to perform a short maths test.  

Step 5: Practical task and interview  

Out of 10 initial applicants 2 people made it through to the final stage, which involved a practical exercise with an Account Manager followed by some quick interviews with members of the team the successful candidate would be part of.  

Under usual circumstances this stage of the process would have taken place in person, revealing candidates’ identity. Due to the pandemic, however, we were able to continue a truly blind recruitment process, which meant no video.

“I was about to draw up the contract for the successful candidate when I noticed that I still didn’t know their name! All I had was their initials… I had to call Lucy [Head of Corporate Engagement] and ask for their name, age, and address.” – Vicky Rowedder, People Operations Manager, Brainlabs  

Overall, it took about 8 weeks from choosing the 10 applicants to taking the final decision. Of course, our Employment Consultants would provide emotional and practical support to all candidates every step of the way.  

How we know that it was successful? For one, Nahom is very happy in his new job and eager to dive deeper into the world of digital marketing, 

Yeah, it’s going really well… just getting introduced to all the teams and having basic seminars this week. Think it’s going to get more specific next week but I’m excited…” 

Secondly, the team at Brainlabs was so astonished by the smooth running of the process and its overall outcome that they’ve already committed to rolling it out across all future entry level roles!  

Working with Brainlabs has been such a great experience to roll out an idea, that I feel will be able to change the recruitment process for many young people. Disadvantaged or not, Russel Educated or not- with this process and the teams’ enthusiasm, we can make it happen. A change starts small, and I’m so pleased to have been part of the start towards a big movement in recruitment. – Lucy Elamad, Head of Corporate Engagement, Drive Forward Foundation 

How you can make a difference

Get in touch with our Corporate Engagement team and learn more about how you and your company can make a difference.

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