Anonymous applications are designed to prevent people from being systematically discriminated against because of their age, gender or ethnicity in the recruitment and selection process. Asynchronous video interviews promise an efficient and reliable pre-selection process. However, the methods used to achieve anonymity become visible when recruiters use video footage. So is this a contradiction?
Here are the results of the pilot project “Anonymized Application Process” and how the concept of asynchronous video interviews builds on the fundamentals of anonymous processes.
No equality in the application process
The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG short) in Germany prohibits the systematic discrimination against people on the basis of characteristics such as age, gender, religion or ethnic background. This applies to the labor market when it comes to the selection of employees. The discussion about the testing and introduction of anonymous application forms received a lot of attention in Germany in 2010, when a publication of a study from the Institute for the Study of the Future of Labor (IZA) showed that candidates with migrant backgrounds have a smaller chance of being invited to a personal interview from their job application. For the study, the researchers from Constance sent the applications to over 500 companies, all with the same CV included. The only difference in the applications and CV’s was the made-up origin of the applicant. The imaginary applicant had either a German, or a Turkish name. As with the German applicant, the Turkish applicant’s CV also clearly showed that they had been born and raised in Germany, and completed their education in Germany as well. The results showed that the applications with Turkish names received less callbacks on applications than those with German names. A clear discrimination. However, the effect was hardly observable in bigger firms, as compared to smaller ones, perhaps, according to the authors, due to greater standardization which increases objectivity.
Results of the pilot project “Anonymised Application Process”
Two years after this study, another study, this time by order of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, was published at the IZA: it was the final report of a pilot project called “Anonymised application process.” Strictly speaking, only the application input was anonymized through a CV screening. A variety of ways were used, such as: standardized online forms, auto-typing sensitive information, manually transferring application data in a standardized format and manually blacking out sensitive data. Sensitive data were: name, sex, nationality and place of birth, disability, birth (age), marital status and photo. Four large enterprises, three public administrations and a medium sized company took part in the twelve-month pilot project. Instead of a control group, the effects were examined with a before and after comparison. The procedures in the individual companies were quite different and hardly comparable.
The results showed that there was a mild tendency that showed that anonymous applications produced a similar probability not to be invited to interviews for the groups likely to be the victims of discrimination. People with a migrant background continued to have worse chances in the process, however this could also be attributed to structural differences in terms of formal education. For women, it was found that anonymous applications tended to increase the probability of being invited to an interview in comparison to men. Overall, the results were rather ambiguous and found the effect size to be very small, which could also explain why the media response to the results was rather dimmed. So much for the facts.
Objectivity must be guaranteed, even in selection processes
Despite the small effect sizes and methodological weaknesses of the study, the authors conclude that the anonymity of the application form allows a focus on the qualifications of the candidates. Although this should be the goal of every CV screening (anonymous or not), the debate does not touch on another crucial factor: with or without anonymous applications often many candidates formally meet the qualification requirements, but differ in their suitability based on their varying competency dimensions. It is still relevant to develop a selection process that will allow for a meaningful competency and ability diagnostic, information that cannot simply be assessed by looking at application documents.
Asynchronous Video Interviews: Consistency and Continuation, not Contradiction
One way to get a meaningful insight could be by using asynchronous video interviews. The conditions also prevent discrimination against certain groups similar to those stressed by the authors of the pilot study on the anonymous applications: standardization and structuring. Here, interview research provides a range of well proven and accepted paradigms that provide a valid and objective diagnostic approach, without having the danger of being guided by a psychologically programmed stereotyping of certain groups. This includes the development of biographical, descriptive, behavioral or situational questions with standardized and behavioral anchored rating scales. The methodology of asynchronous video interviews offers an opportunity to assess skills such as presentation skills, language skills or communication skills. However, just as in a personal interview, characteristics such as gender or age cannot simply be “blacked out” in a video interview. Standardization of processes after the receipt of the application are necessary precisely for this, to ensure not just the initial, but continued objectivity of the selection process.
The initital question in regards to the conflict with the Germann AGG must therefore be answered with a NO. Anonymizing the receipt of applications aims for more objectivity in CV screening. Asynchronous video interviews are also a means to continue objectively past the stage of receiving the application. It helps continue the aims of anonymous applications, such as a non-discriminatory selection, and thus adds to this method, instead of contradicting it.