You don't have javascript enabled.
Back to resources

Diversity and Inclusion

What’s a “blind audition”?

📝 How are you hiring?

After you attract the right talent to apply to work for your business, you need to minimize the chance of bias seeping into your recruitment process.

Let’s equip you with the know-how and practical steps to make sure that the diverse candidates you’re attracting are evaluated fairly throughout the hiring process.

🎻 What do we mean by “blind audition”?

Well, in the TED Talk below, Yassmin Abdel-Magied tells the story of how the Boston Symphony Orchestra concealed candidates’ gender for a truly blind audition. Their aim was to eliminate gender bias and diversify their largely male orchestra back in the 1950s.

So candidates took to the stage to play from behind a screen to conceal their gender, in the hope that more women would make it past the first round of auditioning. Initially, they saw a minor uptick in the number of female musicians who made it through, but the judging panel still sent disproportionately more male musicians to the next round.

👠Why? 

Well, incredibly it turns out that the sound of the women’s heels could be heard as they walked on stage – tipping off the judging panel to their gender and subconsciously influencing their decision-making.

When this was uncovered, musicians were asked to take off their shoes for auditions. And (perhaps unsurprisingly) almost 50% of the candidates who made it to the next round were women.

📺 Watch this

💡 Points that give us pause

🚩 What we wear does not define who we are as people. Expectations set by societal stereotypes do not equate reality. (00:00 – 01:50)

🚩 Your limitations should not be pre-determined depending on what type of family you were born into, your gender or sexual orientation. (04:10 – 04:53)

🚩 Candidates should be considered with potential societal disadvantages in mind – second to their merit. This ensures that you do get the best person for the job, but you also have a diverse team. (05:01 – 06:06)

🚩 Structural change can only start when the seeds of inclusivity are planted – which can be done by mentoring and opening doors for someone completely different from you, subverting your affinity bias. (09:22 – 13:25)

(Source: Tyler Golden/NBC)

A modern interpretation of the “blind audition” principle is in “The Voice”. During the blind auditions, the decisions from the musician coaches are based solely on voice and not on looks. The coaches hear the artists perform, but they don’t get to see them — thanks to rotating chairs. If a coach is impressed by the artist’s voice, he/she pushes a button to select the artist for his/her team. At this point, the coach’s chair will swivel so that he/she can face the artist he/she has selected.

According to Gap Jumpers, with traditional CV screening, they found that just 20% of applicants who were not white, male, able-bodied people from elite schools made it to a first-round interview.

But using their form of “blind auditions”, 60% did. That’s the staggering impact of interrupting our biases. Of course, you may not have the power to decide if your business uses a tool like Gap Jumpers. But you can borrow some of this thinking.

Try giving candidates a screening task or assessment to assess how well they’ll do the job, or even asking your recruiter to manually strip out identifiers in their initial shortlist (admittedly this is not scalable!).

.     .     .

The bottom line?

Bring an element of “blind auditions” into your hiring process where possible via assessments and/or stripping identifiers out of CVs to help de-bias your hiring process.

What’s a “blind audition”?

If you’ve got any suggestions or stories that you’ll like to share on blind auditions, we’d love to hear them! Share your experience, comments, or whatever else you’d like to share here.

We’d love to hear from you!

Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.