Recruitment: For or against the anonymous CV?

The leader of the Parti Québécois, Jean-François Lisée, recently proposed to impose the anonymous CV in order to promote the employment integration of immigrants. This proposal, which has been debated for a long time in France, is far from generating consensus on this side of the Atlantic as well.

Discrimination at the CV sorting stage is particularly strong, as demonstrated by a study by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse conducted in 2012. Its conclusions were categorical: “With equal characteristics and skills, a candidate with a Quebec family name is at least 60% more likely to be invited to a job interview than a person with an African, Arab or Latin American-sounding name,” the Commission’s researchers wrote.

However, anonymizing CVs removes any indication of belonging to a racialized group, thus improving the chances of workers from this group to get a job interview. This practice would also reduce discrimination based on gender and thus kill two birds with one stone.

In France, a law was passed in 2006 to impose anonymous CVs on companies with 50 or more employees, but the measure was never implemented. However, companies and organisations have tried the experiment in the department of Essonne, in the north of the country. The anonymous CV approach allowed people with a name deemed to be discriminatory to have 32% more chances of being called for an interview and 36% more chances of being hired.

“When you get a chance to meet the recruiter in person, it can make him question the prejudices he has. It forces the recruiter to evaluate the person as an individual and not as a specimen of a racialized group,” explains Paul Eid, a professor in the Department of Sociology at UQAM. A member of the Centre de recherche en immigration, ethnicité et citoyenneté, he participated in the 2012 study of the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse.


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Pushing the problem back

The problem with the anonymous CV is that it does not prevent discrimination at the time of the job interview. In fact, you can tell the ethnic origin of the candidate by where he or she studied. It therefore does not solve the problem of discrimination per se.

It is also difficult to implement anonymization of the CV. Should the burden be placed on the candidates or should a technical procedure managed by the company be imposed? The latter option imposes additional costs on employers.

An experiment to be tried

According to Paul Eid, however, it would be worthwhile to try the experiment in Quebec, particularly in the public service, because of its large pool of employees and therefore its potential for experimentation. He believes that it would be better to leave it up to companies, because they are jealous of their freedom of action. The leader of the PQ, Jean-François Lisée, for his part, suggested that private companies could obtain a service for pre-selecting candidates with the help of local employment centres.

The key argument, according to Paul Eid, is to show companies that they have nothing to lose. He says it is not economically rational to dismiss someone because of their ethnicity. “An employer risks depriving himself of a pool of skilled people for irrational reasons. An anonymous CV would almost be a favour to them,” he says. The worst that can happen is the standstill. It’s worth a try.”

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