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Could nameless CVs work in the legal sector?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 13/11/15

Last month, UK Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled further plans to tackle discrimination in the workplace. He assured the country that, “if you’ve got the grades, the skills and the determination, this government will ensure you can succeed.”

His idea? That ten public and private sector giants (for now) – including HSBC, the BBC, the NHS and Deloitte – take on a new method of “name-blind” recruitment, whereby the only identifying information on a CV is the candidate’s mobile number. This, in theory, would negate any unconscious bias against name, race, gender or other defining features. Yet how can one ensure that religion, background or gender is anonymous all the time? For example, if someone has gone to a Catholic school or if a gap in work experience indicates a period of maternity leave?

In 2010, Germany’s Anti-Discrimination Agency, an advisory body, managed a voluntary scheme to encourage businesses to do just this but found that without the force of law, take-up wasn’t widespread. Consequently, a recent experiment in the country even revealed that candidates with German-sounding names were still 14% more likely to be called to interview than their Turkish counterparts. Over in France, a law was passed in 2006 which ensured that any firm with over 50 members would anonymise applications, yet slow administration meant that the government only began to enforce the legislation last year.

So is there reluctance to partake in this new recruitment practice within the legal sector? Well, 4-5 Gray’s Inn has become the first barristers chambers to champion a new application form where only the contact number acts as an identifier. Timothy Straker QC, head of chambers, said: “We intend to stay at the forefront of best recruitment practice.” There are some sceptics, particularly when it comes to senior level hires or questions of gender quotas, but all in all, this step seems to be being received with enthusiasm.

But how successful will it be? Only time will tell…