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Could you imagine "blind" interviews?

Before blind auditions became common in the 70s, just 10% of new hires at major U.S. orchestras were women. The theory was that women weren’t very good musicians. But labor unions protested the hiring process and pushed for blind auditions where musicians would try out behind a curtain so appearance and gender were concealed.

In studying personnel from 11 major orchestras, Harvard economist Claudia Goldin and Princeton’s Cecelia Rouse found that 29% of females and 20% of males advanced to the final round in blind auditions. When auditions were not blind, only 19% of women advanced compared to 23% of men.

Even though sex discrimination is hard to measure, those stats speak volumes. Fortunately, since the 80s, about half the news hires at the New York Philharmonic, 40% at the San Francisco Symphony and more than a third in Boston and Chicago have been women.

It got us wondering, what would the workplace look like right now if all interviews were done “blind” — where recruiters and hiring managers had no idea of your gender, age, or looks?
Tell us what you think. Dream a little!


  1. Bettie Biehn

    Dear Tory and folks at Women for Hire:
    Your question raises issues that I have been addressing in trade mag HR articles and discussions with colleagues for some time. And now that I’m pushing 60 y.o. and looking for work, the age piece is top of mind. Looks-wise, I don’t appear to be 59 (or so my friends tell me!), but I don’t look 35 either, and when someone looks at my resume and adds up the number of years I’ve worked, they can easily figure out my age. And this resume review takes place long before any face-to-face interaction with the hiring company. Age discrimination is subtle and VERY hard to completely discern and prove, so it goes by without notice….unless it is overt. In my many years as a HR professional, I don’t think I’ve encountered a blatant example of age discrimination, but I know it is alive and well.
    I do believe that if I changed my resume to reflect only the most recent and relevant positions, and were hired on the basis of a phone interview,I would be more likely to get that job. Thanks for the blog addressing this issue, and keep up the good work.
    Bettie Biehn

  2. Friday13

    The problem with blind interviews is that most jobs require some people skills. Those can’t be measured without seeing the person’s body language. I don’t know how you’d get around the pitch of the voice, either. Other than texting or equivalent, which mostly tells the interviewer how well you write, I can’t imagine how this would be accomplished.
    My first name is fairly unusual. When I was fresh out of school, I had a few interviews where they were visibly disappointed when I arrived and they saw I was a woman. I didn’t get those jobs. I added my obviously female middle name to my resume. I got fewer interviews, but those interviews were much more productive.
    I know the quality of my work. Not hiring me because of my gender was their loss. Oddly, one job wanted to hire me only because I was a woman and the “needed” one, not because I was or wasn’t qualified!

  3. The beaver

    The male voice is quite different from a female voice. When one does a phone interview, one does not see the candidate but one does know about the gender

  4. Image Architect

    Yes, I think this is a good idea. I’m an image consultant and know the power of appearance. However, this is something else. It’s tantamount to creating self awareness about our hidden prejudices.

  5. Tracee Farmer

    WOW! What a concept. Being a 6’0″ tall female and not “thin”, this is an amazing concept. I can guarantee that I have not been considered for several positions based on the fact that the hiring manager was a male who had issues with or was intimidated by my appearance. Most people have preconceived ideas as to what a woman is supposed to look like and apparently I am not it.

  6. Anonymous

    I think that is a remarkable notion, to be judged on merit alone.

  7. Anonymous

    I believe blind interviews benefit minorities and the disabled. I am a disabled minority woman. (basically a poster child) Whenever, I interview over the phone I have either landed the job or reached the final round of interviews. Two examples, one private and one government. I interviewed w/a law firm over the phone and the hiring partner loved me, her secretary told me “off the record” that I was a shoe in for the position. However, after meeting the “team” in person, I did not get the position. To date the posting is still listed as vacant. (few law firms want a disabled attorney, however, it is impossible to prove) I also interviewed with a federal agency, which opted to hire a less experienced attorney. However, the federal hiring person did appologize and told me to keep in touch for future postings or to contact Social Security for a disabled persons job credit in the future. My current job was offered and accepted site unseen. I am all for “blind” interviews. Judge by experience not stereotypes.

  8. Marge Caparros

    I think this would be a great idea and it would give women a fair chance at the positions. A job position should not be based on what whether some interviewer likes you or not. What would it be like if the tables were turned? Absolutely think this would be a great idea!

  9. Nancy Solomon

    I think blind interviews would allow for older and/or less glamorous people to be hired. This would allow for skills and experience to take precedence over age and looks.

  10. C. S. Van Rhein

    I recently graduated with a minor in Human Resource Management. The concept of “blind hring” (figuratively) was addressed and encouraged in most of my classes. Although “blind hiring” may not be the predominant practice at this time in many organizations, at least it is being taught to HR employees of the future.

  11. Jana Davis

    I believe that blind interviews would have landed me a new position months ago. I am a 40 something, minority female. I interviewed for one position where I was one of two finalists for the position and the hiring manager chose an early 20 something female over me whose experience was exactly matching the job qualifications as posted.
    As a Recruiter, I have seen many times where hiring managers consciously or unconsciously choose the candidate with the youthful look over the qualified candidate and I have had to talk them into the candidate with the experience so I know it happens alot.

  12. If interviews were blind, the workplace would definitely be more diverse. Although it would depend on how blind, for example, if the interviewer could not see or hear the interviewee, that would truly change the dynamic, as the person hiring would really only be able to rate the quality of the potential hire, not any other prejudicing factors, such as age, race, appearance, gender, or even tone of voice (which could indicate ethnicity). That would be an interesting challenge for our country during this time of change.

  13. Nancy S

    I go along with the blind idea. I also go along with companies not asking your date of birth and all of the rest. I can not believe the number of applications require all of that information as well as race. I thought that was a taboo……. and as a result of that info…the chances of just getting an interview are slim to none.
    I am a very articulate and attractive woman who has been very much a leader wherever I have been and with all people of all ages and sex and race. Yet when these “not” supposed to make a difference questions take precedent over everything else, one better enjoy being unemployed and put out to dry.

  14. Hurlicia Toson

    I have always said that we should have blind interviews. That way a person can be hired according to their experience and not by their race or gender. After the choice has been made then the person would need to have a background check & drug test to cinch the deal. I believe that blind interviews are the most fair way to hire an individual.

  15. Joanna

    This is an awesome idea! I had never even heard of it before. I am 44, graduating with a masters. No doubt my age is going to be a factor, which is a sad excuse for not hiring someone.

  16. Joy

    I believe any advantage in a “fair job” market search would benefit from “Blind Interviews”. Usually the hiring party choses an applicant that relates to them and not the qualifications.
    Thank you for working towards improvements and quality for all concerned.

  17. Suzanne Levison

    As an executive search consultants (14 years) in a niche market, I don’t see a value with blind interviews. It’s not the same as an orchestra audition at all. We all must, of course, present ourselves well, be authentic, and sell experience and expertise. Culture fit is as important as skill set to employer and potential employee. Who wants to arrive at an office each day and feel out of sync? Non cultural fit results in turn over, unhappiness on a day to day basis. As much as an employer is interviewing you, you are also interviewing them.

    • Pigbitin mad

      Too bad there are no jobs for people over 30. Then I wouldn’t get upset about always losing to the 20 year old. When libraries are now akin to a glamour industry it is hopeless.

  18. Madeline Case

    I would like very much to see blind interviews. This would be especially great for people with disabilities.
    Many times, people with disabilities are looked upon as being stupid and because they have a disability, they are perceived that they cannot function in thier jobs or be trainable or advance in their careers.
    If someone uses some sort of assistive device, what should that have to do with the actual job interview.

  19. Suzanne Levison

    True story about a successful hire.
    A few years ago, I was retained by an organization to find a mid level executive. The position specifics were quite exact. So, after meeting with the client and decision makers involved, the first candidate I found for the position (after much searching) fit the specs to a T..they met, clients called me..his specs were perfect, however, they wished to talk to more candidates. The next candidate did not possess the exact experience, but her personality “felt” right to me. I had noticed during my initial client meeting at the corporate offices of my client, the senior exec’s wore cowboy boots..yes, this was a Southern State based operation. So, my candidate wore a pair of her feminine boots to the interview. She was hired, and stayed with the organization for a number of years. A blind interview would not have been appropriate for success in this instance. Do your homework. Are you and the company in sync?

  20. taffe

    The issues are greater than one can imagine!
    Blind Interview is a great and creative idea and I hope someone can force and implement this; some companies even take it a step further by posting their jobs with employment agencies so they can discriminate for them. The issues are greater than one can imagine! The media is constantly training job seekers, how about turning it around by educating corporate America to stop any kind of discrimination Age, Race and Image on top of their list. How about training HR (the gate keepers and order takers) to do their job correctly and stop behaving as slaves and third class citizens of corporations.
    Hiring managers rely on their expertise and as long as they all think the same way the above issues will not disappear, they are as guilty. Do you realize in most cases our livelihood is in the hands of a so called professional HR representative with minimum training and experience who don’t have the depth of knowledge but possibly possess a degree, higher education and certificates (THEORY only) and only have the talent to look for their own industry buzz words and years of experience on the resume with zero relationship with executives/hiring managers etc. HR is corp. kindergarten in most cases. They don’t have the capability to educate the line managers the ability to “think outside of the box”, and think creatively ie: blind interview. with current mentality of people in power there is not much hope for the rest of us who are unemployed; With the new technology it has even gotten worse, the required fields on some sites are mind boggling “year of graduation”, the government site –USA Jobs.GOV requests “date of birth & SS#” recently I came across a hospital site that requests SS# or Drivers License # ,
    EEO info. gathering etc., more information than needed before even meeting face to face.
    How can one even get a blind interview? How can we stop this?
    The market is saturated with excellent talent (over and under qualified) –companies should take off the blindfolds and give “ possibilities” a chance.
    Corporate America should be as responsible for the growth of this economy as everyone else is regardless and it’s time to change their discriminatory practice.

  21. Carol Pena

    People will always find a way to beat the system even with blind interviews.
    At a prior engagement, my employer was looking to hire a contractor for a limited time (4-6 weeks). In the process of selecting a consultant we conducted several telephone interviews with a non-local consulting group. After the selection was made and the consultant arrived, we found the individual did not have any of skills needed to complete the contract. The reality was the person who showed up was not the same person who did the telephone interview.

  22. Karen Erdrich

    I dont really know if it would be good or bad…except to say that if Blind Interviews were the “norm” (or close to it), I likely would have a job by now. Dont tell me that I’m not discriminated against because of my age. Not a single real job interview in two months. And its like pulling teeth to even get an agency interview.

  23. Andrea Line

    What an awesome idea. I’m 56 and have been out of work for over a year now. I know part of the reason I don’t get the job after the interview, is my age. I was in a training orchestra associated with the Detroit Symphony in the early 70’s and this is how we were chosed for our position in the orchestra: blind audition. I’m sure if the “blind interview” were in place now, I wouldn’t still be applying for jobs and the application count wouldn’t be in the 300’s as it is now.

  24. ann pattock

    it would look like a summer concert at a park, with every kind of person, race, looks, dress, etc. it would be FUN

  25. taffe

    in response to carol’s comment regarding hiring a fake consultant this is an isolated situation, in addition skillless employee will be discovered in less than two weeks. Also there is 90 day probation period that employer can dismiss an unfit employee. Don’t forget the “employment at will” a term which shields the companies. Bottom line laws protect employers more than employees.

  26. Catherine

    As someone who is ‘discreetly’ disabled, I mean discreet because it is not blatantly obvious, I think ‘blind interviews'(pun not intended) would be very beneficial for candidates who face hiring challenges not only by gender, but age, race, weight, or perceived ability. Sometimes it is very difficult to move past another person’s perception once they start adding or subtracting your ‘hirability’. I am all for it!

  27. DLT55

    It would be better if blind interviewing was the standard because this is supposed to be a country of equal opportunity. However I think that women might outnumeber men because they tend to think outside the box. Most men are linear thinkers. But the interviewer would have to be someone not threatened by abstract thinkers also.

  28. TecnoGrrl

    I am also disabled but you couldn’t tell from my resume or by looking at me.
    I got a job through a “blind” phone interview several years ago. It amazed me! About a 10 minute interview to start a job the following week, then the company info and application were sent via FedEx the next day after I was hired over the phone.
    Not a position I ideally wanted and was over qualified for, but I needed work for the medical insurance at the time!

  29. Artemis34

    For Tracee and other tall women, consider going to the Netherlands or Denmark where you will be average height.
    Sometimes you have to go where you will fit in.
    For most women, it isn’t that simple. There isn’t any magical land for women, mature employees, those differently-abled. We have to try to fit in often where we are not wanted and try to win the hearts and minds of the doubters after the fact.
    Blind interviewing would give people the chance to get to the stage of trying to win people over.

  30. hiredformerit

    Two years ago I talked to a well-known economist about my difficulties finding work despite strong qualifications. I feel I completely missed the train for a good career, and I’ve only had sporadic work for the last decade. It just makes me a worse hiring prospect to try to explain that many hiring managers just didn’t think I had the right look. My economist friend told me about the blind hiring process used by orchestras. Ever since I heard about it, I’ve advocated for blind hiring as much as I can. I also think technical skills should be tested by exam, at the employer’s expense. Those two things alone would break down many of the prejudices and stereotypes that keep whole groups of people poor and breed resentment and even hate that divides and weakens our society.

    • Pigbitin mad

      I am not even all that ugly. But I am 57. Thats enough and the hatred and resentment is real. If the perfect people want meanness, cut-throat, and revenge politics they got it. Better to have creeps like us IN the economy than on the outside working against it. Especially since culture fit is so meaningless and ultimately worthless when taken to such extremes.

  31. Artemis34

    I’ve thought of having an alter ego for working / business like Remington Steele from the old TV show.
    A least blind rounds of interviews would give the hiring managers the opportunity to examine their own bias if they so choose.
    Could be double blind to give us a chance to examine ours as well.
    Voices could be altered electronically for the telephone interview.
    Excellent post!

  32. G. Wolfe

    This would be the best thing since sliced bread. It has fairness written all over it. Maybe it will happen in this century.

  33. Azzie Frings

    Would you compose a few articles for us. The penning style is truly extraordinary.

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