Blind Employee Referrals Add Fairness to the Recruiting Process

Most hiring teams use employee referrals as part of their overall recruiting process. But while well-intentioned, their very nature makes them exclusive rather than inclusive. And they can interfere with a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Blind employee referrals, on the other hand, can add a measure of fairness to the hiring process.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), referral programs “may create an unintentional disparate impact on some protected groups if employees refer candidates of the same race, religion, national origin, or any other protected class. Therefore, relying heavily on employee referrals as a recruitment method may jeopardize workforce diversity efforts by unintentionally creating an imbalance in the diverse makeup of the workforce–an imbalance that could continue to multiply over time.”

Blind employee referrals, by contrast, hide the fact that a candidate came through a referral program from hiring managers and other members of the hiring team. Blind employee referrals run somewhat counter to common referral practices in several ways.

Referring employees don’t disclose their connection to a candidate to anyone on the hiring team. (Some applicant tracking systems offer an option to hide the source of a candidate from the hiring team.) Referring employees do, however, tell the candidate about the blind referral process and ask that the candidate keep their relationship private.

Employees on the hiring team also recuse themselves from the hiring process when they know a candidate. If a candidate name-drops an employee during the hiring process, someone on the hiring team informs or reminds them of the blind employee referral policy. And hiring teams evaluate all applicants equally regardless of how they came into the candidate pipeline.

Finally, when it comes to incentive programs for employees, blind referrals don’t change the dynamic. Companies can pay employees (or others) for referrals whether the referral is blind or public.


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