One of Britain’s Largest Companies No Longer Wants to Know Where Its Applicants Went to College

December 8, 2015

One of Britain’s largest companies no longer wants its recruiters and hiring managers to know where its applicants went to college, school or university.

“We are calling it school and university-blind interviewing,” Deloitte’s Head of UK Resourcing Victoria Lawes, said in an interview with LinkedIn. “What we really want to do is ensure that, whoever is recruiting isn’t consciously or unconsciously favoring a person who attended a certain school or university.”

Deloitte – a professional services firm with revenues exceeding £2.71billion – plans to hire around 1,500 school and university graduates in the UK this year. And yet, none of its hiring managers will know what school or university those recent graduates attended until after they receive an offer.

“It is really about working hard to try and ensure the talent we recruit is as diverse and reflects the makeup of the society we live in,” Lawes said. “We are trying to show that everyone can thrive here and succeed based on their own talents, regardless of their background, ethnicity, gender, etc.”

A move to help social mobility in Britain

Lawes said one of the biggest problems facing Britain is a lack of social mobility. Students from wealthier families tend to go to highly regarded universities like Oxford and Cambridge, which leads to them getting higher profile jobs at top companies.

Hence, Deloitte has decided to hide which school or university applicants went to. The hope is it leads to a more diverse Deloitte, with more “diversity of thought, diversity of ideas,” Lawes said.

“It’s not a nice to have, it is an absolute business imperative,” she said. “We cannot afford to overlook those from disadvantaged or lower socio-economic backgrounds. We need to ensure our environment is truly inclusive and allows all of our people to thrive.”

Part of a larger recruiting effort

Hiding the names of universities during the hiring process is just part of a larger strategy by Deloitte to seek a more diverse workforce. They have teamed up with the UK-based consulting company Rare to incorporate a new screening process called “contextualisation” that seeks to judge an applicant’s performance in the context in which they achieved it.

Rare has built a comprehensive algorithm using both public information and application data to highlight students who have overcome tough situations. For example, the algorithm will highlight someone who did well at school or university, despite perhaps being the first in their family to go to a university or qualifying for free meals at the university because of low income.

“It allows us to look for potential, instead of always focusing on past performance,” Lawes said.

All of this is part of a larger effort to judge applicants on their own merit, not on the situation they were born into, Lawes said.  She is optimistic this new practice will help both business as well as Deloitte.

“I think the impact this can make can be significant,” she said.

Additionally, right now these new practices are only installed at Deloitte’s UK offices, although other Member Firms have “shown interest,” Lawes said. Beyond that, she said Deloitte could help raise the debate further, which could influence other companies to follow suit.

“This is a path,” Lawes said. “Not necessarily the only path, but it is certainly a path that we hope others will consider following.”

*Image by Pablo Fernández

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