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Ann Arbor implementing anonymous hiring for city jobs to prevent gender, racial bias


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – Ann Arbor will implement anonymous hiring for jobs in the city government to help prevent gender and race bias during the hiring process. 

The initiative was approved by the City Council 11-0 on Monday, March 18. 

The “Anonymous Hiring Initiative” aligns with the city’s commitment to social justice, equity and eliminating discrimination in hiring processes, according to council documents. 

Councilmember Cynthia Harrison, the lead sponsor of the initiative, said, “It is designed to tackle implicit bias head-on, ensuring that employment opportunities reflect the diversity of our community. By leading this change, we can hopefully inspire local businesses and organizations to follow suit. Research shows that diverse teams are more innovative and effective.”

Implementing this hiring method removes potentially biasing information from city job applications, and focuses on the skills and qualifications of a candidate. 

It also emphasizes the city’s commitment to fair-chance hiring which addresses the fact that zip codes and names can be used as a bias in the hiring process, according to Harrison.

Now that this initiative is approved, the city will work to develop a strategy and ensure training is given for all people involved in the hiring process. 

During the initial application process, the city will implement measures to make sure that the hiring manager and recruiting team do not see the potentially biasing information, which includes legal, prior, and preferred names, prefixes, suffixes, personal email addresses, home addresses and photographs. Councilmember Travis Radina brought up including photographs among this list of identifying factors recruiters will not see in the initial phase during the council meeting, as he said many people tend to include them on applications.

Radina, who is also the senior associate director of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, said that the hiring processes at the university are trending in this direction, and while he doesn’t know if it’s universal, it has started to become well established. 

Councilmember Jen Eyer, the other sponsor of the initiative said, “It’s really fitting that we bring this forward in March, as it’s Women’s History Month, and women are one of the groups that frequently are discriminated against in hiring, whether purposefully, or implicitly.” 

Eyer shared the following statistics from several different studies:

  • One in five women experiences gender discrimination during recruitment
  • White-sounding names got callbacks 50% more than Black-sounding names
  • Forty-eight percent of human resources managers admit that bias affects their candidate choice
  • African American and Asian applicants who mask their race on resumes see more success getting job interviews

She noted that these are all really good reasons to be moving forward with this initiative. 

“Studies have found that mothers, people with disabilities and candidates who belong to the LGBTQ+ community are also less likely to be called back when identified as such,” Eyer said. 

Councilmember Dharma Akmon said she was in a unit at the University of Michigan that had implemented anonymous hiring and she said it was “dramatic” how much more diverse the pool of candidates became, as well as the candidates that were hired.

Information about the new anonymous hiring initiative can be found on the city’s website

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