Anonymous applications: vehicle for integration and emancipation?

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A pilot project on the anonymized application process by the anti-discrimination agency, the Institute for the Future of Work and Viadrina University shows: In many cases, this recruitment measure has been presented as an important means for more equal opportunities for women and migrants. But how helpful are they really?

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Marie-Luise Mähler 70Marie-Luise Mähler worked for MTV, for example, or at the press conference of the German Embassy in Brussels.


246 “problem cases” were given a job

At the press conference, the head of the anti-discrimination office Christine Lüders is satisfied with the result of the pilot project "Anonymised application procedure" carried out in cooperation with the Institute for the Future of Work and the University of Viadrina Frankfurt.

She is convinced that you “hit a nerve”. A total of 8550 applications from eight participating companies were viewed anonymously. Over 1290 applicants were given the chance to take an aptitude test or to make an interview.

246 of them were actually taken on a job. Three of them were presented to the invited press during the press conference at the closing of the project as prime examples of the anonymous application process: a mother of two, a disabled person and a woman with a migrant background.

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Success is diversity: meaningfulness of the study questionable

However, the significance leaves much to be desired considering the already aligned corporate culture of the participating partner companies: In addition to three public authorities, the large corporations Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom, L'Oréal, ProcterundGamble and the gift service provider mydays took part in the study.

At the press conference at the start of the project in August 2008, representatives of these companies already confirmed that they were basically aiming for a heterogeneous recruiting practice that followed the diversity approach. The then head of HR Tamara Hilgers of the company mydays confirmed: "Equal opportunities and diversity have always been part of our corporate culture."

Company spokeswoman Edda Dietrich from Procterund Gamble also emphasized that diversity and integration are “keys to business success”. Since only eight of the originally 30 companies contacted took part in the study, it is questionable to what extent this anonymization step complies with the nationwide personnel policy.

The issue was also strongly discussed abroad

Although other countries - such as France, Belgium or the USA - are already more familiar with these recruitment methods, their effectiveness is no less questionable: In France 2005-2006, when I was in Paris myself, the subject of anonymous applications eagerly discussed.

At that time, the unrest in the Paris suburbs had escalated. A few months later, the students rebelled against the draft law on the CPE (Contrat Première Embauche first employment contract).

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This had actually been a law for equality of opportunity, but it could have brought young adults into a precarious situation because of radical right of dismissal on the part of employers. This was later rejected and replaced by a new bill.

France: “If someone wants to get you ready, they will!”

The French daily Libération reported extensively on this issue of anonymised 2005 in November Casting, A first hurdle could be overcome by anonymisation, but in a telephone preselection still stigmatized candidates would be screened.

An affected graduate who was temporarily employed by an anonymous application process summed up: "It's a good way to get interviews, but if someone wants to get you ready, they'll do it."

Integration is not anonymous

The need for sustainable integration is undisputed. However, the question remains whether anonymity really helps in an application process. Does not the gap between highly educated applicants and the low-skilled still expand?

In addition, character traits of an applicant can only really be experienced authentically in a personal conversation. And a successful collaboration depends not least on whether the “chemistry is right” and the candidate fits into the team. And these criteria are ultimately the deciding factors when choosing personnel.

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Proposal: Women's and integration rate instead of anonymous procedures

So I asked myself: can anonymised applications act as a second supporting pillar in addition to a quota system, as is the case with women, for example. Can anonymous procedures adequately replace old application patterns? Or do the measures envisaged so far require a fundamental renewal?

My suggestion: If we are already discussing the women's quota, why do not we make it an equal integration rate? This is - admittedly - only the beginning of a possible solution. But does not it ultimately hit the nerve as well? What is your opinion?

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