Cabinet Office sheds more light on blind recruitment tool trials

Civil service's head of executive recruitment tells CSW that new online recruitment tool – Applied – will focus on increasing diversity and speeding up the sifting process

By Rebecca Hill

28 Feb 2017

A new blind recruitment system being trialled in some parts of the civil service could be rolled out right across the organisation if its pilots prove successful, CSW has been told.

It was announced last week that the civil service is one of 30 organisations testing out a new online recruitment tool, Applied, which will focus on increasing diversity in the recruitment of senior civil servants and speeding up the sifting process for high-volume recruitment.

The cloud-based tool aims to make recruitment fairer by asking work-based questions, anonymising responses and asking one recruiter to review all applicants’ answers to just one question – a process known as “chunking”. 

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It forms part of a planned shift away from competency-based applications, as detailed in last year's civil service workforce plan.

The civil service is running two pilots of Applied, with a smaller-scale trial at the Department for International Trade focused on speeding up the sifting stage for high-volume recruitment.

A larger-scale study will meanwhile use Applied for the initial sift when recruiting senior civil servants right across the organisation.

Adrian Thomas, the civil service's head of executive recruitment, told CSW the move was aimed at increasing diversity and “in particular driving the quality of hire”, with the removal of unconscious bias "a key component of this”.

He said the civil service had chosen to pilot the approach first because assessing applicants using task and strengths-based questions, and then chunking their answers, was "very different to current processes, which are themselves very traditional”.

The pilot, which will begin shortly, has also been designed to limit the changes experienced by those outside of recruitment teams. Thomas said candidates and vacancy holders will still "experience the traditional approach", but those working in recruitment teams will be able to evaluate the sift using Applied.

"We will then have the evidence to roll out – or not," he added.

“Obviously any roll out will depend on the success of the trial – but we are very excited at the prospect of using technology to assist with the very time-consuming problem of sifting large numbers of applications,” Thomas said. 

“If it also delivers the diversity benefits we expect then I envisage this rolling out across the organisation as a whole.”

The new tool has been given a cautious welcome by the Civil Service Commission, which regulates senior hires in the civil service.

First civil service commissioner Ian Watmore told CSW: “We really welcome the pilot as a means of helping the civil service to address any possible bias in assessment of candidates, but we think that a lot more attention also needs to go on the ‘attraction’ stage – to make sure that we have a more diverse field of candidates right from the off.”

Commenting on the launch of Applied, cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said the new tool would help to focus on what candidates "can do, not who they are, or what they’ve done in the past".

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