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Eliminating discrimination in recruitment in Germany: can a digital filter for job applications help?

Written by
Kliemt.HR Lawyers, the first port of call in employment law for top-class and future-proof advice.
Authors
Nicole Krüger
Associate - Germany
Kliemt.HR Lawyers
Germany
20.11.20
3
Will a digital filter to eliminate identifying details from job applications help reduce discrimination in recruitment? This article explores the pros and cons.

A quick glance at a job application is often enough to assess an applicant’s chances. Candidates are rejected solely on the basis of name, gender, origin, nationality and age. An applicant’s photo can also influence the first impression and whether or not they are invited to an interview. This is not always based on a conscious decision, but also on gut feeling and certain stereotypes. Anonymous applications can be a solution to counteract the discrimination that this entails. The start-up Taledo uses a digital filter with a recruitment platform. 

Anonymous job applications: the story so far 

Following the example of many other European countries, the first pilot project in Germany with several anonymised application procedures was carried out ten years ago. At that time, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency assessed the result as very positive and developed a guideline for anonymous application procedures. However, it did not want to make the procedure legally binding, as is the case in the US, for example, but appealed to companies to use it voluntarily 

However, the current statistics are clear: in the private sector, anonymous application procedures are hardly ever carried out. Even the companies involved in the pilot project have returned to traditional application methods. One of the reasons cited was the relatively large amount of work involved in blacking out non-anonymised applications.  

Is a digital filter real innovation …  

Taledo’s digital filter minimises the effort required to make applications anonymous. If the filter function is activated in the recruitment platform, the profile picture of the applicant is made unrecognisable and only the candidate’s initials are displayed. This is primarily intended to shift the focus of attention when selecting candidates. Instead of focusing on colourful, prominent photo and the associated gender and age, the applicant’s abilities come into focus. This is also supported by the shortening of the name, which does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the ethnic background, religion and world view.  

…or just a modified method with the same problems? 

The scope for anonymising job applications using a digital filter will probably not increase the acceptance of this application method. Apart from the expense, which could have been minimised by an anonymised online application form, there were other criticisms.   

In particular, Following the pilot project, several participating companies commented that neither more nor fewer women or applicants from an immigrant background had been selected as a result. Moreover, apart from a good CV and academic results, the recruiter’s personal impression of the applicants was also important to them.  

Furthermore, it also became apparent that other disadvantages could take place precisely as a result of the application of the anonymised application procedure. For example, a poor grade in German could lead to an applicant being excluded from the selection procedure. If it were known, however, that German was not the candidate’s native language, the decision could turn out differently. These considerations, but especially the feeling of being talked into the application procedure by someone else, cannot be countered by the use of a digital filter.  

Conclusion 

A digital filter is not a breakthrough against discrimination in the job application process. It can be used as a tool to reduce discrimination and, in addition to the other pre-existing tools, it is an easy way for employers to carry out an anonymous application procedure. It speaks for itself, however, that according to Taledo’s own statement, only 1% of recruiters use the filter.  

In conclusion, it should be noted that a hiring decision is ultimately made after interview. The interview cannot take place anonymously, which means that, despite anonymous pre-selection, the outcome is always dependent on the subjective judgement of the recruiter. 

With the active support of our research assistant Mrs Reischmann