Blind Auditions
Blind Auditions

Dylan Tweney editor-in-chief at Venture Beat on his Linkedin page yesterday wrote about why hes using blind auditions to recruit journalists for VentureBeat.  According to him, top orchestras in the U.S. used to be 95% to 100% male and 0% to 5% female. But after instituting blind auditions, with the applicants performing their music behind a screen so they can only be heard, not seen, that ratio changed dramatically.

According to a study, the number of women in top orchestras rose from less than 5% to about 25% after those orchestras implemented blind auditions starting in the 1970s and 1980s. One quarter to one-half of that change, the study found, is attributable to the blind auditions, which force auditors to focus on what they’re actually hearing, not what they see.

Its not just music, either: Double-blind reviews of scientific papers have increased the number of female authors in professional publications, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year. Recently, people have started suggesting that Silicon Valley needs to make a similar change. Startup guru Eric Ries made a blind hiring experiment by removing names, gender, and ethnicity from resumes.

Dylan thought he’d try the same experiment. Their online application seems a bit impersonal, of which Dylan says this gives them the ability to review all applicants based on the quality of their content — not their name, gender, race/ethnicity, or how well-designed their portfolio site is.

We’ll take all the applications, reformat them from a relatively hard-to-read Google Spreadsheet into a clean-looking Google Doc (using this handy script), remove the names, and evaluate them that way he says on the page.

Dylan says hes used a similar technique to solicit submissions for a haiku journal. While applicants sometimes find the process off-putting (theyd prefer to send in personal emails and receive immediate, personal responses), theres no doubt it has enabled us to make fairer, more objective decisions about what to publish.

Will this make a difference in our hiring process? I don’t know Dylan says. Ultimately his goal is to make hiring decisions based on excellence and ability. Anything that lets us focus on the quality of an applicant’s writing and reporting — not his or her background, name, or face — seems like a good start Dylan said.


Photo credit: thomas.leuther via photopin


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