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Hiring manager’s blind date

At the end of 2014, we defined Suominen’s first ever sustainability strategy, which supports our business strategy. The sustainability strategy has three focus areas: Achieving product leadership, Fostering responsibility throughout the value chain, and Operating sustainably across the organization. Each of them contains key projects aimed to develop our operations from the sustainability perspective.

As a part of the ‘Operating sustainably across the company’ focus area, Suominen kicked-off a so-called Blind Hiring Project to promote diversity and to ensure equal opportunities when applying for a job at Suominen.

During the project, it was identified that most of the personal data of applicants is irrelevant to Suominen and there is a possibility that having the data could unconsciously bias the recruitment process. This kind of personal data includes, for example, applicant’s full name, gender, ethnicity and age. (Of course, some of this information, ethnicity, for instance, wasn’t collected prior to the project either but, in some cases, the ethnicity of an applicant could have been identified based on full name.)

The personal data of applicants was decided to be left hidden as much as possible.

Blind hiring piloted successfully

The project culminated in October-November 2015, when blind hiring was piloted in the recruitment of an Assistant Business Controller in Suominen’s Helsinki office. The process included certain critical phases.

  1. The first phase was to define a few pivotal selection criteria, which were objective, quantifiable and based on the position description. For this position, e.g. degree and main subject and proficiency in using Microsoft Excel were relevant criteria. An external recruitment consultant, who was thoroughly briefed about Suominen’s intentions, assessed all applications using these criteria and selected the first group of approximately 10 candidates.

  2. In the second phase, the hiring manager narrowed the group down to six candidates. He made the qualification based on candidates’ applications and resumes, where personal data was masked. This way the applicants could be assessed only by their merits. Since the applications were sent to Suominen’s HR system and the recruitment consultant was responsible for communicating with the applicants, their identities were revealed to the hiring manager only in the interview phase.

The pilot was successful and the blind hiring process turned out to bring efficiency, clarity and structure into the hiring process. As a result of the pilot, Pinja Taittonen was appointed the Assistant Business Controller. Read more about Pinja.

Pinja Taittonen

“At Suominen, we want to put our ideas into action,” says Hannu Sivula, Senior Vice President, Human Resources. “Gender or ethnic background are not relevant criteria. At the beginning of the process, it’s easier to focus on the essential, e.g. education, work experience and competences, when the candidate’s name and gender are not visible. By masking the personal information, we also mitigate the risk of unconscious biases affecting the recruitment process.”

“Blind hiring is a concrete way to execute the spirit of our sustainability strategy in practice,” Hannu Sivula continues.

Thanks to the successful pilot, blind hiring will be a default approach in Suominen and the principle will be utilized in all new hirings, including top management.