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Helsinki's anonymous recruitment pilot to continue

Officials say anonymous recruitment has been such a success that the practice will continue next year.

Before being interviewed for her present job as a youth media trainer, Emilia Mäkinen was only a list of qualifications and a four-digit numerical series to recruiters. Image: Rami Moilanen / Yle

In the spring of this year, the City of Helsinki started a pilot of anonymous recruitment, eliminating names, gender and age from application documents seen by HR before deciding on sending out invitations to job interviews.

The system was piloted in 12 different sectors, for a total of 41 jobs. Most were in the education and training fields, but the pilot also included other types of positions, including jobs in social and health care and Helsinki city transport.

The current project is mandated to continue up to the end of this year, but officials say that the results have been so good that the pilot will be continued in 2021.

“One manager, reflecting on his own attitudes about the recruitment pilot said he wondered why he would even want to recruit anyone 'normally' any more,” relates Aino Lääkkölä-Pyykönen, the Helsinki City HR expert who led the project.

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HR expert Aino Lääkkölä-Pyykönen was responsible for the anonymous recruitment pilot in Helsinki. Image: Rami Moilanen / Yle

Tech barriers

In principle, anonymous recruitment could be widely used in the city, says Tarja Näkki, Head of Strategic Resource Management for the City of Helsinki.

The problem is current technology.

According to a diversity survey by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the big barrier to anonymous recruitment is HR systems. The data system used in the hiring process by the City of Helsinki does not yet support anonymous applications.

“There are no obstacles, as such, to expanding it to a major part of our hiring. The plan is to increase anonymous recruitment and train supervisors next year,” Näkki explains.

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Anonymous recruitment will continue, says Tarja Näkki, Head of Strategic Resource Management for the City of Helsinki. Image: Rami Moilanen / Yle

A number of local governments in Finland have experimented with anonymous recruitment, and Kuntarekry, a national public sector job hunt service service, operated by the Association of Finnish Municipalities and FCG Talent Oy, recently launched a dedicated anonymous recruitment section.

Miša Leiber, CEO of CG Talent, says that the municipalities of Janakkala, Turku, Kokkola, Rovaniemi and Espoo, as well as Espoo's education consortium Omnia, have been using the new service channel to experiment with anonymous recruitment this autumn. In addition, the City of Vaasa and the North Karelia Association of Social and Health Services (Siunsote) have tried anonymous recruitment,

A new way of thinking

Before being interviewed for her present job as a youth media trainer with the City of Helsinki, recruiters knew Emilia Mäkinen only as a list of qualifications and a four-digit numerical series.

Anna-Mari Rouru, the supervisor who hired Mäkinen for the position says that anonymous recruitment led to a new way of looking at hiring.

“I received a list of applicants identified only by an ID number. I then decided which ones were selected for interviews. When the interviewees arrived, they revealed their names and their ID numbers,” Rouru says.

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Media workshop leader Anna-Mari Rouru says that the anonymous hiring pilot made her a better recruiter. Image: Rami Moilanen / Yle

As a supervisor, she had to think even more carefully about what is required in the application, and what qualities and professional qualifications applicants need. Since there was no personal CV, all the necessary skills had to be evident from the application form.

Rouru says that at first she wondered how anonymous recruitment was even possible.

When the pilot began, Rouru was surprised by how smoothly it worked out.

“Maybe invitations to interview were sent out on a slightly wider scale. Not knowing anything about the applicant, if it was a man or woman, young or old, meant that we had to focus on what education and experience they had that was suitable for this job,” Anna-she explains.

Rouru says that the process helps level the playing field.

“If the job requirements are not precisely defined, it is possible for an applicant to charm their way through an interview and get the job even if they do not have experience in the field. Now people of that type were left out. Everyone was an expert,” Rouru points out.

Emilia Mäkinen, who was hired through the anonymous recruitment process found it to be a good experience.

“I felt like there was a genuine effort to avoid discrimination on the basis of gender or age,” says Mäkinen.

Age and gender are the two factors most commonly scrubbed from applications in anonymous recruitment processes in Finland. The recent study by the Institute of Occupational Health found that eleven percent of personnel professionals said they have seen discrimination in recruitment in their own organization. The discrimination observed was mostly based on ethnic or national background, and gender.