More objective application procedures ensure greater equality in selection, but managers still aren’t convinced

Leaving out personal data on CVs leads to a considerably higher chance of employers selecting candidates with a migration background. This is the conclusion of a large-scale study by Radboud University and Utrecht University on the Municipality of the Hague as an organisation, where over 7,000 applications were studied. Nevertheless, the study also reveals that many managers are still not convinced of the necessity and effectiveness of more objective application procedures. These findings offer important insights for a motion in the Senate to be voted on on Tuesday 19 March.

Employers are increasingly opting for more objective recruitment and selection procedures to reduce discrimination in their application procedures. The conclusions of research into the effectiveness of these procedures have not always been consistent over the past few years: some studies show that inequality has decreased while others do not show any significant changes. The current study, by Lieselotte Blommaert (Radboud University) and Marcel Coenders (who worked at Utrecht University during this study and now works at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research), involved over 7,000 applicants and ran from 2015 to 2018. It offers convincing signals that more objective application procedures do work. The study, recently published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies , is one of the largest and longest-running studies in the field.

"Before the application procedures were amended, the chance of applicants without a migration background being invited for an interview was two times higher than that of applicants with a migration background. This chance was even three times higher compared to applicants with a Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese or Antillean background," explains Blommaert. "The application procedures were changed from 2016 onwards with the implementation of anonymous applications and, later, also standardised online application forms. After that, the gap narrowed a lot. Applicants without a migration background then ’only’ had a 1 to 1.5 times higher chance of being invited for interview and of getting the job. The inequality in opportunities was thus significantly reduced."

Managers have doubts

Blommaert and Coenders also researched what managers, applicants and the wider public thought about the amended application procedures. "Managers in particular did not really see the use of them," says Coenders.

"Only 7% of managers believed that having a migration background strongly influences applicants’ chances. This contrasts highly with the actual situation. Moreover, at least 37% of applicants and 42% of the wider public believed that this strongly influences their chances. Partly for that reason, these latter two groups were much more positive about more objective application procedures."

Legislation helps

On 19 March, the Dutch Senate will vote on the Equal Opportunities in Recruitment and Selection (Supervision) Act ( Wet toezicht gelijke kansen bij werving en selectie ). Many previous studies have already indicated that there are unequal opportunities in recruitment and selection. Another study by Blommaert and Coenders, recently published in Frontiers in Sociology , revealed that European citizens strongly support measures to reduce unequal opportunities, such as the monitoring of equal opportunities in recruitment and selection. This cross-country comparison study also revealed that public support for these measures is much stronger in countries that have more legislation to combat unequal opportunities and discrimination. This is partly because the awareness of inequality and discrimination is greater in countries that have more extensive anti-discrimination legislation, according to the study.