Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency

Depersonalised Application Procedures – the Pilot Project

Equal qualifications, unequal opportunities

In many cases, a short look at the name, gender or age is enough to sort out an application. Particularly people from a migrant background, elderly job-seekers and women with children are frequently discriminated against in the course of application procedures. Their chances of being invited for a job interview are considerably reduced. This is proved by numerous studies and the experience which the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency has gained from its counselling services.

A study issued by the Institute for the Study of Labor (German abbreviation: IZA) recently proved that merely the indication of a Turkish name is sufficient for reducing the chances to be invited for a job interview by 14 percent, at smaller enterprises even by 24 percent. Moreover, single mothers and persons over 50 years frequently turn to the FADA, since they have been discriminated against on grounds of their civil status or their age. This is unfair. In those cases, qualified persons are denied the opportunity to start an employment. And it is detrimental to economy. For it has been proved that diverse teams achieve better results and increase competitiveness.

One of the options of taking action against deliberate or unconscious discriminations against certain groups of persons is the implementation of depersonalised application procedures. Starting out from the positive experiences gained in other countries, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) started a nationwide pilot project in Germany in November 2010 in which various enterprises, public bodies and local authorities have been testing depersonalised application procedures.

Within the scope of this project, the Deutsche Post, the Deutsche Telekom, the cosmetics producing group L'Oréal, the consumer goods company Procter & Gamble, the experience gift provider Mydays, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the Federal Employment Agency in North Rhine-Westphalia and the municipal authorities of Celle are breaking new ground in the field of staff recruitment, each of them for a period of 12 months. In the course of this pilot project, several thousands of applications for about 225 jobs, apprenticeships and university places are depersonalised. These posts range from apprenticeship training through university places to be allocated up to positions in technical professions or customer service jobs.

How do application procedures work without personal data?

It is important that the invitation to a job interview is exclusively extended on grounds of a person's qualification. Therefore, depersonalised applications first of all do neither feature a photograph of the applicant, nor his/her name, address, date of birth nor any data relating to age, civil status or origin. Apart from these details, any questions about other usually included information are admissible, such as professional experience, training, motivation, etc. In this context, there is no significant difference from conventional CVs – except for the fact that years are not indicated. During the first stage of the selection procedure, the staff recruitment personnel exclusively draws its attention to the qualifications of the applicants. During the second stage, after the invitation to a job interview has been extended, the staff recruitment personnel is handed over the complete application documents with personal data, and they can start getting prepared for the interview. Thus, they are not sitting opposite a person who is completely unknown to them, as it is often assumed.

How can enterprises translate depersonalised applications into their work routine?

There are various methods of doing that. The depersonalisation has to be adapted to the application procedures hitherto customary at the enterprise. Depending on the task area, this can be done in very different ways. For the purpose of our pilot scheme, all depersonalisation methods are tested and examined as to their suitability.

As a rule, there are three variants:

  • depersonalised online application forms that accurately specify the competences, qualifications and motivation which are important to the potential employers,
  • standardised, depersonalised application forms which applicants receive by downloading, e-mail or mail and which they return after having filled them out.
  • the subsequent depersonalisation of conventional application documents (by blackening out or transmission of data).

What about an international comparison?

Many European countries already gained experience with depersonalised application procedures. Here is an example of what the results of a pilot project in Sweden revealed: If personal data are omitted, women and persons from a migrant background will have considerably better chances of starting an employment. In countries as e.g. the USA or Canada, depersonalised applications have been customary for quite a long time already, and also in Belgium they have been standard practice in the public sector for years. Germany is still lagging behind, as far as this topic is concerned.

Objectives of the pilot project

Of course, depersonalised applications do not provide absolute protection against discriminations, but they may help to reduce them. From a statistical aspect, discriminations occur in particular at the first stage of application procedures, i.e. before an invitation to a job interview is extended. Once the applicants get the chance of convincing their potential employers in a personal conversation, many a prejudice will lose its power. In the case of depersonalised application procedures, it is all about this very first chance. Furthermore, they may help in finding new groups of applicants and make sure that enterprises will invite the best qualified applicants to a job interview.

Therefore, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency places its hopes in voluntarism and persuasiveness, not in legal regulations. It intends to prompt enterprises to reconsider the culture of job applications they had so far. During its entire duration the pilot project will be scientifically monitored and subsequently evaluated. Recommendations for action will be derived from those results.

Additional Information

Pi­lot project 'De­per­son­alised ap­pli­ca­tion pro­ce­dures' - Sum­ma­ry of out­comes –