"Blind CVs don't improve your access to talent"

Opinion: If you want to hire socially mobile go-getters, you need to know the context of their application.

by Ole Rollag
Last Updated: 18 Mar 2020

The lack of social mobility in the UK isn’t just an issue for politics and society. Business too suffers when high-potential people are restrained by the circumstances of their birth.

As a result, many employers have implemented programmes to increase the recruitment and development of people from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds, including name or education-blind CVs, and hiring targets.

Ole Rollag, CEO of Murano, believes these are counterproductive and quite miss the point. His business regularly hires people without prior experience in finance because, as he argues below, what he really wants are people who have become socially mobile despite the barriers facing them.

When looking across the population, the headwinds a person faces will vary greatly. The trick is to find people who have the energy, commitment and, above all, the desire to better their situation and become socially mobile. 

So when consultancies and others argue for CVs to be assessed without the candidate’s name, address, educational record or other identifying criteria, I think it does more harm than good.

As someone who has been socially mobile (my parents were below the poverty-line when I was in their care), I know that education is important, especially when taken in context. Did a candidate work hard enough to achieve as good an education as they could get, given their background? 

It is incredibly irritating that people complain about not getting access to the best education when you can meet someone else who is proficient in skills that were taught with the effective use of a public library card. Socially mobile people understand that there are no or few resources available, so they need to find alternatives and rely on themselves.

This doesn’t mean I have an aversion to privately educated employees who went to top-tier universities. No one gets to decide how, where, when or to whom they are born. What I want to know is what those individuals have done to get to Oxbridge, or any elite university for that matter, and if they’ve used their good fortune wisely and vigorously.

By missing out names and addresses, sanitised CVs risk missing out vital context that would help you understand how the candidate has got to where they are.

Work experience

If we want to identify whether a person is socially mobile, the most important thing to look at is work experience at a young age. If a candidate had a restaurant job when they were a teenager or if they worked while they were a student, we will look closely at their CV. 

We love people who had jobs at fast food places and coffee shops. These are difficult jobs that require a lot of focus, involve human interaction and don’t pay a lot. When you have a job that pays minimum wage, you know the value of money and work is not ‘beneath you.’ 

At Murano, we hire a lot of graduates and we find that the failure rate is higher with new employees who haven’t had much work experience. They are often a higher risk because work has not been ingrained in their mindset and we would be their first test.

As a general rule, I find employees who are given everything tend to stop relying on themselves. People who grew up with very little and who are hungry need to be resourceful and not depend on hand-outs. 

So if a prospective employee has been born into privilege as suggested by their CV, we are looking at how they have used this advantage to define who they are at the time of interview. Businesses do not have ‘do-overs.’ Most people that have achieved social mobility have not had that luxury either.

Here are some pointers for spotting and hiring socially mobile talent:

-- Don’t just look at the top universities

-- Be open to all information available on a candidate’s CV and what this might tell you: the automatic and seemingly most obvious presumptions are not necessarily the correct ones

-- Hire people without degrees who have opted to work or do apprenticeships instead 

-- Hire candidates who show that they have done more during their educational years than follow the curriculum, whether senior school or university. Look for candidates who have been entrepreneurial, set up clubs, become involved in community or charity enterprises, demonstrated leadership or mentoring of others

-- Include practical exercises and role play in the recruitment process to test a candidate's ability to do the role rather than rely on their education and their work experience

-- Partner with organisations that are working with schools to educate people to work in your sector, who would not have considered such a career

Ole Rollag is CEO of Murano

Image credit: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images


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