On Monday, I'll been conducting a recruitment experiment for a brave and progressive client who, sadly, wishes at this point to remain anonymous. Which, coincidentally, is exactly how these this experiment is intended to work.
I will be pairing remotely, as I often do for clients, with 6 candidates via That Skype That They Have Nowadays. Each candidate will log in at a fixed time to a stock Skype account we've set up especially for this experiment. I will not know who they are, what they look like, where they're from, when they were born, what experience or qualifications they have, or even - thanks to instant messaging - what they sound like.
I'll be completely blind except for what happens in the code, and what they communicate via IM. They are under strict instructions to give nothing personal away during this process. The transcripts of chats will be forwarded to the client along with my interpretation of how the session went, and a video of my desktop while it was happening.
The design of the experiment has been the culmination of a year's thought and research by myself, and it will be interesting to find out what happens.
I will not know the gender, the age, the educational background, the ethnicity, the location or the haircuts of any of the candidates as we pair. All I will have to go on - if they stick to the rule about revealing nothing personal via text - is what they are like when they are programming.
Of course, the client will know all of these things, having selected this shortlist. The second part of the experiment will be blind job advertising, which will be much harder because we'll be relying on candidates to follow strict instructions when applying.
Their CVs will need to be scrubbed of all personal information and presented in a distinctly sterile fashion, listing just their key skills, rated by how good they think they are. They will be expected to tackle a simple 1-2 hour programming problem that we hope will weed out the obvious bloggers. The results of that, along with the anonymized CV, will be the basis for shortlisting candidates.
Naturally, we are mindful that, at some point, we'll need to know more about them. For example, have they contributed to open source projects we can go and look at? Do they have a blog? That sort of thing. So the process can't be completely blind all the way along.
But the hope is that by whittling down candidates purely on technical skill first it will be harder to ignore a great developer for the wrong reasons.