another reality singing competition that hit the scene in 2011?

Almost certainly we're drawn to the show's dramatic format, which involves merit-based, "blind" auditions. With their backs turned to the stage, judges are able to concentrate solely on the voice, without getting distracted or unwittingly swayed by a certain look or stage presence or explanation of one's formal training. The concept of a fair shot feels undeniably American.

Yet, when it comes to job recruitment, do we still feel as altruistic?

"CV Blind" Policy Is To Young Lawyers As The Voice is To Singers

Recently I read that Clifford Chance, a top law firm in the UK, is using a "CV/Resume Blind" policy in order to level the playing field for standout grads who may not have attended an elite school like Oxbridge or Eton (England's equivalent of Harvard and Yale). The thinking is that sourcing candidates from a wider array of schools will boost social mobility  -- which is a serious national concern according to this UK study. (And the American South, too).

In practice, "CV Blind" means that a CV, or resume, is only considered during some early interviews, and the name of the candidate's school is altogether removed for the later rounds. In fact, those interviewers are told only the applicant's name. At this stage, Clifford Chance also places more emphasis on work experience, both relevant and unrelated. And then the hiring managers hit a button that illuminates a sign bearing the words, "I WANT YOU." Okay, that's The Voice, but letting candidates speak for themselves is a similar concept.

“We’re looking for the gems and they’re not all in the jeweler’s shop," said a senior employee, as quoted by The Independent.


The system went into effect last year (along with a more aggressive "Intelligent Aid" program) and the demographics already reflect those changes: new recruits now represent 41 different schools, which is a 30% increase from past years. A third of its trainees are "first generation" university students, and its intake of black, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi recruits has tripled.

But it's not about numbers, really. It's about untapped talent. Consider the experiment in light of the following statement made by Dr. Tessa Stone, Chief Executive of the UK educational charity, Brightside Trust, courtesy of The Independent:

"Evidence shows that these students tend to outperform their privately educated peers once they reach university, so this is a pool of inspiring talent currently going untapped."

Joe Madden, CEO/President of Harbor Legal Search, Discusses Possible Drawbacks

I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if we imported this recruitment strategy into our firms here in the States. Would it work? Is it even necessary to combat a "bias" against prestigious schools? What would recruiters change about the current recruitment climate, if they could? I decided to ask someone who works in those elite legal circles on a daily basis, so I contacted Joe Madden, president and CEO of Harbor Legal Search in Boston, Mass.

voice_judges"I can't imagine there will be too many benefits to this experiment as schools are ranked for a reason, and firms use those rankings for a reason, because they typically put out a better product," he said.

Like any good recruiter, however, he notes that there are many exceptions:

"One of our greatest frustrations is coming across a fantastic individual that would succeed anywhere, but can’t be presented to some of our clients because they didn't go to the 'right' school," he said. At the same time, Madden firmly believes that true talent "finds its way to the top" and that if a student really wants to attend an Ivy League school, they'll work hard to get there (meaning, of course, that they would eventually get recognized by a top law firm).

"The opportunity to be great has never been more attainable," he said.

I pushed a little further. If candidates from state or unknown schools can be fantastic, whose responsibility is it to fight the stereotype -- the recruitment firm, the client, or the candidate themselves?

"Clients would have to alter their value system to recognize other aspects of someone's candidacy and to reallocate the weight it places on academic institution," he said. "I'm really not sure what else that could be since all they really have to go on with a recent Juris Doctor is their academic record."

He reminded me that firms already adjust their approach from year to year because supply and demand are variable. During a booming economy, when talent is hard to find, recruiters hardly resemble those operating within an economic slump. Madden suggests that clients/firms "think back" to determine what factors they used to assess potential hires during a boom, since remembering is key to gaining perspective -- and being open to star players whose Alma Mater they don't recognize.

Tags: The Voice, Harvard, Industry, American Idol, Yale, Harbor Legal Search, Joe Madden, Blind auditions, CV blind, Clifford Chance, Oxbridge, Eton, The Indepedent, Intelligent Aid, Dr. Tessa Stone, Brightside Trust, Ivy League, Juris Doctor, Alma Mater