Clifford Chance’s decision to adopt a “CV blind” interviewing process for graduate recruits is a laudable statement that the top legal firm is anxious to recruit the best talent to the profession regardless of what their educational background might be.
It is, of course, disappointing that such a strategy is necessary. But it is undeniable that the professions continue to show a heavy slant towards recruitment from both Oxbridge and the country’s independent schools.
There are a number of possible explanations for the trend, and not all of them involve recruiters’ bias. After all, it could be that graduates from less selective universities are put off applying for jobs in the first place, perhaps out of fear that they will be overshadowed by competitors from Oxbridge. There are, however, several senior figures in the education world who believe there could be favouritism towards Oxbridge, or towards Russell Group universities more generally, on the part of interviewing panels.
Clifford Chance’s new policy will ensure that any such tendencies, conscious or not, are stamped out. Not only will “CV blind” interviews make up the final stage in the process of hiring new staff. The firm is also operating an “Intelligent Aid” system to help recruit students to its work-experience scheme whereby applicants can qualify through submitting a 250- to 500-word essay on an important legal topic and then expanding on their ideas in front of a selection panel. Once again, the panel is given no information as to where a student is studying.
Finally, there are also plans to use social media such as Facebook to reach potential candidates who are not with universities that have a strong traditional link with the firm and provide them with more information about the application process.
Both politicians and education experts talk a great deal about the need to encourage greater social mobility. Too often, though, the role of employers is not considered or addressed. Clifford Chance is moving in the right direction.