‘Resumé Whitening’ is real amongst minority job candidates
For quite a while, business-school professors and HR professionals have peddled the merits of diversity in the workplace, encouraging companies and their executives to take bold steps. The typical reasoning reach from moral contentions—that it’s essentially the right thing to do—to more practical motivations, for example, covering organizations’ blind spots by having a more diverse team of problem solvers, improving primary business concerns subsequently.
Researchers from U.C. Santa Clause Barbara recently wrote in Harvard Business Review that in spite of the fact the business spends millions on diversity programs and policies, they rarely bring desired results. As a matter of fact, their data is generally flawed – it is made to make white workers feel that their employee is treating minorities fairly – whether that is true or not. A growing number of diversity initiatives are now looking into the flawed system, but it is all talk.
Another study done by researchers at the University of Toronto and Stanford University brings into picture another dimension to this dilemma. The findings propose that the expressed aspirations of companies to become more diverse haven’t changed how they take up hiring, and that minority candidates responding to job openings that welcome diverse backgrounds are just as limited as before.
The researchers explored into the growing practice of ‘whitening’ resumes, in which minority job seekers remove language that may reveal their race, for dread that would it lead to conscious or unconscious segregation— for example, modifying a foreign sounding first name to something that sounds “more American.” The motivation for doing this is pessimistically pragmatic: The job market is unfair to minorities, so why do something about it to at least get an interview.
In the first place, the researchers conducted detailed interview with 60 black and Asian students who were looking for employments and temporary positions. They found that 36 percent of their interviewees
reported whitening their resumes, and 66% of the respondents knew about companions or family who had done as such before. Students who were applying for jobs were letting researchers know this is something that they were doing, and something their companions were doing, and something they had been advised to do when they went to career counselors.
The researchers also found other common practices for whitening resumes. For example, a few students would remove or change experiences so businesses couldn’t distinguish their race. Students reported toning down racial identifiers, for example, removing part of black or Asian affiliations. Additionally, job seekers would deliberately include experiences they considered “white” — outdoorsy stuff, for example, climbing, kayaking. Those were the sorts of things that job seekers believed were attached to more standard white American culture.
The study then measured how a group of minority students responded to diversity language, and noted that minority job seekers both pick up and respond to these prompts: The participants were 1.5 times less inclined to whiten resumes for managers who signal that they think about diversity.
The researchers also tested how the job market responded to whitening, and whether companies that underlined the significance of diversity in their job postings would actually screen whitened resumes. They made two set of resumes, one whitened and the other not, and randomly sent them in response of 1,600 job postings in 16 U.S. cities. They found that whitened resumes were twice as prone to get callbacks— it held true even for companies that put emphasis on diversity.
Perhaps, the most troubling part is that even pro-diversity employers are sending mixed-signals. On one side, they’re keen on hiring minorities, and on the other, they’re only picking whitened resumes. This practices aren’t exactly tied to discriminatory practices, but speaks volumes about what changes are expected underway. It’s best if companies use blind recruitment, where information that might reveal a candidate’s race and gender are removed before the screening process, in order to make things easier for managers to hire without discriminating.
Employers should be realistic about people and how they’re bad at making hiring decisions when they have a great deal of data that we need to process so rapidly. Often, they simply fall back on the biases, such as stereotyping and prejudices. These practices come into play, especially when they’re under time pressure and have a lot of information to process, i.e. when a recruiter or the hiring manager is screening through a pile of CVS.
The results of this study shouldn’t be surprising. Whitening may help job seekers get an interview, but it is also indicative of the kind of challenges that will remain present for people of colors once hired in such places.
If job seekers are compelled to whiten their resumes, image what might happen when they’re actually employed there. There are several reasons why job seekers are now against whitening their resumes. A lot of them believe that their experiences, whether white or not, are a part of their identities, and thus their CV’S strength, and should be so even in to the employer that claims to be pro-diversity. If employers are unable to accept a potential employee’s racial identity, there’s no reason to see why they would fit into that job.