By Eustacia A. Campbell, NRWA Staff Writer
We all have unconscious bias. If you think you don’t, you’re lying to yourself.
When presenting your resume to a potential employer, the focus should be on representing your work experience and accomplishments in the best light. You should be preparing a targeted resume and a cover letter discussing your qualifications and what problems you can solve for the employer. However, there’s often more to the story.
Early in my career, as a Black female, I have felt compelled to remove certain criteria from my resume for fear of unconscious bias. I believed that the recruiter or hiring manager’s perception of my resume might inadvertently harm my candidacy. To counteract this, I simply omitted things like my address, used my middle name, and removed any professional organization deemed too ethnic.
Names can give an indication of someone’s race or cultural background. At first, I thought it was pointless for me to use my middle name (Audrey) on my resume instead of my first name. However, I began to notice a shift when I did, and I immediately started to receive more calls for interviews. According to Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge research, “Minority job applicants are ‘whitening’ their resumes by deleting references to their race with the hope of boosting their shot at jobs, and research shows the strategy is paying off.” It certainly paid off for me.
Second, I removed all professional organizations that had anything to do with being Black. This was hard for me because I was an active member of the organizations, so removing them from my resume did not allow me to show my leadership skills gained outside of the workplace.
Lastly, I removed my address, including only city and state. I only provided a link to my LinkedIn profile. It’s easy to insinuate an individual’s success (or lack thereof) or ethnicity based on where they live. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, an address can imply socioeconomic status as well as ethnicity. I decided it was best to remove it.
Being aware that there are conscious biases against men and women of color who are applying for jobs is the first step. Awareness is the first step. However, what we do about it is the second step. As long as a candidate has the qualifying skills and ability for the job, their name, the city they live in, and the school they went to shouldn’t matter.
Over the years, I’ve learned that removing criteria takes away from who you are and leads to “code-switching” in the workplace. Code-switching is the act of changing behaviors to conform to different cultural norms. Present yourself and all of your accolades on your resume. If one has to wear a mask to get a job, then chances are that job and/or culture is not for you. Take the mask off and be yourself.
Eustacia has over 20 years of experience as a human resources and talent acquisition leader. She has a passion for education, coaching, and writing. She holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Eustacia is also a Certified Contingent Workforce Professional (CCWP) and most recently earned a DEI in the workplace certificate from the University of South Florida. Eustacia has proven success in advising clients of various backgrounds, professional levels and industries. She helps them identify their professional goals, evaluate their skillsets, and provides career guidance and placement support to help them achieve their career goals. Find her on LinkedIn or at Resumeson-Demand.com.