Friday, April 7, 2017

Class cues on resumes

It's April, and every year at this time I am reminded of my time in higher ed.

Graduation time is almost here for college and university students around the nation. When I worked in higher ed, I used to share advice around this time for our seniors who were about to graduate, suggesting tips and hints to improve resumes. With that in mind, I'd like to share this insight about resumes, from December in the Harvard Business Review.

Certainly the standard advice of Put your name at the top of the resume, Include your contact information (phone and email) right next to your name, and List your education and experience clearly still apply. But recent research suggests you need to be cautious about "How Subtle Class Cues Can Backfire on Your Resume."

The article describes "a field experiment with the country’s largest law firms" using a technique called the "resume audit method." You can find the details in the article, but the general concept involves inserting subtle class cues into resumes: last names, athletic awards, extracurricular activity, and personal interests. In each, and for both men and women "candidates," researchers crafted "higher class" and "lower-class" combinations in the resumes, then waited to see which resumes received callbacks.

The results indicate "biases related to social class and gender skew employment opportunities toward men from privileged backgrounds. Our research adds another twist to just how difficult it is for certain groups to get ahead, even when they achieve an advanced degree." The study was directed towards law firms, but the results may apply more generally.

Interesting information if you are a recent graduate applying for jobs. I also encourage hiring managers to consider how they ensure fair hiring. Are you responding to these subtle cues?

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