Resumes Hinder DE&I Progress

While many companies are making great strides towards implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives across their respective organizations, DE&I progress on the job applicant screening and selection process has still been largely ignored.  But why?  In one word…resumes!

Resumes influence recruiters and hiring managers both consciously and unconsciously.  There are over 20 different documented biases that people engage when reviewing resumes.  These include affinity bias, halo effect bias, contrast effect bias, recency bias, and many more.  A simple Google search will show you multiple studies that prove these biases have real statistical impacts for job applicants.

These biases come into effect with resume attributes such as name, college attended, college not attended, year of graduations, previous employers, etc. 

And yet the resume continues to be the most commonly used tool for screening applicants.  How are companies addressing this?

  • Training and awareness: while these are great practices to implement, they are not going to completely solve the challenges associated with unconscious bias…because the bias is “unconscious”!  In other words, people don’t know they are doing it 
  • Artificial Intelligence: this is a can of worms I don’t want to open here, but I would encourage people to do some objective research on this topic.  Many companies that sell resume scraping AI technology will attempt to prove that their algorithms are not biased. Some of these algorithms are extremely biased and some are less biased.  Again, a simple Google search will show you plenty of studies on this topic.  There are a lot of factors at play here such as the data they are using to teach their AI, the input data, how the algorithm works, and the person that wrote it.  One thought for consideration is that algorithms are written by humans and humans are inherently biased
  • Resume “masking” technology: this is where companies invest in a solution that “masks” or removes the attributes (e.g., name, graduation dates, etc.) that typically create bias.  This is certainly the best option, but unfortunately it is the least adopted

If companies really want to address DE&I, then they should start at the very beginning of the process, with how they are screening and selecting applicants for interviews.  However if companies continue to use resumes for screening, and don’t mask any of the information that typically creates unconscious bias, then this problem will be very challenging to solve in the near future.