Minorities Who 'Whiten' Job Resumes Get More Interviews (2023)

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.

In fact, companies are more than twice as likely to call minority applicants for interviews if they submit whitened resumes than candidates who reveal their race—and this discriminatory practice is just as strong for businesses that claim to value diversity as those that don’t.

These research findings should provide a startling wakeup call for business executives: A bias against minorities runs rampant through the resume screening process at companies throughout the United States, says Katherine A. DeCelles, the James M. Collins Visiting Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

“Discrimination still exists in the workplace,” DeCelles says. “Organizations now have an opportunity to recognize this issue as a pinch point, so they can do something about it.”

DeCelles co-authored a September 2016 article about the two-year study in Administrative Science Quarterly called Whitened Resumes: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market with Sonia K. Kang, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the University of Toronto Mississauga; András Tilcsik, assistant professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto; and Sora Jun, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University.

“Discrimination still exists in the workplace. Organizations now have an opportunity to recognize this issue as a pinch point, so they can do something about it.”

In one study, the researchers created resumes for black and Asian applicants and sent them out for 1,600 entry-level jobs posted on job search websites in 16 metropolitan sections of the United States. Some of the resumes included information that clearly pointed out the applicants’ minority status, while others were whitened, or scrubbed of racial clues. The researchers then created email accounts and phone numbers for the applicants and observed how many were invited for interviews.

(Video) The Perfect Way to Get Hired

'Whitened' resumes produce more job call-backsfor African Americans

Minorities Who 'Whiten' Job Resumes Get More Interviews (1) Blacks get more job interview callbacks when they “whiten” their resumes. Graphic by Blair Storie-Johnson (Source: “Whitened Resumes: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market”)

Employer callbacks for resumes that were whitened fared much better in the application pile than those that included ethnic information, even though the qualifications listed were identical. Twenty-five percent of black candidates received callbacks from their whitened resumes, while only 10 percent got calls when they left ethnic details intact. Among Asians, 21 percent got calls if they used whitened resumes, whereas only 11.5 percent heard back if they sent resumes with racial references.

‘Pro-diversity’ employers discriminate, too

What’s worse for minority applicants: When an employer says it values diversity in its job posting by including words like “equal opportunity employer” or “minorities are strongly encouraged to apply,” many minority applicants get the false impression that it’s safe to reveal their race on their resumes—only to be rejected later.

In one study to test whether minorities whiten less often when they apply for jobs with employers that seem diversity-friendly, the researchers asked some participants to craft resumes for jobs that included pro-diversity statements and others to write resumes for jobs that didn’t mention diversity.

They found minorities were half as likely to whiten their resumes when applying for jobs with employers who said they care about diversity. One black student explained in an interview that with each resume she sent out, she weighed whether to include her involvement in a black student organization: “If the employer is known for like trying to employ more people of color and having like a diversity outreach program, then I would include it because in that sense they’re trying to broaden their employees, but if they’re not actively trying to reach out to other people of other races, then no, I wouldn’t include it.”

But these applicants who let their guard down about their race ended up inadvertently hurting their chances of being considered: Employers claiming to be pro-diversity discriminated against resumes with racial references just as much as employers who didn’t mention diversity at all in their job ads.

“This is a major point of our research—that you are at an even greater risk for discrimination when applying with a pro-diversity employer because you’re being more transparent,” DeCelles says. “Those companies have the same rate of discrimination, which makes you more vulnerable when you expose yourself to those companies.”

(Video) Should I really change my ethnic sounding name on my resume to get more interviews? ❥ So unfair...

DeCelles sees an obvious disconnect between the companies’ pro-diversity messages and the actual acceptance of diverse applicants, yet she doesn’t believe employers are using these messages as a way to trap and weed out minorities that do apply.

“I don’t think it’s intended to be a setup,” she says. “These organizations are not necessarily all talk when they say they’re pro-diversity. Maybe the diversity values are there, but they just haven’t been translated from the person who writes the job ad to the person who is screening resumes.”

But clearly the findings reinforce an assumption many minorities already have: that the resume screening game is stacked against them and that they need to hide their race to level the playing field.

The researchers interviewed 59 Asian and African American students between the ages of 18 and 25 who were seeking jobs and internships. More than a third, 36 percent, said they whiten their resumes, and two-thirds knew friends or family members who had done so, all because they were afraid their resumes could be unfairly tossed aside if their race became obvious.

“The primary concern is that were trying to avoid a negative group-based stereotype that they felt could occur in a quick scan of a resume,” DeCelles says. “They whitened their resumes because they wanted to appear more mainstream.”

Different minority groups use different whitening techniques

Asian applicants often changed foreign-sounding names to something American-sounding—like substituting “Luke” for “Lei”—and they also “Americanized” their interests by adding outdoorsy activities like hiking, snowboarding, and kayaking that are common in white western culture.

One Asian applicant said she put her “very Chinese-sounding” name on her resume in her freshman year, but only got noticed after subbing in her American nickname later: “Before I changed it, I didn’t really get any interviews, but after that I got interviews,” she said.

(Video) Do You Reinforce Resume Whitening?

Some Asians covered up their race because they worried employers might be concerned about a possible language barrier. “You can’t prove your English is good in a resume scan, but you can if you can get to the interview,” DeCelles says.

Meanwhile, African Americans toned down mentions of race from black organizations they belonged to, such as dropping the word “black” from a membership in a professional society for black engineers. Others omitted impressive achievements altogether, including one black college senior who nixed a prestigious scholarship from his resume because he feared it would reveal his race.

“Some applicants were willing to lose what could be seen as valuable pieces of human capital because they were more worried about giving away their race,” DeCelles says.

Some black students bleached out this information because they were concerned they might come across as politically radical or tied to racially controversial causes in a way that could turn off an employer.

“People … want to have like an awesome black worker but they want one who they feel like fits within a certain box and like very much will conform and like lay low and just kind of do what’s expected of them, and they’re not necessarily looking for the outspoken like political radical person,” a black college senior said. “I feel like race is just one of the many aspects where you try to just like buff the surface smooth … and pretend like there’s nothing sticking out.”

“I wouldn’t consider whitening my resume because if they don’t accept my racial identity, I don’t see how I would fit in that job”

Other interviewed students were staunchly opposed to resume whitening. Some even said they purposely left in racial references as a way of sniffing out employers that might not welcome minorities. One student said, “If blackness put a shadow over all (my resume), then it probably isn’t the job I want to be in,” while another said, “I wouldn’t consider whitening my resume because if they don’t accept my racial identity, I don’t see how I would fit in that job.”

How to address discriminatory hiring practices

It’s time for employers to acknowledge that bias is hardwired into the hiring system and that prejudice is clouding the screening of qualified applicants, says DeCelles, whose research focuses on the intersection of organizational behavior and criminology.

(Video) Email tips (The Body)

Business leaders should start by taking a closer look at their resume screening processes. Blind recruitment is one possible solution, where information about race, age, gender, or social class are removed from resumes before hiring managers see them.

Companies can also perform regular checks for discrimination in the screening process, for example by measuring how many minorities applied for a position and comparing that with the percentage of those applicants who made the first cut.

“Organizations can now see very clearly that this is why they are not meeting their diversity goals,” DeCelles says. “They can’t just put a message on recruitment ads and be done. They need to follow through with a clear structure and staff training. They need to make goals and then continually evaluate the outcome in order to meet those goals.”

The bottom line for business leaders who are hiring, she says: “Once you receive applications, you need to make sure they are evaluated fairly.”

[Image: sturti]

Related Reading:

Black Business Leaders Series: Putting Diversity to Work
6 Steps to Building a Better Workplace for Black Employees
Pro Basketball Coaches Display Racial Bias When Selecting Lineups

Your Insight Needed!

According to this research, racism in hiring is still alive and well. What's the solution? Add your comment below.

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What percentage of resumes get interviews? ›

Only 2% of candidates who apply for a job opening are selected for a job interview. (Source: Job Description Library) With the average job posting receiving hundreds of resumes and applications, only a small percentage will get an interview.

What does it mean to whiten your resume? ›

New York Times, for example, pointed to a phenomenon colloquially known as “whitening the. résumé,” whereby black job seekers concealed or “dialed back” racial cues on their résumés. (Luo, 2009b).

What percent of job applicants actually get an interview? ›

Only 20% Of the Applicants Get to the Interview Round.

On average, 118 candidates apply for one single job, of whom only 20% are interviewed. And, if you get an offer, you are among just 30.89 percent of interviewees to be selected.

How do you make a good resume and get a chance to be interviewed? ›

  1. Include the key sections of a resume. ...
  2. Keep resume length to two pages or less. ...
  3. Make sure it is easy to read and understand. ...
  4. Be consistent all throughout. ...
  5. Be specific when detailing accomplishments. ...
  6. Tailor your resume to the job.
29 Jan 2021

Why is it so hard to hire right now 2022? ›

The No. 1 reason businesses struggle to fill open jobs is that wages are too low, according to a survey of more than 3,000 hourly workers conducted by employer payment platform Branch. Fear of exposure to Covid-19 at work came in second with 46% of the vote.

How many people usually get shortlisted for an interview? ›

The shortlist for an interview usually includes 10 to 20 candidates, but this can vary depending on the type of position you are hiring for. Companies with more resources may have much larger shortlists because they can afford to spend more time interviewing people in-person.

Are colorful resumes unprofessional? ›

If you're applying for a job in a more traditional industry, avoid using bright colors on your resume. In more buttoned-up professions, having a colorful resume is considered distracting and unprofessional. However, using darker colors like navy blue, burgundy, or dark green on a simple resume template is acceptable.

Is it unprofessional to have a colorful resume? ›

Color, as a rule, is a distraction

Bright colors can make it difficult to read your resume, which won't help your chances. But even more than that, using color on your resume can make you look unprofessional. “The information listed on your resume should speak for itself,” says Clawson.

What color is most appealing for resume? ›

Black and white create the highest contrast possible, so it is considered one of the best color schemes to use on a resume. You can choose a pale background and intensive dark lettering. Just keep in mind that your resume may be printed in black and white, so don't use pale on pale.

Do employers interview best candidate first? ›

HR professionals should keep these biases in mind; they should schedule a strong candidate first, perhaps the strongest candidate last and the weaker candidates in the middle of the process. Doing so will help hiring managers focus and find the best person for the job.

How many interview rejections is normal? ›

New survey finds the average job seeker gets between 6 and 10 rejections—and women are more likely to blame their salary request. On average, successful applicants applied for 10 to 15 jobs and received between 6 and 10 rejections.

Is it OK to ask how many candidates are being interviewed? ›

It's OK to ask an interviewer how many other people are up for the same position. After all, you just want to know the odds you're up against, as anyone would. But even if inquiring is harmless, the way you ask your question might bother the interviewer.

What kind of resume do most recruiters favor? ›

In most cases, the reverse-chronological resume is the best choice. It is the format that is most widely used, therefore it is the most familiar to recruiters and Human Resources representatives, and it fares well with those pesky applicant tracking systems.

How can I increase my chances of getting hired? ›

How to Increase your Chances of Getting Hired
  1. Reveal your other skills. ...
  2. Be up-to-date on the latest technology and know the trends. ...
  3. Modify your resume. ...
  4. Bring attention to your soft skills. ...
  5. Develop a network. ...
  6. Be well-dressed and prepared. ...
  7. The Interview.
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How can I increase my chances of hiring? ›

How To Maximize Your Chances Of Getting Hired
  1. Start with building a stellar resume. ...
  2. Explaining a gap in your resume. ...
  3. Treat LinkedIn as your strongest ally. ...
  4. Tailor your experience and conversation.
  5. Tips for Informationals. ...
  6. Take time to prepare for the interviews.
21 Jul 2021

How do you get a job when nobody will hire you? ›

Here, experts show how to put your best self forward to convince employers that you can do the job.
  1. Examine transferable strengths.
  2. Look outside the workplace.
  3. Create a functional résumé
  4. Sell yourself in the interview.
  5. Show dedication.
  6. Or, go a step further:
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What is the great resignation 2022? ›

The “Great Resignation” that has seen a record number of workers in the United States voluntarily resign from their jobs continued as close to 4.1 million workers quit in September 2022, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) released by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics ...

What month are most people hired? ›

However, January and February are the most popular hiring months. Avoid the summer and holiday season when looking for a new job, since most companies slow down during these periods. The best time to look for a job is toward the beginning of the workweek and late mornings. This is when most companies update job boards.

What time of day do job offers usually come? ›

Times to expect a job offer call

For a 9 to 5 office, you may expect a call at around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. By this time, hiring managers will expect you to be awake and prepared to discuss the position.

How many people are usually interviewed for 1 position? ›

The typical employer will interview 6-10 candidates for a job, and candidates will go through at least 2-3 rounds of interviews before receiving an offer. If a hiring manager isn't able to find someone who fits their requirements in the first 6-10 candidates, they may interview more.

Is a 30 minute interview good? ›

If your interview was 30 minutes long, then it was just long enough. Hiring managers will generally schedule about 30 minutes to interview a candidate for most position levels. If you lasted the full 30 minutes, you know that you answered the questions well.

What colors should you avoid on a resume? ›

It is generally best to avoid using bright colors as they can be distracting and look unprofessional. The color on your resume should compliment it, not take the focus away from the content. Also avoid using light colors against a white background as it is difficult to read.

What color will get you hired? ›

Wear: Blue

Many experts agree that blue is one of the best colors to wear for an interview. In fact, job-search website CareerBuilder hosted a study of 2,099 hiring managers and HR professionals, and blue was the most recommended interview outfit color.

Should resumes be in color or black and white? ›

DON'T use colors in your resume

Keep your resume black and white. Many people are tempted to add color to their resume. They make the name, contact information, or job headings in different colors, thinking it is adding flair and style.

How far back should a resume go? ›

How far back should your resume go in 2022? The common advice is to keep the work experience in a resume between 10 to 15 years. Doing so will give your hiring manager a general outline of your start, your growth, and where you find yourself now.

How can I make my resume stand out? ›

Simple resume writing tips to help you stand out
  1. Keep your resume short and direct. ...
  2. Create an original resume template. ...
  3. Highlight relevant skills and experiences. ...
  4. Demonstrate results with numbers and metrics. ...
  5. Craft a career snapshot. ...
  6. Optimize your text. ...
  7. Think beyond your job duties. ...
  8. Use the right language to stand out.

What colors mean on a resume? ›

Resume Color Attributes and Theory

Red: Symbolizes power, passion, and action. Bright red can also evoke aggressiveness, so use deeper red hues, like burgundy or maroon. Blue: Symbolizes integrity, calmness, reliability, and trust. Yellow: Symbolizes positivity, good energy, happiness, and optimism.

What color looks more professional? ›

Blue, black, grey, brown and white are the best, while orange is universally considered the worst colour for an interview. Also avoid yellow, green and purple.

What is the best color to interview in? ›

Neutral colors - navy, gray, black, and brown - are the best colors for a job interview. White is also an excellent color for a blouse or button-down shirt. You can certainly add a pop of color to a neutral interview outfit.

What make a resume visually appealing? ›

5 Ways To Make Your Resume Visually Appealing
  • Utilize color and shading. ...
  • Add testimonials. ...
  • Consistently use bold type face for companies and accomplishments. ...
  • Use digits for number, including when under 10. ...
  • Include a section on Career Highlights.

How do you know if you're a top candidate? ›

According to Toronto recruiters, here are the signs that you've identified a top candidate:
  1. They Followed All the Application Instructions. ...
  2. They Ask You Great Questions. ...
  3. They Take a Team First Approach. ...
  4. They Embrace Change. ...
  5. They Are Actively Looking to Grow.
1 Oct 2019

How do you know if you aced an interview? ›

8 Signs You Nailed Your Interview
  1. Your Interview Ran Longer Than Scheduled. ...
  2. Your Interviewer's Body Language Cues Were Positive. ...
  3. Your Conversation Flowed Naturally. ...
  4. You Were Asked Follow-Up Questions. ...
  5. They Want You to Meet Other Team Members. ...
  6. Your Interviewer “Sold” You on the Job and Company.
24 Jan 2022

Why do most candidates fail interview? ›

This may be they just don't have 'enough' skills, knowledge of experience for the role in question. Or it could be that they don't have the 'right' skills, knowledge and experience for that job. The lesson here is for applicants to do their research on the role and develop their skills and knowledge if necessary.

Why do I keep getting rejected from jobs I interview for? ›

If you're overqualified for a position, recruiters may turn you down. Overqualified people tend to have high salary expectations and are quick to change jobs. You should make sure that the duties in the role are varied and at least as demanding as the ones in your last job.

What the 3 most common reasons for rejecting candidates? ›

Interview Rejection Reasons and Job Rejection Reasons
  • One-Type-Fits-All Resume and Impersonal Application. ...
  • Under or Overqualified, Exaggerating Experience. ...
  • Social Media Behavior. ...
  • Inappropriate or Untidy Appearance. ...
  • Poor Body Language. ...
  • Lack of Good Communication Skills. ...
  • Vague Responses, Avoiding Questions.
8 Nov 2022

What percentage of interviewees get hired? ›

Job seekers have a 36.89% chance of receiving a job offer after having one interview.

What should you not ask in an interview? ›

Questions to avoid in an interview:

Never ask about pay, time off, benefits, etc. (Wait until later in the process to inquire about these things.) Never ask “What does your company do?” • Never ask “If I'm hired, when can I start applying for other positions in the company?” • Never ask how quickly you can be promoted.

How many candidates typically make it to the final interview? ›

The final interview stage should be a consideration of the top three to five candidates from the interview process. By now, the candidates that remain in the running clearly fit the requirements and ideals for the open position, so it is time to see if they are a fit for the person who they will be working under.

Which are red flags on a resume? ›

Here are 10 common red flags on resumes.
  • Typos and mistakes. Mistakes on your resume show you don't pay attention to detail. ...
  • Unprofessional email address. ...
  • Employment gaps. ...
  • Vague job descriptions. ...
  • Lack of career progression. ...
  • Inconsistent dates. ...
  • A career path that doesn't fit. ...
  • Too much personal information.
8 Jul 2020

Which is best to avoid putting on your resume? ›

11 things not to put on your resume
  1. Too much information. ...
  2. A solid wall of text. ...
  3. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. ...
  4. Inaccuracies about your qualifications or experience. ...
  5. Unnecessary personal information. ...
  6. Your age. ...
  7. Negative comments about a former employer. ...
  8. Too many details about your hobbies and interests.

How do I make my resume stand out to recruiters? ›

Here are five ways to make your resume stand out from the competition.
  1. Respond Directly to the Job Description. ...
  2. Describe Accomplishments, Not Responsibilities. ...
  3. Quantify Your Accomplishments. ...
  4. Use the Summary Section for Distinguishing Details. ...
  5. Ignore Irrelevant Information.

Why is it so hard to get hired right now 2022? ›

Low Wages Turn Off Job Seekers

The No. 1 reason businesses struggle to fill open jobs is that wages are too low, according to a survey of more than 3,000 hourly workers conducted by employer payment platform Branch.

Why is getting hired so hard? ›

Most employees move from job to job throughout their careers. Companies are no longer as loyal to their employees as they once were. Because of that changed relationship, employers need to get an immediate return from their hiring investment. That's led them to become ever more selective about who they hire.

How can you stand out during the interview process? ›

5 Ways to Stand Out in Your Next Job Interview
  1. 1) Avoid talking about what you're not.
  2. 2) Tell a story about yourself.
  3. 3) Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
  4. 4) Don't hide who you are.
  5. 5) Pose thoughtful questions to your hiring manager.
1 Jul 2022

What is the most important factor in hiring? ›

The most important factor when hiring is the applicant's attitude. You can teach skills but with a poor attitude learning is difficult.

How do I make my application stand out from the rest? ›

Top 10 hacks to make your job application stand out
  1. Tailor your application to help it stand out. Sending in the same cover letter for different jobs won't get you an interview. ...
  2. Keep it simple. ...
  3. Font and layout. ...
  4. Buzz words. ...
  5. Stay current. ...
  6. Relevant. ...
  7. Check, check and check again. ...
  8. Clean up your social media.
25 Aug 2022

What percentage of resumes are rejected? ›

Here's Why More Than 70 Percent Of Resumes Are Rejected.

What determines 45% of a job seekers success is an interview? ›

What determines 45% of a job seekers success is an interview? The interviewer's responsibility is to make you feel uncomfortable so that they get a true sense of the person in the interview. Rapport is a connection between the job seeker and another individual.

What percentage of resumes are rejected in less than 11 seconds? ›

Job seekers, especially Canadian applicants, are facing an increasing challenge of getting called for interviews.

Do employers blacklist applicants? ›

Many companies use do-not-hire lists as a way to limit job applicants from the hiring process. It's important to know that even if you're placed on one at some point in the application process, there are ways to get off of them.

Why am I getting rejected from every job I apply to? ›

If you're overqualified for a position, recruiters may turn you down. Overqualified people tend to have high salary expectations and are quick to change jobs. You should make sure that the duties in the role are varied and at least as demanding as the ones in your last job.

Will a poor resume prevent you from getting a job? ›

When an employer reads your CV, the fundamental fact they want to understand is whether or not you can do the job. If your CV doesn't include the skills and knowledge that your target employers are looking for, you won't be shortlisted – no matter how well written and structured your CV is.

What are 3 things that employers look for while they are interviewing? ›

20 things that interviewers look for
  • Your body language. The first impression you'll make in your in-person or virtual interview is how you appear and what your body language says about you. ...
  • Preparation. ...
  • Soft skills in action. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Confidence. ...
  • Self-awareness. ...
  • Understanding of the company.

How do interviewers decide who to hire? ›

While your skills and expertise matter, companies actually hire for three things: personality, aptitude, and experience (in that order). If you want to stand out and get job offers, then show up at the interview and give them your best self so that when you leave, they already know they want you to come back.

What is the 6 second rule for resumes? ›

Studies have shown that the average recruiter scans a resume for six seconds before deciding if the applicant is a good fit for the role. In other words, to pass the resume test, your resume only has six seconds to make the right impression with a prospective employer.

What is the 30 second rule for resume? ›

Finally, shortlist the resume for further consideration if the above evaluation is positive in no more than 30 seconds. In order for your resume to make it through the brutal first cut you need to make sure the recruiter can identify all the information listed above easily in 30 seconds.

What are the signs of unsuccessful interview? ›

15 signs an interview went poorly
  • The interview length was short. ...
  • You met with little to no employees. ...
  • You received very few details about the role or company. ...
  • Interviewers focused on the negative aspects of the job. ...
  • Interviewers didn't discuss your future with the company. ...
  • The interview lacked a connection.


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