Still Using Resumes? 4 Places to Cut Bias from Your Screening Process

May 3rd, 2017
Jon-Mark Sabel
Recruiting Teams
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Resumes are a necessary evil in the hiring process. They're convenient, give a look into candidates' past work experience, and are sorted quickly. But the very things that make them convenient reduce candidates' life experiences to featureless bullet points.  We've looked at how bias can enter the hiring process before: it boils down to a lack of information. Since resumes are designed to squeeze a large amount of experience into a couple pages, information gaps are inevitable. Customers that use HireVue have a great deal of success ditching the resume (or at least giving it a lot less weight). But if you're still using resumes to screen candidates, keep these four places in mind as you look to make bias-free screening decisions. 

1. Name

You don’t have to look far to locate where bias can enter the resume screening process. In a study done by the National Bureau of Economic research, “Emily” and “Greg” were 50% more likely to receive callbacks than “Lakisha” and “Jamal.” Were the recruiters in this situation racist? Probably not - but they did have preconceived notions about the way a person’s name was related to their ability to perform.

2. School

The perception of certain schools as “good” and others as “bad” takes the candidate out of the equation completely. Many (though not all) enter college immediately after high school, at the age of 18. Decisions made at the cusp of adulthood are hardly an accurate reflection of ability, and admission to certain colleges is incredibly multifactorial (often relying on job-irrelevant activities like extracurriculars). The college system is also biased toward the young: an older individual looking to improve their skillset probably won’t gain admittance to the Ivy League, but they could make an incredibly promising hire.

3. GPA/Academic Performance

GPA is a great reflection of how well an individual can perform in an academic setting under perfect conditions. College is a tough time for many, and an infinite number of circumstances can mar an otherwise perfect GPA.

4. Employment Gaps

Like GPA, a huge number of extraneous circumstances can lead to gaps in employment. From military service to maternity leave, employment gaps are by no means an indication of laziness or ineptitude. As Frontier found out when they turned their focus to the long-term unemployed, there are actually benefits to hiring them.

What Resumes are Missing

Notice how, aside from highly specific job experience, there is no space for a candidate to prove their ability to interact with customers, work in a team, or think critically. Which do you think is more indicative of performance? Age and GPA, or self awareness and the ability to think on the fly? Does this mean resumes should be thrown out entirely? Probably not. Resumes are an incredibly convenient way to gauge every candidate’s past experience. You won't want to hire a VP of HR with no prior experience in Human Resources. But the insight gained from resumes is cursory at best, and while cursory data is sometimes relevant (as shown in the prior example), it is often misleading. Most in the talent acquisition field know this, and combat the superficial insight gained from a resume with a different tool: the phone screen. However, like resumes, phone screens are a less-than-optimal method of measuring a candidate’s suitability. We'll evaluate the phone screen in our next installment.

Looking for more insight on digital-age hiring?

Check out this SlideShare synopsis of Deloitte's 2017 Human Capital Trends Report.