Study Shows “Resumé Whitening” Increases Chance of Employers Contacting Job Applicants

ASQ_v61n1_Mar2016_cover.inddA new study by researchers at the University of Toronto and Stanford University found that some African American job applicants used the practice of “resumé whitening” to hide their ethnic identities. And the researchers found that this resume whitening is successful in getting more responses from employers.

Resumé whitening may include omitting memberships in or awards and other honors from African American organizations, using initials instead of “Black-sounding” names, listing graduate degrees from predominantly White institutions while not disclosing undergraduate degrees from predominantly Black institutions, and not listing scholarship that was published in media outlets associated with minorities. The authors found that nearly a third of the Black subjects interviewed admitted some degree of resumé whitening.

The researchers sent fictional resumes to employers seeking job applicants. Some of the resumés listed applicants with Black-sounding names and listed activities or awards from organizations associated with African Americans. Other resumés were sent where the name and/or affiliations were changed to hide the ethnic identity of the applicants.

The results showed that resumés that were not whitened received responses from 10 percent of employers. Resumés where the name was changed but affiliations showed some connection to an organization associated with African Americans were contacted 13 percent of the time. Resumés where both the name and affiliations were changed received responses from 25.5 percent of the employers.

The study, “Whitened Resumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market,” was published in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly. It may be downloaded by clicking here.


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