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Mask Off...The Real About Resumes

We all have unconscious bias. If you think you don’t, you’re lying to yourself. When presenting your resume to a potential employer, the focus should be on representing your work experience and accomplishments in the best light. You should be preparing a targeted resume and a cover letter discussing your qualifications and what problems you can solve for the employer. However, this is not always the case for everyone.

Early in my career, as a Black female, I have felt compelled to remove certain criteria from my resume for fear of unconscious bias. The perception of the recruiter or hiring manager reviewing my resume may inadvertently have a negative impact on my candidacy. I simply omitted things like my address, used my middle name, and removed any professional organization that may have been deemed too ethnic.

Names can give an indication of someone’s race or cultural background. At first, I thought it was pointless for me to use my middle name (Audrey) on my resume instead of my first name. However, I began to notice a shift when I did and I immediately started to receive more calls for interviews. According to Harvard business school, Working Knowledge, “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”. It certainly paid off for me.

Next, I removed all professional organizations that had anything to do with being Black. This was hard for me because I was an active member within the organizations, so removing them from my resume did not allow me the ability to showcase my leadership skills outside of the workplace.

Lastly, I removed my address including city and state. I only provided a link to my Linkedin profile. It’s easy for one to insinuate an individual’s success (or lack thereof) or ethnicity based on where they live. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, an address can imply socioeconomic status as well as ethnicity. I decided it was best to remove it.

Be aware of your own unconscious bias against both men and women of color who are applying to jobs. Awareness is the first step. However, what we do about is the second step. As long as a candidate has the qualifying skills and ability for the job, their name, city they live in, and what school they went to shouldn’t matter.

Over the years, I’ve learned that removing criteria takes away from who you are and leads to code-switching in the workplace. Code-switching is the act of changing behaviors to conform to different cultural norms. Present yourself and all your accolades on your resume. If one has to wear a mask to get a job, then chances are that job and/or culture are not for you. Take the mask off and be yourself.

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