Education is moving online to expand accessibility, fintech solutions are changing the financial landscape globally, and yet despite technological advancements across every industry, the way in which we fill positions therein has remained unchanged. That is, by using resumes, which touts to be equal for all, but isn’t truly equitable for so many.
A resume is a single document that summarizes one’s entire professional career history. It is fairly easy to be proud of such a document in the case when your professional history is impressive. That is, if you feel generally successful and have experienced a prestigious and renowned career path, you’ll likely feel excited when you sit down to write your resume.
However, this ideal scenario isn’t commonplace for the masses. The matter-of-fact circumstance for most people is not a flawless resume, and in such cases, there are usually two options:
1. Job seekers will not always sit down and write their resume as they’d rather avoid documenting the fact they remained in the same place or jumped around seemingly too often, for example.
2. Job granters will lack the full story. If the job seeker does eventually perform this grueling task, then the information they will end up writing won’t help anyone in evaluating their actual capabilities and competencies. Their resume may fall short in persuading the reader to hire them, which was the entire point of the resume in the first place. For instance, a year's employment gap is something that begs for an explanation and may in fact have one, but the opportunity to share it is lacking within the space of a resume.
As you can deduce, there’s immense subjectivity (and inherent judgment) that exists within the world of resumes. A classic example for this type of subjectivity bias can be seen in the education sector. Wouldn’t you be so ecstatic to hire a college graduate, regardless of all the factors that might affect their suitability for the job? Wouldn’t it be so easy to pass on a candidate that doesn’t have a degree for the same job even if they have acquired better skills to excel in it?
However, acquiring education doesn’t come cheap to most Americans. Parents who could save money for their children to go to college usually come from established families, have initial financial support, and capable backgrounds. With 1 in 3 Americans holding a college degree, it is clearly not accessible to everyone.
The bias becomes multi-generational when underprivileged job seekers who couldn’t go to college are turned down for it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals who have a bachelor’s degree will get paid 67% more than those who hold a high-school diploma.
And what about experience?
In the same way that privilege exists in education for some, it too can be felt within the experience section. Privilege could be portrayed in having the relevant experience acquired to land certain jobs. Most people are not interested in writing that they were warehouse associates in 4 different places to count as their only work experience. Who would hire them to do something other than that? If someone is in a career change and lacks the job history that a recruiter is searching for in a resume, they will have a disadvantage. Other disadvantages that ultimately cause discrimination involve working in too many places over a short period of time, being unemployed for a while, having unexplained gaps, and anything else that leaves a mark that could raise questions about a non-perfect applicant.
Resumes are a document that is expected to look identical for anyone within the same industry or career path. Anything that looks a little bit out of the norm will typically receive a negative response, whether it be with regard to education, experience, age, etc. Those who always got a job right after the next one, who don’t have employment gaps, who come from ‘desired’ backgrounds, who worked on the same field as the job they applied for, who are college graduates - those are the privileged individuals, who were lucky enough to get hired based on some irrelevant information that doesn't prove their qualification for the job.
So, how is this solvable?
How can we allow this population of “imperfect” resume holders to realize their full potential?
First and foremost, recruiters can actively search for these types of candidates who have underqualified resumes and hire them to join their company based on their competency. Recruiters can also introduce performance-based tools and create an inclusive recruiting process that takes candidates’ performance into account without giving much weight to their resumes. These practices go hand-in-hand with exploring tech tools that could eliminate the use of resumes and their inherent ineffectiveness.
The good tech solutions out there can really help you decrease your reliance on resumes and increase your chances of finding and attracting strong and able candidates. A tech solution that relies on competencies-based hiring would act as an ultimate problem solver and help reduce bias in the recruiting process.