Why Résumés Contribute to Discrimination at Work

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Résumés feel like a necessary evil: Sure, reading and writing them entails a lot of drudgery, but at least they’re an objective way to show off your qualifications, or to judge someone else’s. Except maybe they aren’t.

The problem is human bias. As a pile of psychological evidence has now shown, our species has a very tough time judging people “objectively.” We get swayed in ways we aren’t always aware of, by whether someone’s name or credentials ring certain bells with regard to race, class, or prestige in general — stuff that might not always have much of a bearing on their actual work performance. As many studies have shown, résumés with identical experience but names that “sound” white versus black, to take one example, can yield different levels of job-search success. It’s a problem, we note in the latest Science of Us animation, that can be solved by taking a more creative approach to recruiting potential employees.

While you’re shredding your résumé and developing a bias-resistant method of showing off your employment qualifications, check out the archives for our animated series, including last week’s episode on how taking naps boosts your productivity, or another recent video about how to keep a few small shreds of the happiness you gained from your vacation — even when you’re back at the office.