Hiring & Recruiting

Gender Bias: The Résumé Edition

One of the first steps during a job hunt is to submit a résumé—with your name at the top in big, bold letters. While your work experience and education are the qualities you hope will stand out, there is still a possibility that hiring managers hold on to some biases and mentally rate candidates based on their names alone.

Source: EKKAPHAN CHIMPALEE / shutterstock

We surveyed hiring managers to see if there was any gender bias present when they looked over our sample résumés (which were identical in every aspect other than the applicants’ names), so we could pinpoint which applicants were more likely to get an interview. Let’s take a look at what we found out.

It’s All in the Name

First, we checked which names of our theoretical applicants were the likeliest to receive a callback from a hiring manager. Malik Washington had the highest percentage of hiring managers who said they were likely to call for an interview, while Destiny Washington had the lowest percentage. The name with the largest percentage of hiring managers who said they were unlikely to call was José Vazquez.

We looked into the reasons Destiny wouldn’t get a callback. The No. 1 reason cited by our respondents was her lack of education, although everyone had the same résumé except for the name. Another hiring manager wasn’t interested in her because of her assumed race, and while nobody pointed out it was because she was female, the number of hiring managers who would pass on calling her back was definitely skewed, and not in her favor.

How Gender Stacks Up

Our fictional applicants had a variety of names that spanned various ethnicities as well as genders, and we presented four distinctly female names and four distinctly male names. We also included a gender-neutral name, “Casey Smith.” Interestingly, Casey was the least likely applicant to merit a call back when compared to both male and female names with an 80% callback rate. Male names had a slight edge and were the most likely to get a callback at 84%, and female names were in the middle at 82%.

When asked why, those hiring managers who didn’t think Casey deserved a callback said it was because the applicant lacked experience. Again, all our résumés had the same information—it was just the names that differed.

Does the Hiring Manager’s Gender Make an Impact?

When we analyzed hiring managers and the decisions they’d made according to their gender, we found that they seemed to prefer the opposite sex when making hiring decisions. In other words, men were slightly more likely to call female applicants, and women were somewhat more likely to call male applicants.

Also, there were a few names that really stood out as differences among hiring managers. The most polarizing name in our job applicant pool was the gender-neutral Casey Smith. Ninety percent of female hiring managers stated they were likely to call him or her for an interview, but only 71% of men said the same.

Some percentages were a lot closer than that, however, as 78% of men and 79% of women would be likely to give Destiny a call. And, 83% of male hiring managers and 84% of female hiring managers said they’d likely give Emily Schmitt a call, perhaps because Schmitt is German in origin and likely belongs to a Caucasian applicant.

What’s in a Name?

As much as we’d like to think that our professional experience, education, and skill set are what pop out to hiring managers, our survey reveals this doesn’t always happen. It was a little shocking to have some of our respondents say outright that they would not consider an applicant due to his or her perceived race or ethnicity. It was also insightful to see the gender biases that were present when our respondents viewed the same résumés, with the only difference being the name at the top of the document.

While many people are taking strides to eliminate race and gender biases, it may be true that some biases are so ingrained that people may not realize they carry these presumptions until they’re highlighted. We wouldn’t have been surprised if these findings were more polarized than they wound up being. We conclude that, aside from blatant racism, most people, on average, are average.

For graphics and results of the survey click here.

Monica Beyer has two published books—Baby Talk (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006) and Teach Your Baby to Sign (Fair Winds, 2007). Her work has also appeared in SheKnows, Thrillist, mom.me, Mental Floss, GOOD Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and others.