HBS: Minorities Who 'Whiten' Job Resumes Get More Interviews

Link to Article on Paper: Minorities Who ‘Whiten’ Job Resumes Get More Interviews
Link to Paper: Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market

Sorry if this post is on the more controversial side, I heard about this research today on a podcast (The Weeds) and thought there are some relevant insights in the paper.

The metric that stood out to me is:

Twenty-five percent of black candidates received callbacks from their whitened resumes, while only 10 percent got calls when they left ethnic details intact. Among Asians, 21 percent got calls if they used whitened resumes, whereas only 11.5 percent heard back if they sent resumes with racial references.

The +10% seems pretty big. Granted, the sample size of the research is relatively small and it is not aggregated by industry, so this could be different for tech companies. Also, the article is from 2017 and the original research paper was published in 2016 - the landscape may have shifted.

Interested in hearing your thoughts. Thanks!


Thanks for sharing…

I have always been thinking about this… but never thought there is a study about it…
Do you think we should take it into consideration?

This definitely is a controversial topic, and I want to be clear that my response for this is purely my own and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Pathrise, but personally I think that everyone should be doing this.

While this article doesn’t confirm anything new (the Halo effect is quite old actually) I think it does give direction on how to game interviews. If you knew what questions were going to be asked before a test, wouldn’t you study for them?

Rightly or wrongly (and I definitely believe the latter), interviews are largely biased. If we can hack interviews to increase the odds of success it seems like it’s in a person’s best interest to do so. Change tends to be made from within an organization anyways. Better to have a person that believes differently on the inside and potentially able to start correcting mistakes like these than outside the company without a job.

I’d be happy to hear alternative points of view on this. I’m about as white as they come so I recognize the priviledge I’m coming from here.


Applying to jobs in the SF/Bay area I am starting to get the sense that companies (at least in this area) might be implicitly biased towards white-washed resumes but are explicitly shifting the opposite direction to ramp up their diversity numbers through the demographics questions that get asked.

This is entirely based on anecdote, but from friends I know in the industry there seems to be an “affirmative action” type wave happening where companies are going to greater lengths to avoid hiring anyone who ticks the “upper-middle-class cis-hetero white male” boxes that have traditionally dominated the tech space.

Anecdotes are not evidence, but I have actually asked myself the opposite question: should I “diversify” my responses to identity questions or Decline-To-State on everything? Granted I can’t “un-white” my resume because, well, I’m an upper-middle-class cis-hetero white male so my resume has zero ethnic details (I mean I am a card-carrying descendent of Irish immigrants but there’s no box for that). If whitewashing your resume gets more response, in the long run, I say go for it, but what are you going to do about those pesky demographics questions? I would be curious if there is some strategy for those as well.

The demographics questions at the end of applications are not part of your actual application, to my knowledge. The data is used by the US government to gauge employment statistics. Don’t lie on those, I think it’s illegal. Decline to identify instead. I would love to know how the data is handled, because it would be super easy to just reject every disabled job applicant despite being illegal.

White-washing your resume would be something more along the lines of changing your name from a “non-white” name to a “white” name. If you want to diversify your resume, nothing is stopping you from joining a club as an ally where you could gain exposure to another culture or community.

The EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) data that you submit through an ATS is typically hidden from everyone with the exception of the company’s HR manager for government reporting purposes, although depending on the system the company uses it is possible the recruiter may be able to access it.

Note that it’s a requirement for companies to collect this information and share it with the government, and the government does require companies to make a “best guess” on employees and candidates if the candidate/employee chooses not to disclose. So it’s up to you whether or not you would like for them to guess on your behalf.

It is illegal for companies to use this information against you, however, regardless of if/how you decide to fill this information out there is always the potential for both unconscious and conscious bias in any recruiting system from your resume, to your mannerisms, to how you present yourself.

If you are very worried about this, my best advice would be to specifically target companies who showcase aligned D&I values on their website, it’s not a guarantee that they actually do care about it, but it does show that they at least may consider better recruiting practices/training for their staff that could improve the interview process. However I wouldn’t worry too much about it from an application perspective, if you do have concerns about the way your resume is presented definitely talk to your advisor and they can help.