Find out what phrases may be causing you to unfairly judge — and miss out on — qualified candidates
Implicit bias — often-unconscious attitudes and stereotypes that can influence a person’s perception of someone, based on elements such as their weight or gender — can be an issue when candidates walk through your office door for their first interview.
A ZipRecruiter study, however, suggests that risk may actually present itself much earlier in the process.
Hiring managers, according to the study, tend to view resumes that contain certain terms more favorably. Words that implied a proactive stance towards working, for example — such as responsible and support — were the most highly rated.
Resume keywords that relate to problem solving skills, such as analysis, also received approval.
Other on-paper elements were also found to positively influence hiring managers’ perception of candidates. Cover letters, for instance, increased the chance a resume would receive a high rating by 29 percent.
Written words may not immediately come to mind when you think about implicit bias; however, terms, just like physical traits, can unfairly influence a hiring manager’s impression of — and reaction to — a candidate.
That isn’t a good thing. Implicit bias, in addition to being unfair to candidates, can cause employers to lose out on potential hires; negatively affect workplace culture and, if the issue becomes widespread, deep-rooted concern, potentially cause engagement, retention and other problems.
Taking all possible steps to avoid bias should be a priority for professionals who are involved in their organization’s recruiting and hiring process.
To avoid skipping over relevant candidates, keep an eye out for the following resume keywords:
Terms that describe experience, skills or pursuits from another era
Resume keywords that provided implicit age cues, such as old-fashioned activities, suggesting the applicant was of an older age, received the lowest job suitability ratings in a study conducted by two researchers from Belgium’s Ghent University. The study also noted that because name popularity changes over time, first names may also indirectly indicate age.
Names you perceive to be nontraditional
A study published in the American Economic Review found candidate resumes featuring conventionally Caucasian-sounding names receive 50 percent more interview requests than identical resumes with African-American-sounding names. Blind screening techniques, in which names are manually concealed or removed using software, may help prevent this kind of bias.
Gender-related terms — including first names
Research in which STEM professors at academic institutions across the U.S. were asked to view resumes from two fictitious candidates that were identical, except for the names at the top — John and Jennifer — revealed gender bias can play a subconscious part in candidate evaluations. Despite having the exact same qualifications and experience as John, Jennifer was perceived as significantly less competent. As a result, the scientists were less willing to mentor her or to hire her as a lab manager and recommended paying her a lower salary. Even the women scientists who participated in the study favored John.
Information about jobseekers’ verbal skills
Hiring managers are 24 percent less likely to view resumes highly enough to give them a five-star rating if jobseekers list the languages they speak that aren’t relevant to the position they’re applying for. While that may not be something you need to know, it doesn’t mean the candidate is a terrible fit for the position; make sure you consider all available information.
For additional resume review and hiring process best practices, view our blog pots on using talent rediscovery techniques to avoid missing out on qualified candidates, deciphering some of today’s somewhat unconventional job titles, in-person recruiting events and avoiding not-always-accurate impressions of candidates.