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What is the general opinion on removing gender identification from a resume?

What I mean is instead of Emily Smith (not my real name) using E Smith; instead of emilysmith@domain.com using esmith@domain.com.

I'm not saying I suspect gender bias necessarily, but I'm not saying I don't either. There are several studies/experiments, however, that showed that female applicants are less likely to receive interviews despite having the same qualifications, particularly in male-dominated fields.

Does it frustrate HR people when there is no first name?

This of course wouldn't work if there is a LinkedIn profile attached, but I'm thinking of more standard applications where it is just cover letter and resume. This would include signing the cover letter with E Smith as well.

54

Yes gender bias can be a problem. But if you hide your gender until they meet you for an interview, the bias will still happen. Further, working for someone who doesn't want a woman working for him can be a truly miserable experience (Yes I know this from personal experience.) So it filters out the jerks you don't want to work for.

However if you are not ever getting interviews for jobs you feel well-qualified for, then you possibly need to review the content of your resume. Perhaps you are not selling your skills well enough. Perhaps they are getting filtered out because you don't use the keywords that the auto-filters are looking for. Perhaps there are just too many applications and yours does not stand out from the stack in any way.

What have you done that makes you the best choice of all the applicants? Look at resume as if you were planning to hire for a position not as an applicant. If possible get someone who is experienced in doing interviewing to look over your resume and make suggestions. Don't assume you are being filtered out because you are female. As long as you are making that assumption, you may be doing yourself a disservice and not fixing what can actually be fixed instead of the one thing that cannot.

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    I'm not assuming I'm being filtered out because I'm a female, necessarily. I just don't think it's helping in a very conservative field. People say I have a great resume, but it doesn't pay off, unfortunately. I've edited it during the least few months while applying to different jobs, but it doesn't really seem to matter. I'm going to ask the career center at my university to take a look at a new version today. – Mewa Aug 6 '15 at 21:12
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    @Mewa - I can see this being argued, but if you feel strongly that your CV is the best it can be then try changing the name on the CV to a male one (possibly changing your CV structure if you wanted). If you found "Emre Smith" receives more responses than "Emily Smith" then maybe it is time to inspire some action in your field to remove gender inequality (link to newspaper article about how something similar was done by the UK government when investigating racial bias in recruitment - 2009). – My Head Hurts Aug 7 '15 at 8:53
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    +1 for emphasizing the content of the resume. Far too often when people are rejected, they try to find a reason and assume the wrong thing. Assuming something like racial or gender discrimination right off the bat is a terrible way to start. – Omegacron Aug 7 '15 at 15:03
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    @Omegacron, I spent last night revamping my resume, and I'm on my way to the career center to talk about it. I'm not assuming gender bias right off the bat, but someone mentioned it, I looked into it, and got curious that perhaps I should try the name "minimization". I figured it wouldn't hurt, but as shown by responses here, it was actually a bad idea! So I'm glad I asked :) – Mewa Aug 7 '15 at 16:34
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    @Mewa Don't forget about the keyword part. Even if people say you have a great resume, most like machines won't. As an personal experiment (this is anecdotal, mind you), I submitted my resume to some tech companies with close synonyms of the keywords, and almost never got a response on those. When I resubmitted the resume with the exact keywords, I got quite a few more responses. Take the time to customize your resume precisely for each position you are applying for; that, more than anything, will help you get to the interviews. – Nick2253 Aug 7 '15 at 20:59
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I'm a female in a very male dominated field (software development), and I have personally experienced bias against female candidates. There are also number of academic studies that support that gender bias is very real. But hiding your first name won't solve anything.

Just using an initial for a first name I would find confronting as a recruiter. While it does androgynise your CV, it's very stark. I would take pause and wonder why. It seems like you are trying to obfuscate your identity rather than embrace your experience and abilities.

Even if a recruiter decides to hire you, during the interview process the problem still exists and you have merely delayed it. What I suggest instead is:

  • Look closely at your CV, and ensure that it's professional and clearly highlights your skills. It may be a poorly presented CV that is causing your issue rather than gender bias;
  • Many government and larger organisations have very specific policies for equal opportunity. Look to see if there are any opportunities in this space;
  • Inquire through your university about graduate programs for women in engineering, or see if there are equity counsellers who may be able to give you advice;
  • Apply, apply, apply. There only needs to be one organisation that employs you

It's a tough road when you are looking for work, but if an organisation presents bias in the hiring process, imagine what it would be like to work for!

6

You've already got a lot of advice, but I would like to suggest an alternative strategy for minimizing the potential for bias without worrying employers that you are trying to hide something. Rather than scrubbing your name and references to your gender from every part of your resume, try to ensure that anyone reading your application has to learn a little bit about you before learning your gender. For instance, if you apply by emailing your resume with the email body as the cover letter, send the email from esmith@domain.com and don't mention your name at the beginning of the email, but put your name in your resume and consider signing the email with your full name.

I assume here that most people who might be hiring you are implicitly but not explicitly biased. In many cases, implicit bias happens instantaneously*. So, if a hiring manager sees an email from Emily Smith, they may be predisposed to read your cover letter in a negative light. On the other hand, if they don't learn your name and gender until they get to the bottom of the letter or open your resume, they will have the chance to consider the case you make for yourself before being prejudiced. By providing your real name at the end of the letter and/or on your resume, you may be able to avoid the possible suspicion of an unnamed candidate that others have mentioned.

I don't know whether or not this strategy will work for you, but I can provide some anecdotal evidence from the academic world, where a similar strategy is quite common. Many women (and a few men) will write papers and abstracts with just their first initials, but include more details about who they are through profiles and affiliations. The idea is to mitigate immediate bias from reviewers and readers, but allow interested parties to figure out the author's identity easily. Colleagues of mine who do this believe it has helped them, though it's obviously impossible to tell.

*This assertion is based on my understanding of the Harvard Project Implicit and related research using the same methods.

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    Beautiful creative answer. It's strategies like this that are going to get the world to a better place. – Don Hatch Aug 8 '15 at 1:29
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    +1 This is one of the few answers (maybe the only one) that is cognizant of the real problem being highlighted by OP (implicit biases). – Chan-Ho Suh Aug 8 '15 at 23:29
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I think this is a really bad idea. Not only because you are attempting to hide something from a potential employer based on an assumption you made, but because it is impractical. They are going to invite you for an interview and find out your gender anyway.

Ask yourself....do you really want to work for someone who throws a resume' in the trash because the applicant is female? Even if they did hire you, that job would be hell. Why would you want that?

  • I'd like to get more interviews so that they could actually meet me :) But I don't get calls even from jobs I feel I'm very qualified for :( It's not so much of an assumption, but observation made by others that I've been reading about. I won't do it. Perhaps I'll just keep applying... Someone's bound to call back, right? Right? crickets – Mewa Aug 6 '15 at 20:18
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    I believe the research shows that people will discriminate against the CV alone. If avoiding this bias at least gets their CV considered and an invitation to an interview, then she's already one step ahead of the bias. – dwjohnston Aug 6 '15 at 22:44
  • ^ I do have to reiterate.....why would you work for someone like that? The discrimination will just continue once she gets hired. – Lawrence Aiello Aug 6 '15 at 22:52
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    Not necessarily. It's just another version of the oft-repeated (admittedly, controversial) advice to put yourself in front of someone who matters as well as putting your CV through the mill. If the CV-sifting process is biassed against women on paper then it doesn't necessarily follow that your line manager will be biassed against women in person. Although they might be, of course. – Steve Jessop Aug 6 '15 at 23:43
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    why would you work for someone like that? - Presumably the OP has bills to pay. – BSMP Aug 7 '15 at 16:37
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I would be worried that a person with only an initial and last name is likely going to suffer unconscious bias of a different kind. The more remote someone is, the more people are willing to believe bad things about them, feel no responsibility toward them. If you paint a vivid CV it may make people want to find out more or at least be more reluctant to say no outright. In most cultures, giving your name by way of introduction is the first step in establishing that familiarity that is an essential part of the narrative your CV paints.

1

If you are going the traditional route of apply for a job (send a CV), you have to deal with that mindset. Unless the HR department removes all gender, age, and racial information before sending to the first reviewer, it will look bad if you do it yourself. Like others have said, what are you hiding?

Since you're in a field that does have some gender hiring issues, but also claims to hire purely on merit, you may want to try job seeking methods that aren't traditional. This site: http://devdraft.com/ relies on test performance and provides some anonymity.

At some point, you have to go to an interview or at least do it on the phone and your gender is probably going to be known. If someone has a bias towards hiring woman, it's not likely they'll make an exception. There is a chance they're fulfilling some quota. Worse case, they have some alterier motive.

  • Thanks for the advice! I will check out devdraft! The other unfortunate part (well, maybe fortunate?) is that my "portfolio" website uses my full name as the address, so if I reduce the name to an initial, the website gives it away anyway. – Mewa Aug 7 '15 at 16:47
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As part of my work-study, I used to work as an intern in the HR department of a major research laboratory. In a big organization, one important job of HR is to prevent illegal discrimination and to reverse discrimination when it could.

So for that initial phase, it doesn't really matter what the HR people think of your resume. When it comes down to it, it comes down to the hiring managers if you're not even getting those initial interviews.

The resumes sent down from hiring managers were automatically given a higher priority both in the database search results and in the stack of paper resumes that were sent back to a hiring manager for a particular job number. I know this, because I was one of the poor interns who had to scan hundreds of resumes all day into Resumix, set the flags, and double-check the important identifiers for scanning for errors.

The reason for this priority flag was simple. Hiring managers disliked the HR department so much already. We didn't need to give them any additional reason to hate us by thinking that we had lost any resume that they had personally forwarded to us.

So if you're not sending your resume to the hiring managers directly, then you're probably sabotaging yourself during this job hunt to a certain degree. It doesn't matter what your name might be. And you should do whatever research it takes to get the names of departments, department heads, and managers in the actual departments you want to work in.

This can be done through good old fashioned networking, linkedin, reading industry news/journals, etc. but if those approaches don't work, at the very least you actually need to pick up the phone and call that organization yourself and ask for that information. And if that one phone call doesn't work, you need to do it over and over again, until you eventually get the relevant manager's name, the actual nickname he goes by if any, and the exact name of the department he works for to make sure your resume doesn't get lost trying to reach him through inter-departmental office mail.

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