Career Killers: Resume Prejudice and Cliches
Posted 11/16/2012 11:04:00 AM

It’s hard out here looking for a job or making a career change. Between resume faux paux and other issues, you got to be on point. Some things you can control (like resume – we’ll get to that) but other issues you can’t. Example?


I know you’ve heard the stores of “resume prejudice”. Basically, it’s where a name that sounds too “ethnic” may go to file 13 (the trash) even though qualifications are on point. Sometimes, looking for a gig can be discouraging and when you keep getting a closed door, you may get desperate. Like one story from Clutch Magazine’s Britni Danielle about a woman who took her job search a step further.


After being unemployed for two years, Yolanda Spivey decided to attempt an experiment. Spivey created a separate resume and profile—which used her education and professional experience—with one big difference, she called herself Bianca White and claimed she was a white woman. Spivey explains: “Two years ago, I noticed that had added a “diversity questionnaire” to the site. This gives an applicant the opportunity to identify their sex and race to potential employers. guarantees that this “option” will not jeopardize your chances of gaining employment. You must answer this questionnaire in order to apply to a posted position—it cannot be skipped. At times, I would mark off that I was a Black female, but then I thought, this might be hurting my chances of getting employed, so I started selecting the “decline to identify” option instead. That still had no effect on my getting a job. So I decided to try an experiment: I created a fake job applicant and called her Bianca White.”


So how did Bianca fare?


I created an online account, listed Bianca as a White woman on the diversity questionnaire, and activated the account. That very same day, I received a phone call. The next day, my phone line and Bianca’s email address, were packed with potential employers calling for an interview… Two jobs actually did email me and Bianca at the same time. But they were commission only sales positions. Potential positions offering a competitive salary and benefits all went to Bianca.”


Spivey’s experiment lasted just a week, but it opened her eyes to the inequality that exists in the job market. While her resume barely got noticed, her alter-ego—Bianca White, with the same education level and experience—received several inquires from eager employers. Spivey’s takeaways? Explicitly stating your race on job sites may limit your prospects. Wow. And some think we still don’t need affirmative action.


Some things are not in our control –like prejudice -but certain aspects of career hunting are. Preparing for a career via education, training and yes a great resume. Career coach Rich Jones has listed 7 resume killers (via


Bland Objective Statement

Instead of a bland objective statement, try a professional summary that captures your years of experience, relevant skills, certifications and memberships, and the industries you’ve worked in.


Cliché Descriptors

There's no point in saying you're a motivated, innovative and passionate problem solver with a keen eye for detail. That should come across in your experience. List specific problems you've solved and show your passion in your affiliations and activities.


Clunky Skill Matrices

Do you have a table filled with skills at the top (or bottom) of your resume? If so, you may be wasting space and irritating recruiters. Listing all of your skills may help with getting keywords in your resume, but you should be using those keywords when you’re describing your experience. Additionally, those tables don’t always play nicely when uploaded into applicant tracking systems.


Irrelevant Awards

When you're fresh out of school, maybe some of those awards will have a favorable impact since it’s early in your career. But winning the long jump at the high school championships won't help you leap into a new job. If you absolutely must have awards on your resume, make sure they’re relevant. Otherwise, they’ll most likely be ignored (and you’ll be wasting space…again).


Irrelevant Clubs and Organizations

Same as above


First Person Narrative

Your resume isn't a blog post.


Personal Social Media Accounts That Are All Over the Place

Once you disclose it, every message you send out (and have sent out) can affect your candidacy. Don't share your social media info unless you’d be comfortable with recruiters and your future manager following you.


You shouldn’t pretend to be anyone you’re not nor fake the funk about your experience. If you feel as if your resume is lacking educationally or even experience, get some help. If you can’t afford to professional resume writer, get some free 411. After all, libraries have free resources and Google has examples. Make sure you do your part and one day, you should get that call.


We can't control resume prejudice but we can prepare the best way possible via having the right resume, networking, updating our resume and using even volunteer experience to build up a professional background. Nothing big comes easy so commit to the task of landing that gig you desire.

(Sidebar: if you do have a crazy name, nothing wrong with getting a professional nickname. If mama named you "Chardonnay", adapting the name "Cher" or "Charlene" is not a bad idea. Just sayin'...)




Posted By: Julee Jonez  

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