Whitened Résumés: How Race and Diversity Impacts the Application Process

4818650660_8e0cfee0de_zWhat do employers look for in job applications? This is an essential question for job seekers, and depending upon how an employer represents their hiring practices, it may determine how job applicants choose to represent themselves in their applications. When it comes to race and diversity, this can be an especially complex matter, especially for applicants considering résumé whitening. In the recent Administrative Science Quarterly article, “Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market,” authors Sonia K. Kang, Katherine A. DeCelles, András Ticsik, and Sora Jun consider how the presentation of an employer’s hiring practices directly impacts how applicants choose to represent themselves. The abstract for their paper:

Using interviews, a laboratory experiment, and a résumé audit study, we examine racial minorities’ attempts to avoid anticipated discrimination in labor markets by concealing or downplaying racial cues in job applications, a practice known as “résumé whitening.” Interviews with racial minority university students reveal that while some minority job seekers reject this practice, others view it as essential and use a variety of whitening techniques. Building on the qualitative findings, we conduct a lab study to examine how racial minority job seekers change their résumés in response to different job postings. Results show that when ASQ Covertargeting an employer that presents itself as valuing diversity, minority job applicants engage in relatively little résumé whitening and thus submit more racially transparent résumés. Yet our audit study of how employers respond to whitened and unwhitened résumés shows that organizational diversity statements are not actually associated with reduced discrimination against unwhitened résumés. Taken together, these findings suggest a paradox: minorities may be particularly likely to experience disadvantage when they apply to ostensibly pro-diversity employers. These findings illuminate the role of racial concealment and transparency in modern labor markets and point to an important interplay between the self-presentation of employers and the self-presentation of job seekers in shaping economic inequality.

You can read “Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market” from Administrative Science Quarterly free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Administrative Science QuarterlyClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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*Career fair image credited to Michael Starghill, Partnership for Public Service (CC) 

Don’t Let Your Best Employees Get Away

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Professor Wendy Marcinkus Murphy of Babson College. She and co-authors James P. Burton of Northern Illinois University, Stephanie C. Henagan of Louisiana State University, and Jon P. Briscoe of Northern Illinois University published “Employee Reactions to Job Insecurity in a Declining Economy: A Longitudinal Study of the Mediating Role of Job Embeddedness,” forthcoming in Group & Organization Management and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

pullquoteAs the Great Recession unfolded we were hearing from our students and colleagues that regardless of how long they had been in their workplace or how stable their organization, everyone was feeling some degree of job insecurity. Job insecurity is a classic work stressor that can make employees feel threatened by their organization and provoke strong adverse reactions. A common reaction to job insecurity is to consider leaving and to search for other jobs. The reason employers should care — even in a down economy — is that it is usually the best employees who are likely to find alternative jobs in any context. We wondered what might mitigate this feeling.

GOM_72ppiRGB_150pixwAs researchers we had expertise in careers and job embeddedness, but had never considered linking these to job insecurity. Job embeddedness is an important influence on retention. It reflects the web of connections in a job and/or community that people become enmeshed in making it hard to leave their organization. Job embeddedness includes 3 components: fit– how well a job matches other aspects of your life, links– the number of connections you have with people in your company and community, and sacrifice– the tangible benefits you would give up if you left your job or community. The recession provided a strong context to test if job embeddedness could prevent the job insecurity from leading to negative withdrawal outcomes, including intentions to leave and job search behavior.

Our findings show that indeed job embeddedness is an important variable between job insecurity and withdrawal outcomes. Feelings of insecurity are stressful, thus it is imperative that leaders communicate with employees about any major changes within the organization or the environment to decrease perceptions of threat. Given that job embeddedness plays an important role in mitigating withdrawal outcomes, we advise taking cost-effective steps to engage in long-term career development with your best employees and to establish strong mentoring or coaching programs. These steps should improve employees’ sense of fit with the organization and increase their links to colleagues. In addition, we recommend that organizations encourage employees to be active in their local neighborhoods and develop partnerships with volunteer organizations to increase their embeddedness in the community.

Read “Employee Reactions to Job Insecurity in a Declining Economy: A Longitudinal Study of the Mediating Role of Job Embeddedness” online in Group & Organization Management.

Wendy Marcinkus Murphy is an Assistant Professor of Management at Babson College.  She earned her Ph.D. at Boston College.  Her current research interests include mentoring and developmental networks, gender, and the work-life interface.

James P. Burton is an Associate Professor of Management at Northern Illinois University.  He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Washington.  His current research interests include abusive supervision, employee retention, and workplace aggression.

Stephanie C. Henagan is a Visiting Scholar in the Management Department at Louisiana State University, where she also earned her Ph.D.  Her current research interests include interpersonal dynamics in the workplace and the effects of social comparison processes on achievement.

Jon P. Briscoe is Professor of Management at Northern Illinois University.  He received his DBA at Boston University and a Masters in Organizational Behavior at Brigham Young University.  His research interests center around careers, leadership development, and values.  He is a past chair of the Careers Division of the Academy of Management and Director of the Cross Cultural Collaboration on Contemporary Careers (the 5C Group).

Employee Job Search

Wendy R. Boswell, Ryan D. Zimmerman and Brian W. Swider, all of Texas A&M University, published “Employee Job Search: Toward an Understanding of Search Context and Search Objectives” on September 30th, 2011 in the Journal of Management’s OnlineFirst collection. To view other OnlineFirst articles, please click here.

The abstract:

Job search behaviors occur across various contexts, involving diverse populations of job seekers searching for employment opportunities. In particular, individuals may search for their first jobs following a period of education, may seek reemployment following job loss, or may search for new opportunities while currently employed. Research in each of these contexts has evolved somewhat separately, yet there is value to applying the ideas and findings from one search context to other search contexts. The purpose of this article is to review the prior research in each of the three job search contexts and offer an integrative analysis of the predictors, processes, consequences, and varying objectives of job search behavior across an individual’s potential employment situations (i.e., new entrant, job loser, employed job seeker). Implications for future research on job search behavior are discussed.

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