Six Things to Know About When Applying for Jobs

Six Things to Know About When Applying for Jobs

1. Selection bias is real1

Double blinded studies show that resumes with male names perform better compared to identical resumes with female names. Until you’re in a position to hire or recruit someone, the best thing you can do is work with those biases. For example, if your last name is Johnson, consider referring to yourself as Dr Johnson, rather than Dr Emily Johnson.


 

The same is also true when comparing local names to foreign or international names. Local names perform better. Now, I am not suggesting you change your name. However, I know people who have changed their name, at least shortened it to a version that “looks local” and had improved success with obtaining interviews. 

Unfortunately, if you are not in a position to do these things, there is not much you can do. 

I should note there are recruitment agencies, as well as employers, who are aware of the problem. They are responding by implementing blinded candidate review, as well as unconscious bias training for selection panels.2 

2. Photos aren’t necessary

There’s no need to include a photo in your resume. And just like names and genders, pictures introduce an opportunity for bias, and deliberate discrimination. 

With that in mind, your social media probably has a lot of photos. So, when applying for jobs consider making your profile pictures (more) professional. Recruiters, and employers will do a simple internet search for you. So, make sure your first impression is a good one. 

There are some culture differences here. I’m aware that in parts of Europe, and Asia photos are expected. If you’re up for the challenge, I’d suggest NOT including a photo. Instead, write “available upon request”. 

3. Age is not needed

Just don’t put your age. It is another opportunity for discrimination. Your employment history might date you. But, for most people in most jobs a full history is not needed. So, even that should avoid recruiters or employers ageing you.

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4. Question the use of dates

You definitely don’t need dates for education. Just the fact you’ve attained the qualification should be enough. When it comes to employment history, the three most recent roles are probably all you need. In which case, dates for those are fine. But, anything prior to that is probably not needed. Again, these dates allow people to age you, and therefore discriminate. 

5. Make sure OCR is on/present

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. It’s what allows you to find specific words within a PDF. By default, programs you’d use to create a resume – MS Office Suite, Google Docs – have OCR enabled. If you’re converting to PDF via those programs, you’ll probably have OCR enabled too. But you can make sure by opening the version of your resume and cover letter, and trying to find a known word or phrase (such as your name) using the find function. If that works, OCR is on. If not, you’ll need to fix that… 

Why is this important? Well, the use of AI is increasing. These programs search resumes for words and phrases. If the AI cannot find the words, then the resumes aren’t shortlisted for human review. In most instance, some version of OCR is used by the AI. 

6. Use relevant keywords

This probably seems obvious, but it’s worth explaining a little. Like I wrote above, AI is used to search through resumes. So, if you don’t have the keyword in your resume, you won’t be shortlisted. Some systems might use synonyms, or US and UK spelling, or singular and plural. But, others might not. Thus, having the exact keyword is essential. How do you choose the keywords? Easy, read through the job ad, and position description. Highlight the keywords. Then, go through your resume and highlight, cross out or tick off when you use the keyword. The exact keyword. Spelt like they did. Pluralised they did. Not a synonym. If some are missing, work out how you can reasonably add them in, and do it.


Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He has been helping researchers grow their careers for more than a decade. As a #pracademic, Richard understands the need to have practical solutions to academic problems. He knows how to identify transferable skills and what makes a good industry CV. His pragmatic approach to job hunting has been getting people jobs for more than a decade.

To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.huysmans@drrichardhuysmans.com) or subscribe to the newsletter. He's on LinkedIn (Dr Richard Huysmans), Twitter (@richardhuysmans), Instagram (@drrichardhuysmans), and Facebook (Beyond Your PhD with Dr Richard Huysmans)


1When your resume is (not) turning you down: Modelling ethnic bias in resume screening, Human Resource Management Journal, Nov 2018, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1748-8583.12217 accessed 30 Nov 2020

2Recruit smarter report, Victorian Government, 2018, https://www.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-01/Recruit-Smarter-Report-of-Findings.pdf, accessed 30 Nov 2020

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