Gender Bias in Hiring is Real — 7 Ways to Combat it on Your Resume, From a CEO

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Marc Cenedella10
April 18, 2024 at 6:21PM UTC

You might think that leaving it up to your future bosses to figure out what you’re good at is an OK idea. Perhaps it’s best to not come across as “pushy” or like you're "bragging," as the old tropes go.  Unfortunately, research shows you’ll pay a penalty if you let hiring managers guess about your past successes.

A 2019 study found “an overlooked potential effect that exclusively benefits men and hinders women who pursue leadership positions.” Specifically, “female candidates were preferred when they demonstrated leadership performance over leadership potential.” For men, the reverse was true. 

In other words, if women leave it up to the readers of their profiles to guess whether they can do the job or not, those readers will tend to guess that they can’t. Men don’t suffer this penalty.

Relying on your titles, past companies' brand names and education to convey your competence in the work world is an ineffective strategy. You’ll need to be explicit about what you delivered, how it benefited the company and how you went about delivering your results. Otherwise, in the absence of concrete information, the audience for your resume will stick with their preconceptions. And that’s not the only reason demonstrating your leadership performance is important. 

In LinkedIn recruiter search results, women are 13% less likely to be viewed, according to LinkedIn’s own research from 2019. 

That’s because LinkedIn only shows name, photo, titles and companies.  They don’t show your accomplishments, capabilities and achievements in search results, leading users to make assumptions that hurt female candidates. When you’re 13% less likely to be viewed, that means you’re missing out on almost one in seven job opportunities due to user bias. And that’s not fair.

Women tend to be more educated than men, and studies have demonstrated that they score higher than men for most leadership skills. That’s why a fact-driven resume favors women professionals. Here are several preventative steps to take in your job search to beat bias and highlight your achievements:

1. Provide detailed performance results in your communications with recruiters, hiring managers and HR departments. 

Don’t rely on them to fill in the blanks in your background.  They won’t.  Instead, be explicit, be detailed and be straightforward about your contributions.

2. Favor sending your resume over your LinkedIn profile. 

LinkedIn is minimalistic — you list your title, company and perhaps your top responsibilities.  For reasons of confidentiality, modesty and common practice, professionals don’t list their detailed success in their profiles.  But providing this limited bit of information doesn’t work in your favor if you’re a female candidate — your readers will assume too much or too little.  Instead, favor sending your resume with the full story, so you get a fair shake. 

3. When it comes to your resume, construct each bullet point with a number that quantifies the improvement you made.  

"Increased sales," "decreased costs," "improved efficiency by x%," "reduced waste by y%." Numbers are specific, they’re concrete and they give your audience a much  better sense of what you accomplished with the resources you had.

4. Frame your bullet points with success verbs. 

Like "grew," "shrank," "increased," or "optimized," so that your capabilities shine through. Avoid duty and responsibility style verbs, like "managed," "had responsibility," "was assigned to," or "handled." These just repeat the job description and don’t show how well you did in the job!

5. Never simply list your duties and responsibilities from prior jobs. 

Because the research shows that when readers have to infer your potential based on past duties, they’ll assume the best about male candidates.

6. Focus your professional summary on key accomplishments, not just keywords. 

Cite the most impressive achievements you’ve had in your career right at the top of your resume, so that no reader can ignore them.

7. Explicitly include promotions in your work history. 

Sometimes professionals will list their first and last title only, instead of breaking out each promotion.  This is a missed opportunity to demonstrate your confirmed ability to succeed for past bosses, and earn multiple promotions.

Fighting bias and preconceived notions about what you can do remains an unfortunate reality — one I hope will change soon. But combatting even the most subtle subconscious bias with data, facts, and results will lead to a stronger resume, better interviews, and a better outcome in your career.

What’s your no. 1 piece of resume advice? Leave your answer in the comments to help other FGB’ers.

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Marc Cenedella is the Founder at Leet Resumes - we write great professional resumes for free – and Ladders, the home for $100K+ careers.  He’s been writing on careers for 20 years and has published several Amazon Careers #1 bestsellers on job search, resumes, and interviews.

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