Include mentions to race on a resume?
June 12, 2009 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Is it okay to indicate race in a resume?

I have recently been getting my resume in order to send out to potential companies and organizations. In my current resume I mention a scholarship I received for being an influential black male in my home town before I moved and went off to college.

It's 2009 so it's easy to suggest those things don't matter and that it's crazy but that's not always the case. The city I am looking for a job in has a very small black population and at one time was the sixth whitest city in the country for it's size (200,000+ I believe). It is basically known as a college town.

Should I let my experiences do the talking and exclude any mentions to race? I'm still fairly young, mid-20s, so any experiences or suggestions you've dealt with or seen would help.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If the title of the scholarship or organization that granted the scholarship mentions the race, I don't see why you would omit it.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Exclude any mention of race. Period. There's no possible benefit and there's only the possible cost of having your resume rejected for mentioning race. Many companies will reject resumes that have any mention of protected classes in order to prevent lawsuits based on discrimination.
posted by saeculorum at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2009

Do you want to work for a company that hires based on race?
posted by Twicketface at 10:37 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would be hesitant to include race, both for the fact that some hiring people might exclude you for it, and because it can create a hassle for HR people who are obligated to act without prejudice (I'm not explaining this well, but there exist situations in which a hirer specifically wants to NOT KNOW your race to avoid the perception of bias).

That being said, you won a scholarship you received, which is most definitely worth mentioning. Is there a way you can mention the scholarship such that it doesn't imply your race? Being a "community leader", or something?

If the scholarship is something like "the black scholarship for outstanding blackness", and referencing it would definitively show that you are black, I would still say go with it - scholarship trumps those situations where you shouldn't mention race.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:41 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would include the name of the scholarship.
posted by The World Famous at 10:49 AM on June 12, 2009

I'm going to probably be the dissenting opinion on this, and I'm not sure how to word this without offending someone.

It really depends on a lot of factors.

For example, I'm in a business in which there is a distinct advantage for me to have a diverse staff in order to meet certain grant requirements regarding the hiring of minorities (yes, probably out of date, but a reality none-the-less). And, because of the diverse population of clients we work with, there are some advantages in terms of how we appear to the community we serve, and a desire to make sure that we are ethnically, racially, and culturally in tune with our clients, and I couldn't do that with a staff that was all white, all African American, all Hispanic, etc, we would have holes in our abilities to help the people we are here to help.
.....hiring "based on race" is not always a bad thing..

So, that said, if you KNOW that the company you are applying for has a need to have a diverse staff, and you KNOW where the holes are and that you would augment their staffing...certainly, quietly let them know who you are....

If you don't KNOW any of that, then it doesn't really matter.
posted by HuronBob at 10:50 AM on June 12, 2009

I'd include it. It's an achievement, you're proud of it. You earned it. Why not? I'd treat it exactly as an other award, in a bullet point, at the bottom of the resume, under 'Achievements' or some such.

I mean, also, unless you show up in a full body suit with a bag on your head, they'll find out your race eventually anyway.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:52 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

"there exist situations in which a hirer specifically wants to NOT KNOW your race to avoid the perception of bias"

ummm... I would venture that, unless the hiring is done without the company ever meeting face to face with the potential employee (or if the interviewer was blind), it's pretty unlikely that the hirer wouldn't be able to determine the candidates race.
posted by HuronBob at 10:53 AM on June 12, 2009

It depends on how desperate you are for a job.
posted by smackfu at 10:57 AM on June 12, 2009

Are you just coming out of college? If so I would include the name of the award, whether it's "the black scholarship for outstanding blackness" as described above or the "John Smith Achievement Scholarship". If not, any college stuff is much less relevant than recent work experience and I'd mention scholarships briefly with other "achievements" or "awards" at the bottom.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:03 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Exclude any mention of race. Period. There's no possible benefit and there's only the possible cost of having your resume rejected for mentioning race. Many companies will reject resumes that have any mention of protected classes in order to prevent lawsuits based on discrimination.

How would that protect them from lawsuits? It seems like it could actually have the opposite effect. Do you have any evidence that that's actually happening?
posted by delmoi at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Include the name of the scholarship. It's an honor you won and demonstrates a notable achievement.

I often include two things on my resume that indicate my race: One is a professional society of which I am a member, the other is the name of my sorority, which is an historically-black sorority that has hundred of thousands of members worldwide. In the event that someone in HR or in a position to hire recognizes either of these things and decides to grant me an interview based on that, good on me.

People may not list things based on race in their resumes but they'd be silly not to mention membership in some society or alumni group or something that might help get them in the door in this tight job market.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2009

I would name the scholarship as part of the resume, but rely on the person reviewing the resume to "do the research" and discover what that might imply.
posted by hippybear at 11:16 AM on June 12, 2009

Absolutely include any scholarships, awards, volunteer work that indicates your background, accomplishments, race, etc. Trust me, any HR Dept worth their salt is looking for the diversity of experience and perspective that comes from hiring people of different backgrounds, including race.

I have no idea why some of the commentors (10:36 through 10:41) above would suggest that lawsuit stuff, its just not true. Its not your obligation as a potential candidate to hide your background from an employer. Its the obligation of an employer to not discriminate against protected classes.

You DO want to work for a company that cares about the diversity of background in its workforce. Best of luck.
posted by RajahKing at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would only include information that is relevant to the job, and information that shows your merits. So, race is not relevant and is not a merit. However, leadership is relevant and a merit. So, I would include it as something like "Awarded prestigious leadership scholarship for community activities."

In my opinion, this is true for scholarships based in part on religion, culture, sexual orientation, socio-economic bracket, or anything else. Concentrate on relevance to the job.
posted by Houstonian at 11:38 AM on June 12, 2009

If it is in the name of the scholarship then I say go for it. Something like Earned top scholarships from NAACP and UNCF wouldn't bother me as a recruiter because that is an achievement you earned. Along the same lines I wouldn't fault someone for putting down that they had won something from Daughters of the American West or talking about their Eagle Scout work, which implies their gender.

What bothers me is when people list something like race, gender, marital status on a resume. This is normal in other parts of the world but not in the US and I have, in fact, returned resumes to the sender and asked them to remove it before sending it along to the hiring manager.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:45 AM on June 12, 2009

ummm... I would venture that, unless the hiring is done without the company ever meeting face to face with the potential employee (or if the interviewer was blind), it's pretty unlikely that the hirer wouldn't be able to determine the candidates race.
How would that protect them from lawsuits? It seems like it could actually have the opposite effect. Do you have any evidence that that's actually happening?

I think Lemurrhea is correct. I used to include a picture on my resume, and then two different recruiters told me to submit a resume with no photo. Neither company wanted to see any gratuitous indication of my race or gender on the resume. They would not even submit me for the positions with a photo resume, because they wanted to avoid the appearance of bias.

That said, winning a scholarship, or belonging to, say, "Society of Women Engineers" is not gratuitous and should definitely go on the resume. Same thing with "bi-lingual English/Spanish", or similar info.
posted by txvtchick at 11:47 AM on June 12, 2009

If the race mention is not a stretch: ie, if your race could be inferred by the way you present your name, your language-fluency list, or the name of one of your awards or programs, I'd say in general you should put it in: either it helps you make their race quota and it's a foot in the door, or they don't interview you based on race and they're jerks you'd hate working for anyway.

If the award's name doesn't specifically mention that it was race-related (for instance, if it's just called the Michael Washington Award, or something like that), then you can shoehorn in a mention of race in the description, but it could look little contrived.
So you have two options:
"Recipient: Michael Washington Award, full academic scholarship" - which is good because it implies you were chosen from an even wider pool of candidates.
"Recipent: Michael Washington Award: scholarship for contributions to African-American community" or whatever, which looks a little contrived, but might help you meet a race quota.

I think I'd personally make my decision like this: If it's government job or a huge corporation that will have race quotas to fit, I'd shoehorn in the race mention as it will likely help you get an interview. If the job is a private interest, leave it out, as it probably doesn't matter and may seem contrived.

I definitely wouldn't explicitly state your race anywhere on the resume. (Special skills: Tanning!)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:57 AM on June 12, 2009

Here's a study that was done in 2003 (you can download the whole paper from this site). It's not about scholarships, but I still think it's a bit applicable if you are trying to decide between saying you received a scholarship for leadership (not mentioning race), or saying you received a scholarship for being an influential black male.

From the abstract:
"We perform a field experiment to measure racial discrimination in the labor market. We respond with fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perception of race, each resume is randomly assigned either a very African American sounding name or a very White sounding name. The results show significant discrimination against African-American names: White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. We also find that race affects the benefits of a better resume. For White names, a higher quality resume elicits 30 percent more callbacks whereas for African Americans, it elicits a far smaller increase. Applicants living in better neighborhoods receive more callbacks but, interestingly, this effect does not differ by race. The amount of discrimination is uniform across occupations and industries. Federal contractors and employers who list Equal Opportunity Employer in their ad discriminate as much as other employers. We find little evidence that our results are driven by employers inferring something other than race, such as social class, from the names. These results suggest that racial discrimination is still a prominent feature of the labor market."
posted by Houstonian at 11:58 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

While it's definitely bad and inappropriate to just randomly mention your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. on a resume, it's totally fine to mention awards and memberships that signal your membership in a particular group. I'm a lawyer and lots of resumes that we see at work list memberships in various law school "alsa" groups (APALSA, BALSA, etc.) and gay student groups (Outlaw). So, if your race is obvious from the name of the award, go ahead and name it.
posted by Mavri at 11:59 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's perfectly fine to list any meaningful awards you've won, or organizations you're a member of. In my life as an attorney, I've seen plenty of resumes with things like "Black Law Students Association" on them. It's totally normal. Unless you're a member of a very non-mainstream group (I dunno, the John Birch Society), or received an "honor" from such a group, then I'd definitely list your involvement.

There are (sadly) still places in America where someone might react negatively to something like this on your resume. You'd have to ask yourself, though, if you would want to work at such a place. Hopefully (though of course it's no guarantee), a "college town" (as you describe it) will be pretty liberal and you won't face issues like this there.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:00 PM on June 12, 2009

I won a few awards at an Asian American Student Union film festival. This student union was one of the largest, with 2,000 members on campus, so it was sortof a big deal. I also like to round out the idea that I do film to potential employers, but I didn't want to put race into it. Also complicating things, though I am a small part Chinese, I look incredibly white, and put white on my EEO. (and the festival was open to everyone anyways.)

I avoid all this by abbreviating the name of the student union to AASU. If someone asks, I tell them what it is. Also it saves me space.

I say don't worry about it. If a racist HR person puts your resume in the trash because of it, it would just save your time with an interview that he/she wouldn't pick you for anyways.
posted by fontophilic at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2009

I vote for including it. You are simply naming the scholarship you've won.
posted by chrisalbon at 12:31 PM on June 12, 2009

> Many companies will reject resumes that have any mention of protected classes in order to prevent lawsuits based on discrimination.

^ Cite? This is entirely suspect and doubtful, as such a practice is inherently discriminatory in that it penalizes people for identifying their race. This would require tossing all resumes of people with the last name "Chang" because it indicates the person is Asian.

The question here isn't "I want to put on the top of my resume HI I'M AFRICAN AMERICAN, is this a good idea?" It's "I have a significant and great achievement that I would like to include on my resume, but identifying that achievement also likely identifies my race." I agree with most posters, and say yes - it shouldn't hurt, and should help.

Another potential interpretation is, "Is it in poor taste to identify the achievement if it also identifies my race, because it may appear that I am seeking special treatment?" I don't know if this question was asked, but my answer is that it really shouldn't matter, and I would not worry about it.

I think, on a different tack, that anonymous is also seeking some practical advice - such as whether the job market in the 6th whitest city and a tiny black population might discriminate against anonymous based on an indication of race on the resume. I don't know, but I like to think that in this day and age, this doesn't happen. But I know it does.

I know that this is a crappy job market, but would you really want to work for people that would roll their eyes at your mention of an achievement that indicates your race?
posted by jabberjaw at 12:39 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

> either a very African American sounding name or a very White sounding name.

I think there must be more of an element of social class at work here than is easily provable. I think people respond differently to a woman named "Shahneeq'wa" than they might to a woman named "Shannon" whose "black tip-off" was that she was in the black students' union, for instance. Imagine, as a control, that "Shannon" and "Shahneeq'wa" (shit I can't even recreate that spelling from memory) were both the vice-president of their respective colleges' black students' unions... I bet Shannon gets more calls back.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:07 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Definitely include the name of the scholarship, as it's an impressive achievement and belongs on a resume. Any company that is biased in their hiring practices will toss your resume on the discard pile once they sense that you are African-American, and as unfair and discriminatroy as that is, at least it will spare you the trouble of getting dressed up and driving to an interview that is ultimately a waste of time. Hopefully the companies that do call you for an interview are the ones which are more "diversified" in their hiring practices.

(Biased hiring practices work in many directions, by the way; many years ago Mr. Adams worked in computer sales at the Circuit City in Eastland Mall. He won several in-store awards for sales percentages and attendance, but when he applied for a managerial position that was open, he was told by the district manager that because he was white, they could never promote him to a management position at that particular store.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:31 PM on June 12, 2009

I'm with pseudostrabismus on the name study. Names indicate class, and according to this writeup of the study, what the researchers considered "black" names were Tamika, Ebony, Aisha, Rasheed, Kareem and Tyrone.

The fact that the perceived wealth of a neighborhood also affected callbacks, regardless of race, also suggests that class was playing into this.
posted by PatoPata at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

This Slate article contains the Freakonomics chapter mentioned above. Basically, it claims that résumé studies aren't showing the full picture:

"The data show that, on average, a person with a distinctively black name—whether it is a woman named Imani or a man named DeShawn—does have a worse life outcome than a woman named Molly or a man named Jake. But it isn't the fault of his or her name. If two black boys, Jake Williams and DeShawn Williams, are born in the same neighborhood and into the same familial and economic circumstances, they would likely have similar life outcomes. But the kind of parents who name their son Jake don't tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn. And that's why, on average, a boy named Jake will tend to earn more money and get more education than a boy named DeShawn. DeShawn's name is an indicator—but not a cause—of his life path."

This might suggest that you should list the "influential black male" scholarship and be more concerned about what your résumé suggests about your economic background. I would list the scholarship because it's a worthwhile achievement.
posted by PatoPata at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Include the name of the scholarship and the award under the appropriate section. I used to mention a national award for Hispanic students that I received, because it was an achievement and something I was proud of having won. Not that my last name wouldn't have already given that away. Would you really want to work for someplace that would reject you for race anyway?
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2009

I think that Lemurrhea is correct.

I've been an HR manager at several organizations since 2003 and as policy at all places we DISCARD before review ALL resumes that include a photo, their date of birth, or specific details about age, race, gender etc. Apparently at some time it must have been suggested that people put a little list near their name of all this info. This does not mean that we discard applications where such data can be inferred (from dates, locations, names, experience) just overt disclosures. It's a fine line but people (and the electronic bots that screen resumes) in my position err on the side of caution and will discard the applicant if they are close to this "line". Not doing this opens the company to discrimination charges if we were to select some people who disclosed this information for interviews (even if they met the hiring criteria) and not others. Hurray for lawsuits!

So, I'd make sure that no where on your resume do you clearly list your race.
posted by saradarlin at 2:11 PM on June 12, 2009

I'm with pseudostrabismus on the name study. Names indicate class, and according to this writeup of the study, what the researchers considered "black" names were Tamika, Ebony, Aisha, Rasheed, Kareem and Tyrone.

My first name is among those on that list ... I'm curious as to what "class" is indicated here? I was born in the '70s .... post-black Revolution. Many of my friends have similar names because our parents wanted something that reflected "Africa." (misguided attempts in some cases but that was the thinking.)
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2009

I should mention that even if it was clear that we'd win the lawsuit, no company wants to be exposed so they will avoid it. As for the cite requested above, my corporate policies are internal use only but this is CLEARLY stated. I'll see if I can find some public citations to share.
posted by saradarlin at 2:19 PM on June 12, 2009

"Must discard" policies that would get down to the level of a named scholarship are pretty rare, and silly, and probably not legally helpful. (It's routine everywhere but the U.S. to include much of that content in CVs as a matter of course -- so a "must discard" policy not only makes affirmative action difficult, it also effectively discriminates on the basis of national origin.)

So, with that said, if it's a scholarship for which you demonstrated merit to achieve it, include it. It will help you get interviewed by an employer who has diversity mandates or preferences. It will help you get interviewed with employers who don't care either way -- because it shows merit. It won't make a difference with employers who discriminate against black candidates, because they won't hire you anyway. This is true, by the way, regardless of any pragmatic or philosophical view you may have of affirmative action -- you weren't the only candidate for that award, so it means something you got it.

As a strictly anecdotal point, I interview people for professional positions regularly, and I would say that its about half the candidates whom I interview in person who are black had something on their resume indicating their likely race (scholarships, school or professional societies, or a distinctive name).
posted by MattD at 2:59 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Many people here are saying that you might as well include the name of your scholarship because you wouldn't want to work at a place that discriminates, and you wouldn't get hired at a racist institution anyway. I think this ignores the all the evidence from Implicit Attitude tests, studies like the one Houstonian mentions, and so on, that even the most well-intentioned, equality-loving people have tacit discriminatory biases. The particular experiment that Houstonian mentions might be flawed, but it's a drop in the bucket. I think it's pretty much incontrovertible at this point that systemic racism causes non-whites to be treated unfairly even among those who do not consider themselves to be racist. But no one wants to admit they make decisions based on racist dispositions, so they indulge in post hoc explanations of their subconscious choices like claiming they don't hire Tyrones because Tyrones are poor and not because Tyrones are black.

(Even if it is social status that's primarily driving those decisions, which I doubt, they're surely relying on a subjective conditional probability of social status given race, which is discriminatory.)

Given all that, putting your race on your resume is more likely to hurt you in getting jobs than help you, I think. That's a pragmatic consideration. But what you should do all things considered -- taking into account ethical factors like fairness and dignity -- is something that I don't know how to answer.
posted by painquale at 7:25 PM on June 12, 2009

It may depend on what field you're going into as well. I work for a large non-profit, our staff is very diverse, I don't even blink when i see a reference to a HBCU or other race-tip offs.

What I do feel a bit squeamish about is applicants who list extracurricular activities going back to middle school, with no job relevance, which also indicates their race, religion, or both. But I would absolutely not put your scholarship in that category.

That said, I don't envy you trying to make this judgement call knowing that you're going into a not-very-diverse town. How conservative is the field you're in? As distasteful as it is to try to guess the racism level of future hiring managers, if this is a college town that was previously known for being lily white, your race identification may give you a little foot in the door.
posted by desuetude at 9:13 PM on June 12, 2009

If you're in your mid 20's, I would suggest against including scholarships you won before (or even during) college unless they are very relevant to the field you want to get into (e.g. won an scholarship for an engineering project).

I would include scholarships if applying to grad school, for example, or possibly an internship/co-op position during undergrad, but for full-time positions after you have graduated, it can be somewhat irrelevant.
posted by pravit at 9:59 AM on June 13, 2009

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