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Study uncovers racial bias in job candidate screening

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Employment Law

The results of a landmark study conducted two decades ago suggest that employers in Tennessee and around the country tended to discriminate against job candidates that they perceived to be Black. Two economists responded to help-wanted ads placed in Chicago and Boston newspapers, and resumes from applicants with names that suggested they were white were responded to far more often. To see if the job market has evolved in the years since that study was published, a team of researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley, submitted 83,000 fake job applications to more than 100 Fortune 500 companies.

Workplace discrimination

Virtually all of the companies that received them have policies in place to promote diversity and prevent workplace discrimination, but many of them demonstrated a preference for job applicants who with names that suggested they were white. The researchers assigned each employer a grade based on how often they responded to fake job applications submitted by presumably white candidates compared to how often presumably Black candidates received a response. The most discriminatory companies called presumably white candidates back 24% more often.

Standardized hiring practices

The employers that responded to presumably Black candidates least often operated in the automobile retail sector. A car dealer group and a chain of auto parts stores received the lowest grades. The researchers discovered that discrimination was less likely in companies with centralized human resources departments and standardized hiring practices. Resumes are usually viewed by more than one person in these companies, which prevents a single individual’s bias from influencing an organization’s hiring decisions. The researchers published their findings on April 8.

Preventing discrimination in the hiring process

Eliminating bias in the hiring process benefits employers and job applicants. If every application is judged on its merits, opportunities are more likely to be offered to capable and enthusiastic candidates. This survey’s results reveal that formalizing the selection process, training HR personnel and keeping track of rejected as well as accepted candidates could help employers to achieve this goal.