The Six Second Resume Screening Rule Doesn't Work for Diversity Recruiting

Have you ever done that activity in the back of magazines where you have to look at two almost identical photos and spot the differences? I have. For most of us, it takes a while to peruse every square inch of the photos to spot all the little differences. I'm not being simplistic, but diversity recruiting is a similar hunt and the 6-second resume screening won't cut it when you are evaluating people on paper. Especially, if those people are not necessarily like you. 

I'm sure I am not telling secrets out of school by saying that honest recruiters will tell you they have tossed plenty of beautiful resumes for one reason or another. Yes, resumes won't make the cut because of errors or lack of required skills. Often times though, resumes are tossed, and recruiters will tell you this, simply because the resume just doesn't grab the recruiters attention to make it past the 6-second screening.

So I've been wondering if recruiters who say their diversity recruiting strategies aren't working, should consider a different approach to resume screening? My suggestion is actual pretty simple? Let's start looking at resumes for more than six seconds. Why? If you are looking for diversity, and I mean seriously looking, there are often nuances about a candidate's background you just will not spot in a 6-second scan.

In many cases, it is true that recruiters who are looking for diverse candidates may have little in common with the applicant pool. New things or new characteristics, with which you are not familiar, will take time to decipher and understand. I am not suggesting there aren't exceptions, but my question is - Can you really learn enough to make a decision to rule someone in or out with just a 6-second resume scan, if diversity recruiting is your goal?

It could take a recruiter six seconds just to decipher or read a name with which they might not be familiar. We already know there is data confirming that some job applicants get less call backs just because of their ethnic names. One Forbes article even suggested that people with foreign sounding names might want to change them to increase chances of a call back.

A recruiter who is perusing the resume of diverse job applicants may have to:

  1. Research the acronyms of professional associations to understand the applicants' memberships and involvement with various diversity related professional groups.

  2. Appreciate or translate the relevance of someone's international or global experience.

  3. Look up an unfamiliar Greek organization that a recent graduate may have listed on a resume.

  4. Invest some time to understand gaps in employment or the relevance of volunteer work listed on a resume.

  5. Think deeper about why someone may have changed jobs often in a short amount of time or why someone's background is very different from what they are pursuing now.

People live complicated lives and so some of the traditional resume rules really don't allow for diverse professionals to express their differences. Today's resume screening rules might be forcing applicants into neat, little cookie-cutter templates that actually don't work for recruiters. I get it, recruiters are busy and employee referrals remain the top source for hires. However, if your goal is diversity of thought and experiences on your team, you should be making sure that employee referrals are not just bringing you more of the same.

My recommendation is that if we want our diversity recruiting efforts to succeed, we should stop telling people they need to grab our attention in 6-seconds. Serious recruiting practices require relationships and more, not less, understanding the humans applying for jobs. Sometimes, we might need to dig a little bit deeper and not toss aside candidates because they don't come with bells and whistles that jump off the page to grab our attention in six seconds. If we truly care about diversity recruiting, we will look harder.

I truly believe that acceptance and inclusion of diverse professionals begins by demonstrating to applicants that we really care about their differences enough to not try and sum them up in six seconds.

Dr. Marcia F. Robinson is a senior certified HR professional who curates and is an expert on diversity recruiting strategies..