It seems like every time we turn around, data leaks are in the news. Everyone is angry with companies for not protecting personal information. But did you ever stop to consider the personal data you are freely handing out on your resume and what it might say to potential employers?
For years, it has been accepted convention to put your name in bold letters at the top of your resume and follow it with a street address, phone number, and email. However, giving away that street address may be doing more harm than good. No employer or self respecting recruiter is going to communicate with you via postal mail during the hiring process. Until you get to a background check or other legal document stage, a mailing address isn’t necessary.
A hiring manager might use that address to determine you live too far from the job site. Or worse, there could be more serious bias, such as implied race, social class, or even religion solely based on where you live. These are all forms of hiring discrimination, and are illegal in the hiring process. Sharing the information opens the door to bias though, even if it’s unintentional or subconscious. Rather than risk being screened out unfairly, it’s best to only provide the address when asked to do so.
Another common information leak on your resume is the year you graduated from college. Unless you are a recent graduate, your future employer doesn’t need to know when you received your degree. The fact that you completed college and received a degree is the only relevant information for the hiring process. Including the date you graduated gives an employer data to infer your age. This could imply that you are under or over qualified for the job, again leading to implicit bias in the hiring process. It could even affect the salary negotiation if you get the job.
Along the same lines, if you have an extensive work history, it’s best to summarize it. The resume is not a legal record of every position you’ve held since the beginning of time. It’s a branding document meant to tell a story about you. Sharing details about roles dating back to the 80’s again gives away your age. Once the cat is out of the bag, you can’t control how the data will be used, irrespective of hiring law. Instead, share details for the last 10 years of work history, then summarize the rest. Omit it completely if it’s not relevant. The summary can be as simple as a position title and company, under a heading of Other Relevant Experience.
One more piece of information you might want to keep close, especially during these highly polarizing times, is your political affiliation. Several studies have shown political bias is rapidly becoming a problem in the US. One study looked at college applicants, and found reviewers were significantly less likely to approve applications when political affiliations did not align to those of the reviewer, all else being equal. Unless applying for a political role, it’s better to leave off any identifying information, such as volunteer groups, that might imply your party preference.
Although much of the information mentioned may become relevant when you consider cultural fit within an organization, it’s important to control how and when that information gets shared. If presented at the start of a job search, hiring bias may come into play. You might never get to discuss politics with colleagues at your dream job if the hiring manager thinks you can’t handle the commute and never gives you an interview.
The takeaway here is that your resume is a goldmine of private information about you. Review it with a critical eye and make sure the data you provide supports the story you want to tell. Don’t give away information that isn’t required, or worse, could be used against you in the hiring process.