With the unemployment rate still hovering around eight-percent for Americans, and almost double that for black folks, one woman decided to up her chances of securing a job.
After being unemployed for two years, Yolanda Spivey decided to attempt an experiment. An insurance professional, Spivey created a separate Monster.com resume and profile—which used her education and professional experience—with one big difference, she called herself Bianca White and claimed she was a white woman.
Two years ago, I noticed that Monster.com had added a “diversity questionnaire” to the site. This gives an applicant the opportunity to identify their sex and race to potential employers. Monster.com guarantees that this “option” will not jeopardize your chances of gaining employment. You must answer this questionnaire in order to apply to a posted position—it cannot be skipped. At times, I would mark off that I was a Black female, but then I thought, this might be hurting my chances of getting employed, so I started selecting the “decline to identify” option instead. That still had no effect on my getting a job. So I decided to try an experiment: I created a fake job applicant and called her Bianca White.
First, I created an email account and resume for Bianca. I kept the same employment history and educational background on her resume that was listed on my own. But I removed my home phone number, kept my listed cell phone number, and changed my cell phone greeting to say, “You have reached Bianca White. Please leave a message.” Then I created an online Monster.com account, listed Bianca as a White woman on the diversity questionnaire, and activated the account.
That very same day, I received a phone call. The next day, my phone line and Bianca’s email address, were packed with potential employers calling for an interview. I was stunned. More shocking was that some employers, mostly Caucasian-sounding women, were calling Bianca more than once, desperate to get an interview with her. All along, my real Monster.com account was open and active; but, despite having the same background as Bianca, I received no phone calls. Two jobs actually did email me and Bianca at the same time. But they were commission only sales positions. Potential positions offering a competitive salary and benefits all went to Bianca.
Spivey’s experiment lasted just a week, but it opened her eyes to the inequality that exists in the job market. While her resume barely got noticed, her alter-ego—Bianca White, with the same education level and experience—received several inquires from eager employers.
Spivey’s takeaways? Explicitly stating that you’re black on job sites may sadly limit your prospects, white people—despite the economy—have an easier time finding a job, and the economy would flourish if everyone was given an equal chance.