Numerous resume studies have documented racial disparities in callback rates for interviews. This study tries to figure out why:
Black applicants faced major discrimination when applying for jobs with a customer focus. Researchers looked for jobs with words like “customer,” “sales,” “advisor,” “representative,” “agent,” and “loan officer” in the description. For jobs such as these, the discrimination gap soared. Instead of facing a 2.8 percentage-point gap between callback rates for whites and blacks, they faced a 4.4-point gap.
For jobs with descriptions that lacked those terms and were instead focused on interaction with coworkers, the level of discrimination collapsed. Descriptions with terms such as “manager,” “administrator,” “coordinator,” “operations,” and so forth, the difference in callback rates was 0.1 to 0.3 percentage points.
In other words, the problem isn’t that Joe Smith doesn’t want to hire young African-Americans, but that he is worried that if he hires a black sales associate, old Mrs. Jones may take her business elsewhere.