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Two ways the CV makes fair grad hiring impossible (and an easy “no knowledge” workaround)

Tuesday 31st August

Two ways the CV makes fair grad hiring impossible (and an easy “no knowledge” workaround)

The CV, bias, and “shoshin

There’s a powerful concept in Zen Buddhism that you might’ve heard of. 

It’s called shoshin – which, roughly translated, means “beginner’s mind”. Shoshin tells us to stay open, avoid preconceptions, and accept every possibility. “Okay”, you say, “but what’s that got to do with graduate recruitment?”

Well, let’s just say it’s tricky to keep a beginner’s mind when you’re hiring graduates. Natural biases oppose that goal of openness, preventing true diversity at work. You might’ve already found this out. But, in this story, there’s one character that often flies below the radar. One that encourages bias, and holds your grad hiring back: 

The CV. 

Here are two reasons why the CV prevents fair, inclusive graduate recruitment (and one way you can go full shoshin, staying open to grads of all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities – all the time, effortlessly):

No objective data (or, experience)

Research by the Resolution Foundation shows that fewer grads than ever have any work experience. That means most CVs lack the basic information they’re designed to contain – making them fairly unhelpful when it comes to gauging candidates’ true potential. 

But, worse, this lack of useful data forces recruiters to look at subjective information instead. This leads to a bias minefield – making it impossible to assess grads fairly. Here’s just a few examples of this subjective info, and the biases they can lead to:


We can all agree that a graduate’s name won’t accurately predict their future performance at work. 

But there’s clear evidence from Oxford University (and elsewhere) showing that the name on their CV does affect how recruiters see people. Oxford found that those with foreign-sounding names send up to 80% more applications before they’re invited to interview:

  • Pakistani-sounding names → 60% more applications
  • Nigerian & South Asian names → 70%
  • Middle Eastern & North African names → 80%

Names on CVs also promote gender bias, according to this UK study from 2006, and a further US study from 2012. So, just by showing you a name, CVs immediately encourage unfair graduate hiring.


In 2015, law firm Clifford Chance stopped showing their grad scheme candidates’ educational records to recruiters and hiring managers. The result? An increase of almost 30% in the number of educational establishments they hired from. In total, they brought in 100 grads from 41 colleges and universities.

By cutting education from grads’ CVs, they counterracted a bias for elite institutions like Eton, Oxford and Cambridge. Clifford Chance’s example shows that education is just another way CVs encourage bias in employers’ graduate recruitment programme.

Bonus: LinkedIn profile

Okay, so this isn’t technically their CV. But an increasing number of graduates use LinkedIn now, and they’ll often add their profile’s URL to their CV.

So, what’s the issue?

Well, if a candidate’s CV indicates certain characteristics – their ethnicity or gender, for example – one glance at their LinkedIn picture will usually confirm them. This has two effects:

  1. It activates existing biases
  2. It can introduce new biases into the equation, e.g. based on class, or perceived attractiveness. 

Ultimately, in a grad’s CV, the subjective (name, school, etc) far outweighs the objective (work experience). In short, this makes them a truly unfair can of worms.

Experience inequality

So, most candidates don’t have any work experience. But there’s still a considerable minority who do. Should that set them apart? Does that immediately make them more suitable candidates? 

Not necessarily – and assuming that it does can lead to hiring the same types of people, again and again. Here’s why:

It turns out, networking and family connections account for up to 85% of all roles filled. So, any experience on a grad’s CV doesn’t necessarily reflect what they know – it often shows who they know. And, if you rely solely on experience to rank your graduates, you’re more likely to unfairly favour those lucky few who’ve had more opportunities to network, attend events, etc. 

The upshot? You’ll never truly tap into talent from less privileged groups. Again, it’s a case of the CV holding your grad hiring back.

Levelling the grad playing field, with behaviour-based assessments

So CVs introduce bias in a whole heap of ways – making them counterproductive at best, and dangerous at worst. But, if you remember, we promised you an easy, “no knowledge” way to level the playing field – to stay open to grads of all kinds….

That is, behaviour-based assessments. Here’s how they help you fast, fair & effective graduate hiring process:

  • Objective insight – Replace subjective data with objective insight into your graduates’ unique behaviour and natural strengths
  • Measure what matters – Consistently measure every candidate on the behaviours that matter for the role, and nothing else 
  • Level the playing field – Put aside age, gender, ethnicity, background and neurotype, and give your grads a fair shot.

At Arctic Shores, we’re seeing more progressive employers turn the page on CVs, and dare to be different in how they assess graduate potential. Losing faith in the CV yourself? Get in touch to discover how our psychometric assessment can help you see more in your grads.

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