How Ex-Google/Uber/X LinkedIn headlines drive discriminatory hiring

I had a very fruitful marketing brainstorm session last week with my Marketing team here at Equalture. We were discussing strategies to increase awareness around unconscious biases in hiring. Strategies to confront hiring managers with their own biases, and therefore with their own individual contribution to keeping alive a hiring method that can and will result in unfairness only. 

Halfway through this session, we started talking about the CV, and how a CV often results in having a completely inaccurate impression of someone. Sometimes better than it should be, and oftentimes worse than it should be. At that exact moment, I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed and stumbled upon one of the many people in my timeline with an Ex-Google/Uber/Whatever in their headline. I said to my Head of Marketing: ‘’This is the perfect example of how worthless and misleading CV-based hiring is these days.’’ He asked me why.

Now, before diving into my answer to his question, let’s first clarify two things. 

First of all, it’s absolutely not my intention to offend anyone who has Ex-Google/Uber/Netflix/etc. in their LinkedIn headline. Because I fully understand why you do it. However, I do want to explain why it might unconsciously lead to even more unfairness in hiring. And secondly, to all hiring managers who are reading this blog: You are and should feel responsible for the unfairness in hiring, caused by this trend. I am not holding candidates accountable. I hold you accountable instead.

Let’s take a look at ‘the big boys’ we brag about most

When scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, the names I see most regularly are Google, Uber, Netflix, BCG, Bain, and McKinsey. I also used to see Facebook every now and then, but fortunately, more and more people seem to have decided to remove that one from their headline. Now, let’s first take a look at Google, Uber, and Netflix, before diving into BCG and Bain. 

The one thing Google, Uber, and Netflix have in common: Sexual harassment cases

Actually, they have more in common than just one thing. But what stood out to me most is that all three companies have made it to the headlines of an article around sexual harassment:

  • In 2017, a former Netflix HR director accused the company of routinely “tolerating harassment and discrimination” by its executives. Netflix denied it, but settled a case;
  • In 2019, Uber had to pay up to $4.4 million to alleged gender discrimination victims after EEOC investigation;
  • In 2020, Google paid $320 million to settle sexual harassment claims. 

Despite this, most of my Ex-Google/Uber/Netflix connections have included this experience in their headline. Maybe not even mainly because they are proud of it, but probably because it makes you stand out when applying for a job. 

The one thing that BCG, Bain, and McKinsey have in common: The prestigious university syndrome

The one good thing: Neither of these three companies has been featured in the news as bad as the ones mentioned above. In fact, I have a lot of friends who either work at one of these three strategy consulting firms, or are trying very hard to get in. This also provided me with a lot of insights into their hiring process.

Not too long ago, I spoke with a partner from Bain to talk about their hiring process. He told me that, as they are in such a luxury position when it comes to hiring, they have added the following to their screening process.

For companies like Bain, a candidate’s educational experience is (unfortunately) extremely important. And not only what degree you acquired, but also where you acquired this. Universities and business schools are categorized, based on their ranking or prestige. Graduated from Harvard or Stanford? Then you’re safe. Two ‘minor details’ though: 

  • You can’t go to either Harvard or Stanford, unless you’re rich enough to pay ten thousands of euros for your degree;
  • The top business schools are in Europe and the US, so people from other continents who can’t relocate are also out.

So, what’s going wrong here?

Let’s say a hiring manager has two profiles on their desk for a Head of Finance position at a unicorn. Candidate number one has previous experience at Uber. Candidate number two has equal experiences but at less ‘well-known’ companies. I am 99% sure that the hiring manager picks candidate number one. Not because they know for sure that candidate one is more suitable for the job than candidate two. Just because of Uber. And as candidates also know that’s how it goes, they will never remove ex-Uber from their headlines.

The ironic part here is that I personally know someone who worked at Uber for a while, in a position that would definitely look good on your LinkedIn. However, looks are deceiving, because this person also told me that they did not learn anything in this job, as a result of being micromanaged and having to work in a toxic environment. 

So, this person might have been hired based on what a hiring manager assumes they have done and learned, while the reality is that there were hardly any learnings or relevant experiences to bring to a new job. 

How this drives unfair hiring practices: The Halo Effect & Contrast Effect

If we only want to hire people who have worked at well-known companies, even if these companies have been in the news for terrible things, we instantly filter out all candidates who might not have a well-known brand of their resume but do have the skills and behaviors to become a top-performer. 

And if we only want to hire people who have graduated from the most prestigious universities, we instantly filter out all candidates who couldn’t afford to graduate at these universities but do have the level of intelligence you are looking for. Because that’s what university-focused hiring is all about – an attempt to be sure about someone’s intelligence. 

Both cases are examples of two different biases:

  • Halo Effect: One positive thing about a candidate makes you wrongfully look much more positively at all other aspects of this candidate.
  • Contrast Effect: This happens when we compare two or more candidates. When you have seen a very ‘impressive’ profile (even though your perception of impressive might be based on the wrong aspects), you unconsciously will raise the bar for the next profile you’re looking at. 

How Equalture can help

We help companies hire people based on what’s actually predictive for job fit and culture fit: Cognitive skills, behavior, and personality. Instead of assuming that someone has a high analytical intelligence because they went to Harvard, we actually measure this for you. 

We have built a library of scientifically-validated gamified assessments, which candidates are asked to complete right at the start of the hiring process (this takes around 15 minutes). This ensures a first impression based on science, instead of wrong assumptions based on someone’s LinkedIn headline. 

Want to try a game yourself?

A visual of one of the games that is non-cheatable and measures a specific skill/personality trait.

A previous experience at Google or Uber isn’t a guarantee for a successful hire. In fact, it’s often the candidates with a LinkedIn profile that makes them the underdog who turn out to be the best hires you ever made. If you’d like to start judging candidates based on what actually matters, you know where to find us.

Charlotte Melkert Co-Founder and CEO of Equalture in Portrait picture

Cheers, Charlotte

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