Thousands of randomly created resumes were sent by email in response to job postings across multiple occupations in the Greater Toronto Area between April and November 2008. An additional set of resumes was sent across Toronto, and Montreal between February and September 2009 in order to improve precision and consider effects from adding other attributes. The resumes were designed to plausibly represent typical immigrants who arrived recently under the Canadian point system from China, India, and Pakistan (the current top three source countries) and Britain, as well as non-immigrants with and without ethnic-sounding names (including Greek names). They were constructed after consulting actual resumes of recent immigrants and online submissions. The sample of jobs I applied to represent all jobs posted during these periods that accepted applications via direct e-mail and generally required three to seven years of experience and an undergraduate degree. Positions that specifically required at least a graduate degree, North American experience, or certification were ignored.
With few exceptions, four resumes were sent to each employer over a two- to three-day period in random order. The first represented an applicant with an English sounding name, Canadian undergraduate education, and Canadian experience (Type 0). The second resume had instead a foreign sounding name (Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, or Greek), but still listed Canadian undergraduate education and Canadian experience (Type 1). The third resume included a foreign sounding name (Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani), corresponding foreign undergraduate degree, and Canadian experience (Type 2). The fourth included a foreign sounding name, foreign education, and some foreign experience (Type 3) or all foreign experience (Type 4). I also randomized applicants’ alma mater, whether the applicant listed being fluent in multiple languages (including French), whether they had additional Canadian education credentials, and whether their job experience was from well recognized multinational firms or large firms, or not. To address concerns whether employers shy away from resumes with foreign credentials because of additional costs in contacting references or concerns about legal working status, I also randomize a subset of resumes with foreign experience to list Canadian references (with a local telephone number) and explicitly list permanent residency status. The total sample size is 12,910 resumes, sent in response to 3,225 job postings. The trial was stratified on the candidate type (0-4) by job postings.
Work experiences were constructed from actual resumes accessible online. The descriptions were sufficiently altered to create distinct sets that would not be associated with actual people, but I also tried to maintain original overall content and form. Each resume listed the job title, job description, company name, and city location for an applicant’s three most recent jobs covering four to six years, with the first job beginning in the same year as the applicant’s undergraduate degree completion. The city listed was always the same (except for Type 3 resumes). Experience sets were constructed for 20 different occupation categories, almost all the same ones used by the online job site workopolis.com. In addition, company names were also independent of resume type for about half the sample. International companies were chosen wherever possible to keep the experience sets identical across immigrant and non-immigrant resumes except for location (for example ABC Inc., Toronto versus ABC Inc., Mumbai). In cases where no obvious international company was available, I picked closely related companies in size and industry. Alma mater was picked randomly from a list of about four universities in the same country as the applicant’s corresponding name and in the same proximity to the applicant’s location of experience. About half of the universities were listed in the 2008 QS World University Rankings’ Top 200. The other universities were less prestigious. Manipulation of this characteristic helps examine whether employers prefer applicants with degrees from Canada even in cases where, all else constant, other applicants have foreign degrees from arguably the most selective schools in China, India, or Pakistan. 20 percent of resumes, except those of Type 4, were randomly assigned Canadian master’s degrees.15 Master’s degrees were occupation specific and completed during the same three year period as the applicant’s most recent (Canadian) experience, so that it looked like the applicant was enrolled part-time while working full-time.
Language skills and extracurricular activities were also manipulated to help explore whether language or cultural concerns underlie callback differences. I randomly selected 20 percent of resumes in Toronto to list fluency in multiple languages and 60 percent of resumes in Montreal. Resumes with English or Greek sounding names listed fluency in English and French. The other resumes listed fluency in English, French, and the applicant’s mother tongue (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, or Punjabi), depending on the applicant’s ethnic name origin. In addition, 60 percent of resumes listed active extracurricular activities. One of three possible sets was chosen listing characteristics such as volunteer initiative (e.g., Big Brother/Sister, Habitat for Humanity), social interests (e.g., competitive squash player, classical pianist) and proactive work skills (e.g., excellent common sense, judgment, and decision-making abilities).
Since resumes had to look different when sending to the same employer, I also randomized each applicant’s cover letter (i.e., a short, general message sent as a part of the e-mail text), and the e-mail subject line and the resume file name (resumes were saved as pdf files unless word documents were specifically requested). I randomized each resume’s layout, residential address and telephone number (all possibilities were within Toronto or Montreal. Each applicant listed three previous jobs, with earlier years of experience being over two, three, or four years for each particular job, and with the most recent job always being listed as starting from the year the bachelor’s degree was obtained. I randomized each applicant’s e-mail address and resume profile, which was listed near the top of the resume. Within each occupation, profiles were selected randomly from five sets. On average, all resumes are the same across description of job experience, years of schooling, style of resume, and cover e-mail.
Multiple telephone numbers and two e-mail accounts for each name were set up to collect employer responses. Employers who telephoned an applicant received the same automatically generated message mentioning the number dialed and a request to leave a message. Messages and e-mails were recorded and redirected to a single e-mail address. Responses were classified as callbacks, if the employer requested an applicant to contact them (not just for clarification). Responses were classified as requests for interviews, if one was specifically mentioned. Employers that contacted an applicant twice were contacted themselves during off-hours by e-mail or phone message and told that the applicant had accepted another position and was no longer looking for employment. I also recorded measures of language and social skills associated with each job using the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). The purpose was to examine whether callback differences across resume types differ by the extent to which jobs require language or social skills. For each job title, I recorded the O*NET’s corresponding skill measure for speaking, writing and, social perceptiveness.