Reader Question: When I wrote my first resume, it was standard to include my full street address, city, state and zip code. But lately, I’m seeing resume experts recommending to include only city and state. Which is right?
Once Upon A Time, in the Olden Days, people who wanted to apply for a job had to print their resume and cover letter on paper, fold it up, place it in an envelope, and pay the U.S. Postal Service to deliver it to a prospective employer. If the applicant included their phone number on their resume, the employer would pick up a telephone and speak with the applicant to schedule an interview, at the employer’s office. If the applicant was not selected for further consideration, the employer would print out a form letter saying, essentially, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and send it in the postal mail to the employee.
This is how things worked when I first entered the job market after college. My, how times have changed.
Nowadays, all employment-related correspondence occurs digitally. Applicants either attach their documents to an email and send it, or they upload it through an applicant tracking system (ATS). An auto-response indicates your application was received.
These modern methods save everyone both time and postage costs. And, they have the potential to eliminate some areas of implicit bias that are possible when an employer knows an employee’s physical address:
Commute-related bias. When I was a young HR assistant, it wasn’t uncommon for a hiring manager to look at a candidate’s address and say, oh, she won’t want to drive to our office from where she lives. That’s a long commute *without* traffic. We need her here on time every day. What if she can’t get here?
In those days, hiring managers would sometimes ask if a candidate had their own car, or easy access to public transportation. The problem with this is – I hope – obvious: hiring managers would pass on qualified candidates who “lived too far away” from the office.
Similarly, candidates whose address placed them close to the office often were preferred. The thinking went, if they live close, they can get here when it snows and are less likely to experience delays due to bad traffic.
Hear me, hiring managers: It is up to the candidate to get to your office on the agreed-upon schedule. It is not your concern whether she has a car or rides with someone else or rides a bicycle or takes three different buses to get there. If she can get there on time and work the hours, that is all you need to know.
Zip code bias. This one is related to the first one. Let’s say you have two candidates for a job: Jane and Jean. Jane lives in a posh neighborhood known for its large homes owned mainly by affluent, white-collar professionals, and Jean lives in an area that is decidedly lower-rent, and generally home to more blue-collar workers. A hiring manager might bring all kinds of personal biases and prejudices to the table when considering these candidates. They might think Jane deserves a higher salary because of where she lives – or that they can offer her a lower wage because “her husband probably has a high salary.” The might assume Jean won’t be expecting a high wage because where she lives, people “don’t earn as much,” or that she’ll work harder because “she probably really needs this job to keep her family afloat.” The hiring manager is inventing stories about these two candidates that might be a far cry from either one’s reality, based solely on the candidates’ zip codes. By leaving it off your resume, you force the hiring manager to go straight to the “meat” of your resume.
Privacy. Now that we all communicate by email or other digital means, there’s just no reason for anyone to know your street address during the application process. Listing it might provide data that would enable an easy Google search where the hiring company could learn information about you that you’d rather not be considered in the hiring decision.
Of course, once you receive a verbal offer, then the employer does need to know your physical address. They’ll want to include it in your offer letter, and it will be necessary if they run a pre-employment background check on you. It affects how they pay unemployment taxes and provide worker’s compensation insurance on your behalf. So, don’t be dodgy about it once you’re hired. But before then? No need to share. At minimum, that information takes up valuable space on the most important part of your resume – space that’s better devoted to communicating your personal brand.