IT Employment optimize

Should you be concerned with name discrimination on your resume?

Discrimination because of surname is not a new practice. It's so common that members of some minorities have taken to changing theirs in order to improve their economic prospects. But discrimination doesn't stop with the last name.

Discrimination because of surname is not a new practice. It's so common that members of some minorities have taken to changing theirs in order to improve their economic prospects.  But discrimination doesn't stop with the last name. Here is a piece from CBSNews that talks about distinctive names and their effects on resumes: ‘Black' Names A Resume Burden?.

A 2003 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research called "Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," demonstrated that a "white sounding" name on a résumé yielded as many callbacks as an additional eight years of experience, and that it yielded 50 percent more callbacks.

Studies have shown that recruiters and hiring managers -- consciously or not -- assess candidates on the basis of a name and that common names were best liked and most likely to be hired.  Even more discouraging is that a hiring manager could have his or her own bad association with a name. If the first name on a resume is the same as that person's evil stepmother, there might be some psychology going on that would get that resume sent to the trash.

So what can be done? Not much about the psychology, unfortunately. But some talent management software-like Hazlet -- offers users options for keeping candidate names hidden.

I suppose some candidates could use initials, but who knows if that would tick off some hiring manager because it comes across as pretentious?

Clearly, there are no easy answers. I'd like to hear from those of you who believe you have been discriminated against because of your name. Or maybe some hiring managers would like to chime in?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

94 comments
robtbriggs
robtbriggs

1. What percentage of jobs are found through newspaper help wanted ads? 2. What does the "50% increased callback rate" really mean? 6% vice 4%?

Trentski
Trentski

This writer is always stuffing up, the other day, where she spoke about a topic different from the heading and now, doesn't finish the article, steer clear of articles written by Toni Bowers

sissy sue
sissy sue

...where you could spell all the first names of the children in your class: John, Sue, Patty, etc. You couldn't tell the race of the child by first name. Joyce, Carolyn and Ray didn't sound black or white, but they were actually African-Americans with whom I went to school. In the 1970s, as my generation had children, many black parents didn't want to give their children traditional "white" names. So they became more imaginative, giving their children unique and "African-sounding" names. Nowadays, both white and black parents can get pretty imaginative with their children's names. You end up with something unique that no one can spell. This article demonstrates how this can haunt a person all his/her life. Maybe I'm an old poop, but I prefer a simple, traditional name. In the long run, it's a better choice for a child.

FAST!!!
FAST!!!

I have a unisex first name and I always put Mr. in front of it to avoid the discrimination of being confused as a women.

RG1979
RG1979

Being from the Detroit area, people do have different cultures whether they are black or white. I do agree that it is not proper to discriminate on the basis of a name (or at all in fact), but I believe the reason someone may do this is because of what they are aware of the difference in cultures between the races. Although this is not 100% of the case, there is a good possibility that a hiring manager may think that one race may act better than the other, unconsciously, thus the discrimination occurs. Goodness knows, it does not happen just to people of color, it happens even to people who happen to have a name that does not match their culture according to society. Some people thought/think I am one race when I am the opposite, so I have been passed up for jobs many times, but at the same time I am glad that did happen otherwise I would not be where I am today. Would someone be more willing to hire a Rochelle, Richell, Michelle, or LuChanna? And Why? In your opinion.

PCcritic
PCcritic

but it seems that the software won't print an accented vowel!

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

Sometimes the predjudices of hiring managers can be favorable toward a specific group, but this discriminates against other capable groups. Examples that come to mind are those who believe that all Asian persons are math whizzes or certain countries have the best scientists, doctors and programmers. The bad thing about these viewpoints are that hiring managers should not discriminate and be open-minded to get the best candidate.

SemiSpook
SemiSpook

My wife previously taught high school social studies in a major city. Taking a quick glance at her files, I couldn't believe some of the names these children had. It was rather disheartening and, quite frankly, really sad to see. So many permutations on names (many of which were just atrocious spellings of an otherwise decent name), as well as some names that for whatever reason didn't strike me as a necessarily great idea. It's unfortunate, and I would hope that many of these kids that do have a future take the necessary steps to correct this issue by legally changing their name at the first opportunity. For many of these kids, it's really not their fault, but they don't have to live with it, either. Just don't get me started on Le-a, okay? :-)

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Your address is also used as discrimination (this was demonstrated since long, at least in France, around PAris, depending on the suburb where you live). Some locations have bad reputation, often due to their exposition in the TV news, and conciously or not, are discriminated exactly like ethnical original or nationality. There are also positive addresses that rally boost your job experience. But even within the same city, there are "good" and "bad" addresses...

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

But she sure has generated a discussion, hasn't she? Objective accomplished.

davrays
davrays

Well, Tony's articles may not be as polished as we would like them to be, but she finds very interesting topics and sometimes makes me think of something I would never did otherwise. So I would tell - "Always check for articles from Tony Bower. There is a big chance you find something interesting." As for the finishing the article... actually open topics leave more room for thoughts :)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Arrange the names on a list. Number them. Pick a number. Presto! "Hey, 22c Williams, how's that data validation coming along? "Stuff you 1z Jones!" The letter append is to disambiguate, and relative to each organization.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

why you are sissy sue and not sissi sue. ;) When I was teaching, all the girls' names that ended in 'y' when we were growing up ended in 'i'. So, instead of Tracy, Brittany, and Kelly, I had Traci, Brittani, and Kelli. And, of course (showing my prejudices here... :D ), they all lived in developments with a pretentious e at the end of the name: Belle Woode, Cedar Pointe, and Cold Springe.

jwhite
jwhite

Then make it their MIDDLE name! So they can use it when they want to seem unique, and not use it when they're embarassed!

ghchristmas
ghchristmas

As you state, a traditional name, in the long run, is a better choice. Of course. What's so hard for parents who name their children outlandish names to understand about this? I can't figure it out.

SirWizard
SirWizard

I have a friend and professional reference named Abelardo, but he goes by Abby. I always prefix his name with Mr. to prevent surprises when he gets called to discuss my professional work. Before I changed my always-misspelled and misheard names some 31 years ago, I used to get a lot of mail addressed to Miss or Ms. Now, I attribute the very rare mailing addressed to Miss Steven ... as the handiwork of the same software that mailed an offer to one of my previous employers addressed: Dear Mr. & Mrs. Lightwave Electronics.

wordwytch
wordwytch

I too have a gender bender first name. In school I ended up in all the "boy" classes because no one looked farther than the name. As an adult, I've gotten numerous letters addressed to MR. ****. Sorry, not me. As for the job scene.... I have been discriminated against during interviews. They read the resume, assume I'm male, but when I show up for the interview, boom... Even had one just about say that I just didn't qualify because I was female. Grrrrr.... I've tried adding my middle name which is feminine and still get the "Gee, I thought you were a guy" bullshit.

RG1979
RG1979

Yes, I guess I should start doing that when I sent out emails, I'm always receiving email communications (replys no less) and mail where I am addressed as Mr. What happened and when? I wasn't there! lol

jwhite
jwhite

Michelle. Definitely. Here's why (and the other problem with having a unique name) - sure it's not politically correct to discriminate based on a name, but it's going to happen at least subconsciously with any hiring manager, whether they admit to it or not. If someone has a crazy first name, you might assume (yes I'm obviously generalizing here) that their parents are whacky or are not that bright, and therefore this person with the unique name has a higher chance of being those two things - taking after their parents, like many people do.

sparent
sparent

To embed accented characters in your messages, simply follow the regular HTML rules. For example, to get é, you would insert & e a c u t e (interletter spaces should be removed)

SirWizard
SirWizard

Unfortuantely, this interface doesn't allow ?? ASCII 0233 or other such characters. Contrary to your other post, the preferred spelling for resume has both of the E's with acute accents. That's how I spell it, as do the folks who publish Webster's Dictionary.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

simple extrapolation will show that in the future almost 90% of each generation will be popstars, so they'll need their unique names, for sure :D

jkowal5
jkowal5

I wonder if you know the same Le-a that I do! In Newburgh? Pronounced Ledasha? That was so funny to see you write that!!

ghchristmas
ghchristmas

I suppose the parents think they are being "unique" or "hip" but, as you point out so clearly, and as horace.lindsay states, it's the kids who suffer and the parents who complain.

horace.lindsay
horace.lindsay

I agree with you 100%. I worked with a fellow who named his daughters 'Princess Miriam Makeba' and 'Ebony', then have the nerve to complain that they are being teased at school.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I've never discriminated based on address. Some people have suggested we discriminate against those who have a long drive in, but as someone who does an hour commute each way, I can't condone that. I did discriminate against a well qualified candidate who couldn't find our office building. He was 30 minutes late. He didn't call me to tell me he would be late, but he did call the recruiter who got him the interview. He told him that he was having a hard time finding the place. Our building is 150 yards from a subway stop. We are 500 yards from the exit/entrance to the country's biggest highway. Our companies name in 8 foot letters is on our building, and is visible from that highway. If someone can't use google maps or mapquest to figure out where we are, they aren't trying.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Springe should rhyme with m...., right? ;) Sissi means guerilla fighter in Finnish, by the way. On the off chance that Finnish immigrants have chosen to name their US-born daughter "Sissi", better err on the side of caution.

larojas
larojas

It's actually & e a c u t e ; (with a trailing semicolon). The fact that Internet Explorer still renders the accented char whithout the semicolon is because of its tendency not to follow standards and to be lax about everything.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

To get é, you would insert & e a c u t e ; Do not forget the semicolon. You can find a list of the characters, codes, and names here.

gcdimarketing
gcdimarketing

At the risk of never getting a job with your company, I'd like to point out that you can't seem to find the spell check button on your computer that is directly in front of you, so why do you find it hard to believe that a person unfamiliar with the area might have a problem finding your building? Oh never mind, I'm not looking for a job anyway.

sframberger
sframberger

"I did discriminate against a well qualified candidate who couldn't find our office building." Which is why on the night before an interview, I drive to the location and scout it out using a Mapquest printout. Keeps the stress levels down and arriving early to an interview is always good.

JamesRL
JamesRL

There isn't a spell check button on my computer by the way, and I'd be very interested in learning about such a feature. For the record, a spell check would not have discovered I used "countries" where I meant countries. And I didn't capitalize Google or Mapquest. But I was posting on an internet forum. If I was looking for a job, you can bet I would take more care. Including finding out exactly where it is I need to be for an interview, so that I can be there on time. I've been a job hunter. I've done my homework. If you really want a job, then you have to be prepared to put some effort into it. When I interviewed at my current employer, I spent hours reading about the company on the internet, I read about the market, I read about the competitors, the company's financial situation, everything I could find. Because I had never been to the area before, I printed out a map of how to get there. I gave myself plenty of time, and I arrived 30 minutes ahead of the interview and had a coffee in the deli in the building, before heading up 10 minutes before my interview. Do you think that making an effort isn't worth it?

Ryalsbane
Ryalsbane

If your grammar, usage, punctuation and spelling were anything like what is in your post, I doubt having it at the interview would have made much difference.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I wouldn't fail anyone for not bringing their resume. Sorry just me. I obviously have read the resume, otherwise I wouldn't be interviewing the candidate. I always have a copy with me, the copy that I made my initial notes on. I realize it is good advise to tell job seekers to bring multiple copies to the interview in case they are needed, but that is one thing I wouldn't hold against someone. As for mercy, I've got lots of compassion and mercy in my life. But if I have to choose between two equally qualified candidates, I'm going to chose the one that makes the fewest mistakes in the interview. I've been on the other side of the fence. I've been job hunting in a very tough market. I don't expect people to hire me unless I'm the best candidate.

flame06
flame06

A common sayin, "dress the way you want to be addressed,"also, "you can't get a second chance to make a first impression." If indeed the job is important to you, you would definitely scout out the address b4 the D day or you'll try to be at the location 3hrs b4 time(since u know not the address). This to a large extent will show how the person in question will handle company's business... As for the fashion aspect, i think Mr James must be an admirer of good clothing cos anyone at all could make a mistake and forget anything (this tells us of our imperfect nature), Esp if one is really nervous about ones proposed job. Even Mr J would have had such an experience in one area of his life or the other. PLEASE TAMPER JUSTICE WITH MERCY TIME TO TIME. Once, i was so excited about an interview in a foreign land where people of my nationality were hardly called for an interview talk more given a job, that i took everything(residence permit,certificates,...even things that weren't really required just in case cos i didnt want to blow this one time opportunity) but then forgot the main thing "A copy of my resume." On getting there, i was called upon and as i was steppping in, it just hit me,MY RESUME!!! unfortunately for me, Guess the first question, can we have your resume? then i started to look...just then i knew my fate and that was it. In fact the man told me to my face, U HAVE FAILED THIS INTERVIEW! They didn't even ask me any other question... So Mr James???

surely_hema
surely_hema

This was back in early days of Google Maps...and I was well acquainted with the city I was visiting (hence there was no need to go hovering around the buildings), except ofcourse not the specific numbers on the street, which is what I was looking for from the Google Maps to see which end of the street I have to be on. And yes, I got my lesson in not relying on google maps again for such things and warned a lot of others too. The rest is history which everyone knows about - a lot of stories of people even driving into ponds and rivers...following their navigation devices and maps (and some of it is still in the making). And lastly, everything aside, I was not hired because I did not meet some of their very specific (unadvertised) requirements for the specific role. And yes, I have never been late for any other interview ever yet even without such massive preparations. And lastly, if I was taken hostage, I won't be coming for interview, and will definitely have to reschedule. : )

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

To JamesRL: I both read the book and watched the movie. In both, he didn't look his best. If my memory serves me correctly, what he wore was not clean. If this is incorrect, forgive me. I was only trying to make a point to overlook fashion. Also, I now better see your point about the shoes and lack of preparation in this situation.

ThePickle
ThePickle

If you knew you had an interview on a specific day, it was YOUR responsibility to look up the address AND to go and find the address a day or two before your actual interview. By doing that, you completely eliminate any problems related to timing or directions. You would've known exactly where the place was, and you would've known exactly which route to take and how much time it will take you to get there on the actual day of the interview. There's never any valid excuse for being late for an interview, with VERY few exceptions, like for example if you were taken hostage while on your way down there, or you saw a child clinging to a balcony and needed to stand there to break his fall so as to save his life. But blaming Google for your lack of preparation isn't going to garner you any sympathy with most hiring managers.

JamesRL
JamesRL

If you have two candidates equally qualified, should you ignore someone who shows up late for the interview? I know things happen. And for a candidate who is clearly head and shoulder above the rest, I'd make an exception. But if there is more than one candidate who can do the job, I have to go with the one who managed to make it on time. When I was interviewing, I always planned to be there 30 minutes ahead, and then found a place for a coffee to wait till the time. That means you aren't headed to the interview stressed out.

surely_hema
surely_hema

I once went for an interview, well prepared, well dressed, left home well in time and reached city well in time. Had googled the address and printed the map, and as soon as I reached the address as per the google maps, I realised it was wrong, after checking around I found out that the correct address was at the other end of the street. Damn Google Maps! Started walking back and tried calling everyone that I could and finally left message for the interviewer. On the way rain started pouring and not to mention my hair, shoes and dress did get somewhat crappy...reached for the interview about 15 minutes late (where I should have been 10 minutes early as per my timing)...and yes...I did not get the job even after totally giving it 110% of my effort and being completely honest about what happened. And as for this guy, you mentioned about, I would probably give him a break for atleast being honest and yes although he could have gone and bought a new pair of shoes...but did he have the money? Or he could have requested to reschedule the interview...but did he have money for the travel again? Sometimes the candidates looking for jobs are living hand to mouth and travelling for interviews is the biggest burden. Sometime back one of my friends was asked to travel from overseas for his first interview on his own expenses...obviously with no guarantee for success (especially since it was the first interview...not the final interview). Just imagine...how many of such interviews one can afford to have and to reschedule?

JamesRL
JamesRL

You know what he was wearing because you read a biography or because you saw the movie.? As for crappy shoes, the guy was wearing shoes that I would have thrown in the garbage if my son was wearing them; sneakers that were breaking down, soles almost worn through and dirty. And as I mentioned; a) he had time to buy new shoes, and b) it isn't about fashion, its about being prepared. I did one time stay over at a GF's place (she is now my wife) and didn't have a tie to wear. My job started at 9. I found a menswear place that opened at 9 and got there and bought a tie, and tied it on my way to work. I was less than 5 minutes late. My company has many sales people, and a fairly high turn over. I've seen many sales people sitting in the lobby waiting to be interviewed. If circumstances happened where they didn't have suitable clothing, they would have been better off asking to have the interview rescheduled.

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

Yes, and I'm pretty sure his sales experience helped. My point was that if Chris Gardner can have a successful interview without dressing up, wearing crappy shoes shouldn't matter.

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

"Crappy shoes" sounds extreme to me, but they must have been really bad to feel so strongly about it.

JamesRL
JamesRL

That with his honesty and determination, if he hadn't gotten that job, he would have found another. You are describing Christopher Gardner right? He had been a salesman, selling medical devices. He had suits.

Ryalsbane
Ryalsbane

Agreed, there are exceptions to every rule, but showing up at an interview in a nice suit and crappy shoes does not fit your extreme example.

Ryalsbane
Ryalsbane

As in, lack of attention to detail and focus, poor time management and due consideration to preparation.

Ryalsbane
Ryalsbane

I don't just lay out what I'm going to wear. If it has been a while since I last wore it, I try everything on to make sure it all fits well. When I have found myself in the position of not having appropriate footwear, I went and bought new ones. That's what it means to "put your best foot forward."

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

A true story: A man just got out of jail (for a trumped-up charge he was not guilty of) on the morning of an internship interview with an investment house. He didn't have time to dress up but was determined to make the interview and showed up on time without looking his best. His honesty and determination got him an internship, and he became successful in the field and eventually rose to the top and started his own investment house.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I'm not a fashionista by any stretch. It has to do with being prepared. An interview is your opportunity to show yourself in the best light, to present yourself at your best. If you don't prepare, what does that say about how much you want the job, or how your approach to doing the job will be. Like I said, the other applicant had a nasty suit, but at least he took the time and effort to try his best.

konja7880
konja7880

Dear Mr. James, Are you hiring for some kind of clothing company or this is a competition how one can dress up? In my opinion people are looking for job because they need money not because they have. So what if he forgot the shoes, is that listed in the skills for the job you are hiring for? Its not the expensive clothes and shoes make the person, the skills and experience is. I would remove you permanently from hiring committee!

fhrivers
fhrivers

What about their qualifications??? Or are you a Miss America judge falling back on what you know best?

JamesRL
JamesRL

Liking one wine over another and buying it, thats discrimination. Preferring one brand of car over another is discrimination. I don't discriminate based on demographics, that I do think is bad, but I will discriminate on many factors. What made me laugh was the guy asked for another chance, through the agent. The agent sensed my mood, and didn't have to ask what the response would be. I had one interview, where one applicant came in with a cheap suit. But it was clear he spent time looking the best he could. The next applicant came in with a decent suit, but crappy shoes. I didn't ask, but he felt compelled to tell me anyways that he lived out of town but came in yesterday and stayed overnight with his girlfriend, to discover in the AM that he forgot his dress shoes. Obviously his priorities weren't on the interview. I lay out my clothes the night before. He had time before the interview to buy shoes.