Name Discrimination! How It Affects Job and Career Choices, Life Status, Overall Success

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-07-0251

Strange but true.

We live in a fairly prejudiced world. But “name discrimination” takes the cake. Maybe my diversified work place and my exposure to one of the most liberal work environments in the world (here in San Francisco, CA) has somehow conned me into thinking that things were cool at the office. Not to mention that all the companies I’ve worked for have solid stances on equal opportunity.

While there are many forms of discrimination that continue to proliferate in society, one of the silliest I’ve encountered involves our very own names. Here’s a simple example: what would you think if you came across a highly unusual sounding name? It’s way too easy to form an opinion now, right? Stereotypes abound, and your name can very well dictate how you’d fare in life, in your career and even your job prospects.

As mentioned, I’ve found it almost ridiculous that something that seemed so arbitrarily personal could stand in the way of your financial success and status. Apparently there are studies that prove that your NAME, of all things, can make a difference to your social and financial standing.


You may think this is far out, but bear with me a moment. Take a look at this table. It shows how you can be stereotyped according to your name.

What’s In A Name?

Positive Names

People Thought They Were… Female Male
Intelligent Abigail, Eleanor, Lisa, Meredith and Rebecca Clifford, David, Edward, John, Samuel, Ned and Tim
Leaders Ruth Alexander, Dwight and Lance
Hardworking Ada, Ingrid, Marie and Margaret Jake, Manuel, Ron and Todd
Entrepreneurial and Professional Lorraine and Sylvia Gregory and Ted
Talented Tina Neil
Wealthy Audrey, Paige and Victoria Lucius, Edmond and Claude
Blue-Collar Roxy Arnie
Refined Indira, Calista and Grace Nigel, Alistair, Vaughn
Ambitious Leigh Cedric
Organized Julianne
Outgoing Bernadette, Christy, Elaine, Gwen, Joy, Kathy, Kim, Patricia, Nancy and Wendy Allen, Cole, Danny, Ed, Gary, Jim, Russ and Rob
Accountants (Nerdy) Minerva and Ingrid Myron and Reynold
Teachers Trudy Thomas
Wealthy Lawyers Drew

Negative Names

People Thought They Were… Name
Deceitful Oswald
Awkward Angus
Show-Off Don
Bratty Dennis
A Jerk Ace
Stubborn Rolf
Two-faced Vera
Bossy Joyce and Myrna
Opinionated Rhea and Maud
Old and Overweight Dolores
Dumb Candy, Kiki and Vanna

Source: CareerBuilder.com and BehindTheName.com

But what has this got to do with personal finance? Well actually, a lot. Stereotyping has its financial ramifications which have been recognized through several studies.

Well here are some specifics that prove that your name can wreck your chances of getting ahead, particularly if you have an African-American sounding name.

How A Name Affects Employment and Job Opportunities

A National Bureau of Economic Research Paper shows that job applicants with white names had a 50% chance of getting a callback over those who had African-American names. That is, traditional white sounding names only had to send 10 resumes to get one callback, while those that didn’t had to send out 15 resumes per callback. One of their unsettling findings is that maybe it’s employer bias in play, or the perception that race is tied to productivity.

Other facts from the study:

  • Only resumes were reviewed; face to face meetings never took place.
  • A white name’s callbacks yielded the equivalent of eight additional years of experience.
  • Residential address also mattered to some degree, with more callbacks received for resumes tied to wealthier, more educated or more-white zip codes.
  • Names made a bigger impact on results than addresses did.
  • Results were the same across occupation and industry categories covered in the experiment.
  • For companies with the “equal opportunity” byline, results didn’t seem to make a difference!
  • Only when a name didn’t provide a clue to race, were other elements of the resume considered.
  • More education and more skills displayed on a resume with an ethnic sounding name didn’t make a difference to the outcome.
  • Names that indicated gender also had an effect on results.
  • Names that worked in the experiment: Neil, Brett, Greg, Emily, Anne and Jill.
  • Names that didn’t work in the experiment: Tamika, Ebony, Aisha, Rasheed, Kareem and Tyrone.

Could initial quick screening of resumes by headhunters cause this discriminatory effect? Imagine going through a huge pile of resumes which you need to whittle down to a manageable size. Without realizing it, an HR representative may be unwittingly applying their immediate impressions on the pile of paper before them. What else can they go on anyway?

How A Name Affects Housing Opportunities

Beyond snagging jobs, it turns out that name discrimination is also alive and well in the rental circuit. Another study by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology revealed these facts:

From 1,100 e-mail inquiries to Los Angeles-area landlords asking about vacant apartments advertised online, the traditional white sounding name elicited 89% of positive replies. A foreign sounding name brought in 66% of replies while the African-American name took in 56%. A landlord’s positive reply consisted of a follow up appointment to show off the property for lease or an indication that the place was available.

How A Name Affects Career Choices

Yet another study has struck fear in the hearts of would be parents. It turns out that kids with gender specific names become discouraged from certain educational interests thus affecting their long term course of study. What this means is that if you are named a girly sounding name, you end up avoiding math and the sciences. Sounds weird but true!

Girls who are given very feminine names, such as Anna, Emma or Elizabeth, are less likely to study maths or physics after the age of 16, a remarkable study has found. The effect is so strong that parents can set twin daughters off on completely different career paths simply by calling them Isabella and Alex, names at either end of the spectrum. A study of 1,000 pairs of sisters in the US found that Alex was twice as likely as her twin to take maths or science at a higher level.

Feminine Names

Why would this happen? The explanation given is that like it or not, people have expectations of others based on their name. These expectations affect one’s self-image and cause typecasting. I guess a feminine person is not supposed to be studying math or physics.

This typecasting also works with ugly sounding names or those names identified with lower class or status. Those with lower class names (spelled in an unusual way or with punctuations) would average 3 to 5 percent lower than others with conventional names. Again, this was caused by imposed expectations. From the study, it was scary to hear that teachers who first saw a class roster admitted that they couldn’t help but form impressions of the children because of their names, before they all met.

Bottom line: I’m being somewhat tongue-in-cheek here, but think twice before naming your kids something bizarre, different, unique or even ethnic. The world is cruel and there are unfair consequences to doing something as commendable as honoring your forefathers with authentic names granted to future generations of your family line. Also, that immediate profit you can get by offering to name your kid GoldenPalaceDotCom is not worth their future. No matter how tempting it is, don’t do it!

In Conclusion: Forget Stan, Candy or Adolf

I agree with something I read, that “names are powerful indicators of who we are.” Our name serves as the label to our identity, pointing to culture, religious affiliation, sex, social position, ethnic background, tribal affiliation and even age.

Even where I work, more than a few guys have changed their names because, they claim, it was easier to remember and pronounce. What else is this but the first subtle step taken towards assimilation and the fulfillment of their American dream. Because of this, I wonder if to give your kid an edge in life, that you should consider more conventional and ordinary names?

Other Resources:

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Ted July 2, 2007 at 7:43 am

Why does everyone talk about just the so-called black sounding names? What about Jose, Migel, Maria, etc? Considering how hot the illegal immigration debate is now, I would imagine many employers won’t even consider hiring a person with a Hispanic name.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 2, 2007 at 8:16 am

Ted,

The studies only tested for black sounding (and to some degree, foreign sounding – it mentions middle eastern, in the case of tenancy) names; I’m not sure why they didn’t extend it to names from other regional “groups”.

AFinanceBlog July 2, 2007 at 9:40 am

I remember seeing the news on TV (I think on NBC) about employer’s “name bias” against certain names. I think it is quite sad that some employers use “name bias” to decide how someone is before even meeting the person.

trawller July 2, 2007 at 10:09 am

Nice touch there with a double entry for “two-faced”. Though I am unable to make up my mind as to which one is the first-face and which the second

The Digerati Life July 2, 2007 at 1:44 pm

trawller,
thanks for the catch. I’ll fix the boo-boo when I get home. I wrote this article tongue-in-cheek. I think a lot of people from strong, cultural backgrounds who live in the US or away from their homelands resolve this issue by having both a Western and their real (family given) name. That way, it solves the requirements of all the communities they move, live and work in.

Golbguru July 2, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Name bias is a sad reflection on our shallow society (and thinking). Especially for a country of immigrants, it’s an absolutely ridiculous bias to harbor… just as worse as a racial bias.

For all you know, someone could name their child “Winston Churchill” and the brat could turn out to be a no-good bum – irrespective of how much power that name wields and someone named “Abdullah Hassan” could be contributing to NIH’s cutting edge research on Parkinson’s. :)

Changing a real-life name for success is just out of my league. That’s like taking a step backwards and encouraging more discrimination. So I don’t intend to do it for myself or my kids (in future). If companies don’t want to hire me because of my name… well, it’s their loss. They can take their preferred names and shove it up wherever they want to. :) Pride hurts, but I am ready to take that pain.

Thanks for bringing this to light. I was blissfully unaware of how rampant it is till I read this post.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 2, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Golb,
It’s one of those things that fall between idealism and practicality. I still recall how there were some kids in my class that got teased mercilessly for their names. They would’ve been spared the pain if their parents went with more boring labels like the rest of us. So along these lines I wonder how much conforming we should do in our Western society in order to make our lives easier or perhaps even more “prosperous”? That’s a question that each family needs to answer personally for themselves. Yes it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in if we penalize people for their unique attributes. The world sucks in that regard.

MoneyChangesThings July 2, 2007 at 8:08 pm

There is a chapter on exactly this in Freakonomics, a fun best seller about real-life economics.
Some parents intentionally give their daughter a gender-neutral name. An Evan we know is headed to Harvard Law – her mother used this strategy, and it seems to have worked pretty well!

Ted July 3, 2007 at 8:49 am

Golbguru – How could somebody NOT know about name discrimination? Jewish Americans have been Anglicizing their names for centuries. I was good friends with Chinese-Americans in college named “Bob” and “George” (hint: neither name was their birth name). I befriended several of the “Lost Boys” from Sudan. I soon learned that “David” or “Peter” was really Deng or Mabior.

People don’t do this because they think white-American sounding names sound better to them. They do it because at best people are ignorant or xenophobic and at worst racist.

tehnyit July 4, 2007 at 6:39 am

When our son was born, we canvas several of our friends that are already parents on what technique they use to choose names. Surprisingly, one of them is the process of elimination. Eliminating names of people which the parents had bad experience with. EG, Jim bullied me when I was at primary school, so I am not going to consider the name “Jim” for my baby.

To me, this is such a myopic way of assessing names. We should look towards the positive impact of the names, and not focus on the negativity of the names. Unfortunately, names is one of those personal components that can make a strong first impression. Being human, we would subconsciously discriminate base on that.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 4, 2007 at 7:22 am

tehnyit,

That just reminded me that THAT was exactly how it happened for us as well — how we chose our kids names! Well, I wasn’t particularly guilty of this, but my spouse would reject a lot of names based on some unpleasant memory with so-and-so as a kid. I found it silly until he suggested a name I didn’t like. And now I realize there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the suggestions, it was just that the name did remind me of an unfavorable past experience! It is terribly surprising! Bet you we’re all guilty of that one. Could this potentially extend to actual name bias on a subconscious basis? Scary thought!

Angie Hartford July 4, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Name discrimination is an enduring tradition, most notably practiced on Ellis Island:

“Your name please, sir?”

“Frankowitz.”

(writing on form) “S-m-i-t-h. Next in line, please.”

Dennis July 4, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Crapper, I need to change my name…

Dennis July 5, 2007 at 8:25 pm

Dennis:

Crapper, I need to change my name.

Why? Dennis is a good name.

Barry

NYKO July 5, 2007 at 10:59 pm

Not sure if this is a New York thing, but I think Destiny Krystal and Jasmine are up there with Candy KiKi and Vanna.

Trent Hamm July 6, 2007 at 11:37 am

I use a pseudonym because of a semi-unfortunate name. My true name has some negative social connotations due to some events that occurred after my birth, plus in some cultures there are spelling and pronunciation issues. Thus, I looked for another family name that I could use that was simple and viola!

Silicon Valley Blogger July 6, 2007 at 4:48 pm

It’s quite unfortunate that stigma can get attached to names due to some event or experience just like that; there are connotations for everything… I have a couple of good friends named Katrina, and I found the name quite beautiful. Can’t believe how calamities can ruin a good name — I heard that nobody wants to name their kid Katrina now.

Lee January 12, 2008 at 9:32 pm

For all those folks who mentioned changing their name to solve the problem of any potential discrimination in America. I Thank all of you for proving may case for reparations to African Americans. Being a Black person in this country is a curse in so many ways and now it appears that I don’t even have to show up in person to be discriminated against and/or treated like a 9th class citizen. Now to all the white folks who have ever heard Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpton say, “whites in America enjoy many automatic built in advantages and benefits that blacks can’t even begin to dream about.” This is just one of those many benefits. It’s profoundly interesting on so many levels: There is an effort in America to abolish Affirmative Action…and let us not sugar coat any of that. We all know that killing AA is about whites taking even more opportunities away from qualified blacks and other minorities especially since corporations are shipping more jobs overseas. “Last Hired First Fired equals blacks getting fired before whites.” Blacks in many ways are white America’s social, psychological and economic cushion and safety net. With, regards to America’s baseball steroid scandal, who first, took the brunt of the media’s heat, and labeled a cheater and disgrace to baseball? Berry Bonds. Then to find out that many others, has been linked to steroid use in professional baseball but now the public’s outrage has been diminished and the other ball players face less damage to their reputations and careers. Again providing a cushion for others mentioned in the scandal like Roger Clemons. Let us not forget about the white NBA referee who was caught in the point shaving/betting scandal where he has been linked to organized crime, which didn’t stay in the news long, did it? The media downplayed it to the Michael Vic and B. Bonds stories. Nine out of ten people, in America thinks of Michael Jackson when the word pedophile is mentioned, but week end and week out NBC’s News show, Dateline, catches mostly white and some other non-black men in the act of trying to have sexual relations with minors, caught on Camera but yet there is still no character assassination of those perverted twisted bastards in the national media. Again, the white male has another black man to take the brunt of the public’s disgust. An example of whites, economic cushion is how the city of Detroit is completely surrounded by shopping malls, very close to but yet, not within the Detroit city limits, subsequently, never being able to benefit from the tax revenue of mostly black dollars to improve their own street lights, roads, after school programs for kids, police dept, fire dept and the list goes on. Red Lobster a few years ago said that their corporate policy is never to operate a franchise within the Detroit city limits but yet, if you go to any of the suburban Red Lobster’s, you will see them packed with black folks: many who travel to the suburbs to eat, which in turn supports the white suburban tax base. How about that sweet suburban tax setup. Not only do white communities rake in all the tax revenue from their own population and communities but they also are making a killing on black dollars, adding even more insane profit & tax revenue, that’s like having a double-triple-quadruple-profit stream. Whites, who own 100 percent of the property in their own communities, along.
with most of the land, businesses and property in the black communities. Just the thought process of how most Blacks in America spend 95 percent of their money in white owned businesses and I am sure that white America doesn’t spend 2 or even 1 percent of their money in black own businesses, that only adds to the total mind blowing paradox of it all. Blacks spend over 400 Billion dollars in white and non- black businesses in America but yet, this racist nation still treats us like crap. I don’t agree with Louis Farrakhan calling whites, “Blue Eyed Devils” but many, not all of white America’s actions and attitudes towards blacks suggest the latter indeed.

Have a blessed day

Kris February 26, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Oh, wah. Oh no my name sounds black the world hates me.

Be quiet.

Don’t complain until you don’t get hired because your last name is Polish and the HR gentleman was named Smythe.

You’re already thinking of “stupid” jokes, aren’t you? Yeah, I thought so.

Mone(Moan) March 9, 2008 at 8:22 am

I’m thinking of seriously changing my name, here I am a black man with a spanish first name, a muslim middle name. Its funny how people assume that I’m spanish before I meet them then to their shock I’m black which makes it worse, then they say oh is it pronounced Ray-mon lol. I feel as though all of my job applications are thrown out ass soon as they see that name “Ramon” on there. They probably think I’m not american. Abdul is my middle name and I don’t even dare put that on paper. My last name I’d never change but my initials spell R.A.P., a type of music that well received in the public eye. I used to work for a company for 7yrs the first 2yrs the owner thought I was spanish, he was white, he came back from south america handed me some fresh coffee beans as a gift and tried to speak to me in spanish.

utamu March 26, 2008 at 8:50 pm

I’m a black chick who’s currently job searching. I’m not sure what difference my name makes, I have a German last name and a cute first name that’s fairly ethnic sounding. Fortunately I can shorten my first name to something that’s still cute but racially ambiguous. I’m going to give it a shot, can’t hurt.

Ethel June 27, 2008 at 5:02 am

My parents were teachers. They chose my name because neither of them could remember teaching any snotty kids with that name.

I dislike it somewhat, especially as I mentioned a few other names which I preferred, like jessica, when I was small (6/7). They hadn’t thought of them. *sniff* I could have been a Jessica. grrrr

(it’s not really Ethel. I’d probably give them hell if it really was, though i don’t mind it as a nickname…)

Silicon Valley Blogger June 27, 2008 at 8:54 am

My real name is unusual enough so that I prefer not using it, especially on the internet! So for now, I’ll stick with Silicon Valley Blogger. :)

I still remember the “Desperate Housewives” episode when Mike Delfino (James Denton’s character) insisted to his wife, Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher’s character) that they name their newborn child “Maynard”, after Mike’s grandfather who just died. We get names to honor our elders all the time, but um….don’t we need to get with the times too?

If only we could all have classic, innocuous-sounding names. With the rate of bullying going on around the nation these days, a safe-sounding name is indeed a benefit, esp for the young!

Umermalik September 16, 2008 at 11:50 am

I always thought this is true but never thought it had been proven by studies. I think there should be a top 100 names in terms of chances of success at job applications etc.

Annonymous October 14, 2008 at 5:41 am

Try having a middle eastern name and get a job interview nowadays…

I’m going to run a test and apply to the same places with a slightly altered, more anglo-saxon name and see if I get called back. I’d be willing to bet money that some place will contact me with the anglo-saxon name, but not with the middle eastern one.

Shon August 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I’m a black man with an anglo name, Robert. Luckily I was given a standard name that can’t be tied to any race. I earned a college degree and work for invenstment bankers and I remember sending out tons of resumes after college and I got very good responses. I sound white on the phone so a lot of potential employers were surprised when they saw a Black man show up for the interview. But once I interviewed with potential employers they never seemed racist and I was usually offered the job. I think people have preconceived notions about different races but once you meet them face to face and talk to them in an articulate and intelligent manner, most prejudices disappear and I am judged on my qualifications.

I always thought that name discrimination existed but never saw it quantified before. It’s a shame that a name can make such a difference in how we are treated but it is reality afterall. And we have to deal with things the way they are, not how we would like them to be. By the way, I named my son Sean.

None Of Your Business September 6, 2009 at 5:21 am

All Due To The Ignorance of the Dominant Class In The American Workforce. The U.S. Is Full Of Alien Minded, Dumb, Stupid, Corrupt Individuals Who Hate To See Minorities Make Any Progress. No, If They Figure You Are A Minority Just By Looking At Your Name, You Will Not Be Called. And If You Are Called For An Interview, It Will Only Be To Maintain Their Statistics. You Will Not Be Hired, EVER, In Some Instances. Best Try To Go Into Business For Yourself If You Can, Because If You Ever Eventually Find A Job It Won’t Pay Much And You Will Be Harassed Until You Leave On Your Own Or Until They Can Set You Up To Fire You! This Devil Reeks Of Racism …And He’s A Skunk!

Toms River September 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I never considered that names play a big part on whether someone gets a job!

Jorge Lopez October 14, 2009 at 9:41 pm

I actually applied to a position with my name and a white sounding (Brian), with the same exact resume only different names. Brian was reviewed and considered and I was reviewed and not considered. So I’m pretty damn sure the name plays a part in finding a job.

Karla Porter December 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm

I was going to write a post just like this then came across yours. Excellent job on this..

Henrik January 31, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Always thought this is true but never thought it had been proven by studies. I think there should be a top 100 names in terms of chances of success at job applications etc.

Marisol September 23, 2010 at 8:21 am

I’ve always known this to be true. I’m white, but I have a hispanic name, and I’ve always suspected my name being a hindrance in the work force. I have a hard time finding good paying, competitive positions. My name seems to be considered with no problems for the low paying jobs and skills and education ignored. If I get an interview, it’s usually to meet the company’s statistical race quotas. This is very frustrating. I have in fact been a witness to racism in HR offices where the HR director started tossing out resumes with foreign names because she assumed these people’s first language was not English!! She was later corrected by her hispanic co-workers (with lower paid positions) who were there and in whom she had revealed her filtering out method. Yes, the HR director was a tall, white, blond hair female and she was very ignorant, but not a bad person. She meant to do well, but didn’t know any better. Thank goodness the hispanic women were there to correct her, however!! (I was a temp at the time and doing filing work in the room next door and I overheard the conversations).

People are simply discriminatory when it comes to names. If the hiring body is filled with people of a certain race or color, the preferences will be there for that race and color. People will hire someone they feel will connect with the overall office race and culture. So, if the office culture and race is mostly hispanic, black, or white, then the likely hires will be hispanic, black or white. It’s an ugly truth, but I’ve seen it happen so many times (did temp work for 2 years, seen a lot of things), it makes me sick. I’ve been told that I am highly skilled and valuable at my company. I have a low paying job by comparison to what others are paid in my area. In the end, the only way to beat the biases is to rely on a higher power. Simply put. God will open the doors where no man would or can. You’ll get a job and it will be with good people despite their bias tendencies. You’ll make it, but only if you put your trust in God. It’s the only way to survive in a world that is not fair. Truth be told. Just do your part (and follow the commandments) and God will do the rest.

Kwaku N October 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm

In the five years that it’s been since I graduated college, the only callbacks for interviews that I’ve gotten have been the times where I lied in my response to a craigslist posting by saying that my name is “Ken.” This even applies to low level jobs which require no education.

I’ve been struggling with the idea of legally changing my name for years. It’s hard because I have too much pride in my background to do so but I may have no choice in order to make a decent living. People aren’t simply just complainers. They’re talking about an issue that’s ruining their ability to earn a decent living.

They should do a study to see if ethnic European names like Ulga, Ivan, Boris or other names that are white but still foreign would be effected. I’m curious to know because that would indicate if it’s cultural or strictly a racial thing.

Niall November 22, 2010 at 10:33 am

I was fairly interested in reading this whole article then:

“Why would this happen? The explanation given is that like it or not, people have expectations of others based on their name. These expectations affect one’s self-image and cause typecasting. I guess a feminine person is not supposed to be studying math or physics.”

So that must mean names must have a geographically and socially equal distribution across the country. Don’t be so sure of your assumptions next time please.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 22, 2010 at 11:20 am

@Niall,
I don’t see the connection between typecasting based on names and expecting names to be distributed in a geographical or socially equal manner? I don’t draw conclusions on “name distribution” from my previous statement.

name list January 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Wow this is actually interesting and I can see people seeing those traits associated with those names maybe. But I think if the person is quite the opposite of those ‘qualities’ mentioned next to their names then I think they would be just okay obviously like if they’re relatable (I’m not sure if that’s a word but ok :), funny and very social in life. Also I like the name ‘Ace’ or nickname, it’s close to my favorites’ :). Anyway interesting post.

Amanda February 6, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Sad its the 21st century and the US is still dealing with discrimination practices via work/home/school etc. The US original “SIN” will hunt the country forever, well at least until everyone is one color. So sad. The uniqueness is what makes a person special.

mm8ran February 24, 2011 at 1:48 am

So the message is, assimilation in America requires a Christian name.

Translation: Anyone who is not White and Christian is bizarre, different, unique and ethnic. Therefore…lower class, ugly, foreign and creepy.

It’s 2011. How long is this ridiculous way of thinking going to continue in this country? When is this nonsense going to end and when are White Americans going to grow up and realize that there is an entire planet out there, with many of the planet’s citizens currently living in America?

So, does that mean if you’re not “normal” according to White Christian American standards, you will never find a good paying job in America in this economy?

Ll8702 October 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I think you (and Careerbuilder) might be misinterpreting some of your data. Foreign or ethnic names are often overlooked for 3 big reasons (other than overt racism).

1) Sometimes, these names are hard to pronounce!! It’s intimidating to make a cold call on a resume. If you have a plethora of options, and two resumes are equal to one another, you will call the name that you feel most comfortable pronouncing.

2) It is illegal to hire someone who is an illegal immigrant. There are penalties for individuals and companies who ignore these laws. Often, illegal immigrants will lie about their work status and waste valuable time and money.

3) Some of the candidates with foreign names may write English very well and have excellent work experience, but they have a thick accent which is difficult to understand. Communication is a key component in any working relationship, and subsequently a decision in the hiring process.

In a job market where we are brimming with candidates, hiring managers and recruiters have one simple goal. Bring a new employee on board as quickly and easily as possible. By avoiding these weird names, employers are taking out some of the gambling aspect. To job hunters with unusual or foreign names, I highly suggest putting a name that is easily pronounceable on your resume. If you get the interview, then you can introduce yourself by your preferred name there.

Silicon Valley Blogger October 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

@LI8702,
Those are extremely good points. That’s certainly looking at things from a different perspective. What if, indeed, we are the ones tasked with the job of culling through stacks and mounds of resumes? Then you’re absolutely right — to speed up the process, you’ll toss out names that don’t necessarily conform to the profile of a typical job candidate.

Here are some “operative” words: conform, traditional, expected. When you stand out too much in unexpected ways, it may actually work against you. It’s different when you already know someone and what they can deliver; however, the fact is that most people JUDGE by first impressions, especially if they don’t have much to go by except for a piece of paper with your name and information.

Sure — being different and unconventional can be a good thing, but when you’re competing with the crowd, standing out for unusual reasons may not be to your advantage.

It’s very common for foreigners to adapt English names when they settle in a Western country. It’s not because they are “forgetting” where they’re from, but rather, it’s a way to facilitate an easier life in a country where they’re part of the minority.

I still decry any form of discrimination — this is just looking at it through a different lens.

mark May 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm

For all the posturing about diversity and tolerance and acceptance it turns out it is all lip service. In the end, whiteness is valued over all else. Anyone whose name isn’t Anglo sounding (i.e british origin) is labeled as different and economic deprivation will be used to put you in place. If that isn’t racist then I missed something.

Oh Well May 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I know a British Pakistani entrepreneur who changed his name to a more cool sounding name (‘James Caan’) and said that the name changed everything for him.

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