Why Your Name Actually Does Matter on a Job Application

February 25th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

You spent a lot of time on your job application, crafting your resume, and getting the best examples of your work. However, something unrelated to your qualifications could block you from getting an interview: your name.


A recent study by researchers at the University of Toronto and Ryson University found that employers discriminate against applicants with Asian-sounding names. However they also found a potential way to counteract discrimination: apply to bigger companies.

Jane Hong works in her office.

Researchers analyzed computer generated resumes sent to 3,225 jobs offered in Toronto and Montreal from 2008 to 2009, which called for applicants with college degrees, and they tracked which names received calls for interviews. The resumes with Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani names had equivalent qualifications to the resumes with "Anglo names," but those resumes were 28 percent less likely to generate a call for an interview.

Although researchers found discrimination in all employer sizes, companies with more than 500 employees discriminated "about half as often" as smaller companies.

"It is suggested that large organizations discriminate less frequently because they have more resources devoted to recruitment, a more professionalized human resources recruitment process, and greater experience with a diverse staff complement," read the study. "Experimentation with anonymized resume review may be an inexpensive way that organizations can test their own hiring procedures for discrimination."

It's not just Asian names.

In a different small scale test by BBC News found that resumes with an "English-sounding name" were offered three times the number of interviews as applications with a "Muslim name." The resumes with the name Adam were offered 12 interviews while resumes with Mohamed were offered four.

Ethnic-sounding names could hold back applicants in the U.S.

A study from 2003 found that resumes with black-sounding names are less likely to get call backs.

For a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan responded to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers with fake resumes. White names received 50 percent more call backs for interviews.

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