Beware resume racism

Resume racism

´╗┐By Kate Southam

Leigh has stumbled across a little discussed problem in Australia – resume racism or at the very least the woeful ignorance of some hiring managers.

While helping her boss sift through a pile of job applicants she noticed he culled any resumes that had names that were too hard for him to pronounce.

When I said he was losing out on great candidates just because he was adverse to their names (I have a scary surname, but was employed via a hiring company) he told me that if I’d applied under a direct hire situation he would not have given my resume a chance at all.

Am I being dishonest if I use my maiden name, which is more Anglo-friendly, but is not what I use in daily life, just to get an interview?

I have no issue at all with Leigh using her maiden name. Sadly, I have been told by new migrants that the advice they give one another is to play with their surnames and this applies to all races including white folk with difficult last names. We should be embarrassed.

As for Leigh’s boss, his lack of professionalism and business nous is breath taking. I wonder how the owner of the company would feel about being denied the best crop of candidates because one very ordinary employee needs to get out more?

Racism and prejudice of any kind at work is not only morally wrong but it’s also bad for business. Something three economists from the Australian National University have just documented via some extensive research on this topic.

The research, by Andrew Leigh, Alison Booth and Elena Varganova, involved a number of projects including sending out 4000 fake resumes identical except for the applicant’s name.

The trio used equal measures of Anglo-Saxon names, Indigenous, Middle-Eastern names, Italian and Chinese names to apply for entry level jobs in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. And guess what?

To receive the same number of interviews as a candidate with an Anglo-Saxon name, a Chinese applicant must submit 68 per cent more applications, a Middle Eastern applicant 64 per cent, an Indigenous applicant 35 per cent more and an Italian applicant 12 per cent more.

The Australian researchers cite a similar US study that found black applicants must submit 50 per cent more applications to get the same number of interviews white applicants. Reminds me of when I lived in Hong Kong and I could never get through to people I wanted to interview until I adopted a phone name combining the English with the Chinese "Catherine So" and my success rate soared. I am focusing on this topic on the Blog – so please join the discussion.


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