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Your Name Isn’t White-Sounding Enough, So Kiss That Job Goodbye


Sadly enough, many candidates still find themselves victims of blatant discrimination during the interview screening process, despite legally enforced equal employment opportunity laws. We’ll take a look at how your given name can make or break your chances of winning that dream opportunity.

equal opportunity employer

(Photo Credit: cote/Flickr)

It’s hard to believe that, even in 2013, there are many instances where candidates are passed over solely because of their name. In other words, if you have a not-white-enough-sounding name and are finding it difficult to land an interview, despite your qualifications, then you might want to do a little name switcheroo like Agnok Lueth (a.k.a. “Daniel McLean”).

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According to a article, Agnok Lueth, a Sudanese refugee, sent out hundreds of resumes for jobs he was well-qualified for, but to no avail. It wasn’t until he sent out six resumes under the alias “Daniel McLean” that he received five call-backs from employers. Lueth, unfortunately, was not awarded any of the five jobs that he was called back for under his fake name, but he did learn something — his trouble finding a job had nothing to do with his qualifications.

What happens when your name is too recognizable? reported a story on Glenn Miller, a then-56-year-old senior software engineer, who faced a different type of name discrimination — having a famous name. Software engineer Glenn Miller shared a name with the great American jazz musician, Glenn Miller. This commonality often led to awkward ice-breaker type questions in interviews like, “Where’s your band?” To which Miller would respond, “They’re all dead.” Obviously, the humor wore off long ago for the software engineer, and he explains that his recognizable name “changes the tenor of the interview to have that opening dialog,” stating, “I think it makes people not take me seriously.” It seems having a celebrity’s name is also bad news for job seekers, and we feel terrible for all the other Justin Biebers of the world. Bless your little hearts.

A paper published by the American Economic Review found that “white names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews” and “30 percent more callbacks” for a higher quality resume,” despite similar qualifications. Despite employers claiming that they are “equal opportunity employers,” there is still an apparent level of discrimination that occurs during the screening process, even on an unconscious level. Need more proof? Just take a look at this article, in which hiring manager Andrew Moskowitz openly admits on Facebook that he discriminates against candidates based on their names. You really have to see it to believe it.

We’re definitely not condoning name-switching just to land a job, but would like to bring awareness to the fact that name discrimination definitely happens, even today. If you feel that your name is hindering your candidacy, then take the time to spruce up your social networking profiles so that your online reputation speaks for itself, because hiring managers are definitely turning to social media to screen candidates before awarding interviews. Read more about cleaning up your social profiles here and here.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a unique or famous name? If so, how has it affected your career? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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