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Other How an ethnic-sounding name may affect the job hunt

StatGuy2000

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Hi everyone. I know that an earlier thread about whether hiring managers are biased has been closed, but there is an interesting article from a major Canadian newspaper (dating back 7 years ago, but I believe still relevant in both Canada and the US) about how people with ethnic-sounding names (i.e. non-British sounding names) may be adversely affected in the job hunt.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/how-an-ethnic-sounding-name-may-affect-the-job-hunt/article555082/
 

.Scott

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Of course, it should have zero effect.

What should be equally obvious is that if I've dealt with lots of Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Germans, British or Vietnamese (which I have), it would be ingenuous of me to claim that I haven't seen patterns - correlations between work habits and nationality - good, bad, or otherwise. Nor would I claim that those patterns do not quickly come to mind when I see a new resume.

But the screening, resume evaluation, and the interview process are very much driven by objectives that are unrelated to the name/age/ethnicity of the candidate - so it makes no difference - at least when I am involved.

I have worked for a few companies of the past couple of decades. In all cases, the initial screening was done by a outside agency, hired specifically for doing the recruiting and initial screening. If any of them had ever been caught allowing ethnicity into their process, they would have been dropped immediately.
Screening then continues from the recruiting company to the hiring company - and since the purpose is to hire many people, there is a continuing dialog between those companies to fine tuning the screening process. If the hiring company doesn't like a candidate, the recruiting company needs to know why so that they can do a better job recruiting and screening. There is no room in those discussions for unrelated matters.

Finally, there is the interview process. And at that point, the focus is very much on your willingness and ability to do the job and on how well you will fit in. For the type of positions posters on this board are interested in, once you get into the interview process, you will likely be interviewed by several people (hopefully not all at once) who will the meet and discuss whether you are a fit. And certainly at that stage, no one is looking at your name or anything else like that.
 

fresh_42

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But the screening, resume evaluation, and the interview process are very much driven by objectives that are unrelated to the name/age/ethnicity of the candidate - so it makes no difference - at least when I am involved.
That's the point. In the end the answer to such a question is as individual as those are, who are addressed by a job request. And I don't think there are people without any prejudices, one way or another. A professor of mine once added: "The essential point is, that I'm prepared to adjust those prejudices at any time." However, in the statistic mean, there definitely is a correlation between origin and chances - at least here. I'm sure, but too lazy to dig for corresponding studies in a foreign language.
 
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Just to be clear, name is not one of the protected categories in hiring anti-discrimination laws (in the USA). However, race and national origin are protected and name discrimination may indirectly lead to illegal race discrimination.
 
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.Scott

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I think we need to make a distinction between a prejudice and an ethnic generalization. If there is anyone who has not and does not make ethnic generalizations, I have not met them. But "prejudice" denotes that a person is ready to take an adverse action. There are certainly many, many people who do not and would not exercise ethnic prejudice on job-related matters.
More importantly, when the recruiting, screening, and hiring procedures rest on objective dialog among several stakeholders, prejudicial action based on anything other than the objective becomes easy to recognize and avoid.
 

fresh_42

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O.k. if it gets about English words or juristic specifica of the US, I'm out.

I know that people with an Arabic or Turkish last name have more difficulties to find a job here, than those with a German name have. I don't mind whether you call this prejudice or discrimination, or whether it is "forbidden", or whether you know people who do not follow this general road. I'm saying there is a statistic correlation. I don't care how this is disguised to make it less annoying.
 

russ_watters

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Of course, it should have zero effect.
The article cites a perception for a language barrier as one potential reason. That's a legitimate concern.

One way I've seen people address this is by Americanizing their names.
 

.Scott

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The article cites a perception for a language barrier as one potential reason. That's a legitimate concern.

One way I've seen people address this is by Americanizing their names.
Certainly if an employer is trying to fill a valuable position, they wouldn't try to determined that based on the name in the resume.

In my experience, a lot of accommodation can be made for language differences and even for deft employees.
 

russ_watters

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Certainly if an employer is trying to fill a valuable position, they wouldn't try to determined that based on the name in the resume.
They might if they have a stack of 50 similar resumes. That's the whole point of the linked study!
 

.Scott

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They might if they have a stack of 50 similar resumes. That's the whole point of the linked study!
That's the key. That's what I meant by "valuable".
 
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I'm saying there is a statistic correlation.
I wonder how much progress has been made since the time of the study. In the US at least it would seem to be an easy way to file class action lawsuits, so I would imagine that this was addressed soon after the study.
 

StatGuy2000

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I wonder how much progress has been made since the time of the study. In the US at least it would seem to be an easy way to file class action lawsuits, so I would imagine that this was addressed soon after the study.
I don't have the data on this, but my (anecdotal) understanding is that class action lawsuits are much less common in Canada. Whether this is due to differences in the laws, or a greater barrier in filing lawsuits, I can't say.
 

fresh_42

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I wonder how much progress has been made since the time of the study. In the US at least it would seem to be an easy way to file class action lawsuits, so I would imagine that this was addressed soon after the study.
The difficulty is, that in order to have a case you need a person, not a statistic. Imagine that heap of 50 resumes. Now whom they call in for an interview and who not can barely be filed. Our discrimination laws are practically comparable to those in the states, although the question itself has another standing. But you cannot make a case out of a statistic. People have to deal with similar prejudices as anywhere else: a foreign name is often a guarantee for a poor language so they just don't want to waste time figuring out. And often you already can tell from the read. So there are many factors which lead to such a statistic and which are not necessarily a case of discrimination. E.g. we have a surprisingly high number of refugees who found a job. But again: the young males, not the average person. How would you make a case here?
 
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I'm sure it happens, and that sucks.

I wouldn't worry about it because any company that would do that, or have managers that do that, is a company you shouldn't waste your time with anyway. Sort of a blessing in disguise if you ask me.
 

StatGuy2000

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I'm sure it happens, and that sucks.

I wouldn't worry about it because any company that would do that, or have managers that do that, is a company you shouldn't waste your time with anyway. Sort of a blessing in disguise if you ask me.
The problem, as is stated in the newspaper article, is that, at least in Canada, many hiring managers and recruiters do this, and often times they are not even consciously aware that they are letting their implicit biases affect hiring decisions. The major concern expressed is the fact that they are reluctant to hire immigrants from non-English speaking countries because of concerns about communication skills.

Any such solutions to this problem has to focus on the employers. There are strategies for mitigating this, including masking the names of potential candidates when resumes are being reviewed, as one such example, and obscuring the face of all interviewees. These strategies should be more commonly deployed, because ultimately not only does this affect the employability of immigrants to Canada (and the US), but also wasting great potential assets available to companies.
 
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I don't think masking the name of the applicant (as suggested in the study) would affect the final decision. It may advance him/her a little further in the process, but eventually they would meet with him/her and know who they are, and know what their ethnicity is. Also, these days employers use self-recording video interview before the in-person interview. The only way I see it is to have a dialogue between the government and the market specifically addressing immigrants in the workforce. At the end, I think this is part of a larger problem, which is integrating and assimilating immigrants. It is easier for next generation immigrants to assimilate through school, but new immigrants struggle at all levels (they have a culture shock, they have left their family and home country which means they have no social support, they are faced with isolation in the hosting country, ... etc).
 
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I don't think masking the name of the applicant (as suggested in the study) would affect the final decision. It may advance him/her a little further in the process, but eventually they would meet with him/her and know who they are, and know what their ethnicity is. Also, these days employers use self-recording video interview before the in-person interview. The only way I see it is to have a dialogue between the government and the market specifically addressing immigrants in the workforce. At the end, I think this is part of a larger problem, which is integrating and assimilating immigrants. It is easier for next generation immigrants to assimilate through school, but new immigrants struggle at all levels (they have a culture shock, they have left their family and home country which means they have no social support, they are faced with isolation in the hosting country, ... etc).
I agree that there needs to be a discussion with the government, the market and the rest of the population. Your points are all valid but more globally it's a question of how much immigration should be allowed? If it's hard to get jobs as an immigrant I would say immigration may be too high since a driving argument for immigration law is the need for economic labor.
 
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I agree that there needs to be a discussion with the government, the market and the rest of the population. Your points are all valid but more globally it's a question of how much immigration should be allowed? If it's hard to get jobs as an immigrant I would say immigration may be too high since a driving argument for immigration law is the need for economic labor.
There is a division between the government view/plan, and the reality. The government brings more immigrants for economic growth (Canada brings more than 250 000 immigrants each year), but many immigrants already in Canada struggle to find a job and settle down. Does this means that there are too many immigrants? It could be. But it also could mean that the vision of the government of economic growth is not fulfilled because there is no cooperation between the government and the job market. I think there is another reason to bring immigrants to Canada in specific, which is demographic. But filling the land with a stagnant job market isn't going to make immigrants to stay. No one would complain if Canada reduced the number of immigrants to 25000 because there are no jobs, or because they are filled locally. So, I agree with you, the government should accept a reasonable number of immigrants who can settle down within a year or two.
 

Vanadium 50

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I don't think that's a very good study. First, they change two variables, not just one: the name and the university. Yes, they say they picked an equivalent university, but we all know that there is no agreement on the relative strengths of universities.

Second, although it stands to reason that the ultimate hiring has the same dependencies as the callbacks, that's not necessarily true. It is entirely possible that the original pool has 50% of its candidates with ethnic-sounding names, 45% of the callback pool does, and the ultimate hired percentage would gho back to 50%. Ot maybe it goes up to 55%. Or down to 40%. We just don't know. Dropping someone in step 1 who you were going to drop in step 2 seems like not a very harsh wrong.

I'm entirely willing to believe that the study's conclusions will someday be proved true. But I don't think this study does it.
 

StatGuy2000

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There is a division between the government view/plan, and the reality. The government brings more immigrants for economic growth (Canada brings more than 250 000 immigrants each year), but many immigrants already in Canada struggle to find a job and settle down. Does this means that there are too many immigrants? It could be. But it also could mean that the vision of the government of economic growth is not fulfilled because there is no cooperation between the government and the job market. I think there is another reason to bring immigrants to Canada in specific, which is demographic. But filling the land with a stagnant job market isn't going to make immigrants to stay. No one would complain if Canada reduced the number of immigrants to 25000 because there are no jobs, or because they are filled locally. So, I agree with you, the government should accept a reasonable number of immigrants who can settle down within a year or two.
What both you and @Qurks need to understand is that in Canada, it is not the case that there are too many immigrants. The main issues are two-fold:

1. The points system used to determine who is allowed to immigrate to Canada relies quite heavily on the educational background of the potential applicant. However, there is a mismatch between the education that the immigrants have and what is actually in demand in the job market. Namely, there is a critical demand for blue-collar workers, but the immigration system is bringing in those with white-collar education and skills, where there isn't necessarily as much of a shortage. Hence the situation where educated immigrants end up being underemployed (e.g. working as taxi drivers, store clerks, etc.).

2. The HR personnel and the hiring managers in many Canadian businesses are overwhelmingly of white British descent (or white French-Canadian descent for those in Quebec), often with very deep roots in Canada, and so when they hire people, they (often inadvertently) prefer to hire those who are the most similar to themselves culturally (i.e. those who, say, have an interest in hockey, do not speak English with an accent, etc.). This is what the article I linked to referred to -- the implicit and often unconscious biases the hiring managers possess serve as barriers for immigrants and non-white Canadians in the workplace. This often leads to a homogeneous workplace in many work settings.

Limiting immigration to Canada doesn't really address either of the above points. And given the low birth rates in Canada in general, Canada cannot really afford to talk about limiting immigration to begin with, because a shrinking population will in fact have further negative economic ramifications.
 
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@StatGuy2000 I totally agree with you. In some provinces, there are jobs that no one takes, and these jobs are blue-collar. But the question is then: why the government brings white-collar workers with advanced degrees, if all they need is blue-collar workers? And how blue-collar jobs drives economy in the first place? Why to give immigrants high hope that is not the reality?

I understand that Canada has a low birth rate, and they need immigrants, but immigrants need incentives to immigrate and stay. Canada's economic system doesn't rely on innovation and technology as in the US. It relies on natural resources, and conservative policies to protect the status quo and avoid risk. Accepting > 250 000 immigrants a year, most of which are skilled workers and highly educated, won't serve Canada, or the immigrants in this case. Maybe the bottom line to Canada is to receive more than CAN$250M a years for processing only successful applications (they process more than the accepted number of immigrants), and each immigrant brings with him/her at least CAN$12000 until they settle down, and it is not unlikely they will leave after they spend this money in Canada in case they don't find a job. But is this an economic advantage to Canada? I don't know.

I also agree with you about the HR personnel and hiring managers. That is why I think diversity should start with them, because they are the filters. Maybe by forming committee of interviewers with different backgrounds. This way, they can correct their personal biases, because each one will try to see the biases in others.
 
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The only way I see it is to have a dialogue between the government and the market specifically addressing immigrants in the workforce.
Well, I don’t know about Canada, but in the US this conversation has already happened. It went like this

Government: “Employment discrimination based on country of origin is illegal”

Market: “...”

I think this is part of a larger problem, which is integrating and assimilating immigrants
I agree. Communication skills, in particular, are an important part of many jobs, and are an area where immigrants as a group have a fairly large real hurdle to overcome.

We recently hired two immigrants for a position that requires substantial customer interaction, but there were some who were rejected specifically for communication issues. Those rejections were perfect legitimate, for a real business need, but perhaps some support would have helped them improve.
 

Dr. Courtney

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My Hispanic heritage is underappreciated and does not bring me the advantages I deserve because my last name is Courtney rather than Cortez.

Of course, it was changed to Courtney back in the day to prevent negative biases from the original.
 
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This is a related article I found, which addresses the issues of immigrants in Canada, and compares the situation in Canada and other countries like US and UK. It says that Canada accepts more well-educated immigrants than needed (I suspect because of a stagnant economy that depends heavily on natural resources), and selects them as skilled worker based on criteria that don't match the criteria of employers. So, employers ask for "Canadian experience" as a way to filter thousands of applicants who are not needed. This mismatch creates the struggle for immigrants, who end up taking low-wage low-skilled jobs that don't match their educations and skills if they decided to stay. Yes, there is a free health care system in Canada, and with a permanent residency you have the freedom to work to any employer, but this is great if you can find a job, and can support yourself and your family decently.

Maybe switching the point system to employer-based selection as suggested would have better results for all parties, since immigrants would immigrate with a job offer, not wandering for years after landing with no job offer, and on the other hand, employers select the workers that they deem valuable and skilled. I suspect this won't work though, because Canada needs immigrants for demographic reasons as well to populate the lands, and compensate the low birth rate.

It is a topic for discussion in Canada these days as parties are preparing for next elections, which is a good thing.
 
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Practically speaking, if blue collar jobs were in such demand then immigrants would be getting those jobs(regardless of what they trained in) or their salary would be going up. It's the nature of capitalism. While bias may exist the reality is if there was a great need the companies would be hiring or the salaries would be raising. If neither is happening there is labor saturation(which appears to the be case in most sectors at this point).
 

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