What’s in a name? Maybe discrimination

July 1, 2011
in Employment Law

A study in the Journal of Managerial Psychology said résumés with common names were more likely to receive callbacks than those with Russian and African-American names. And a Canadian study using 6,000 dummy résumés yielded similar results for “English-sounding,” Pakistani and Chinese names.

Evaluating candidates based on name could trigger claims of race bias or national-origin discrimination because, as the EEOC says, “The concept of race is multifaceted. For example, it can encompass cultural traits such as a person’s name or his or her manner of speech.”

A few years ago, Target Corp. settled an EEOC race bias case that claimed the company decided not to interview three black candidates because of the names on their résumés: Kalisha White, Ralpheal Edgeston and Cherise Brown-Easley.

Tips to avoid a similar fate:  

  • Avoid looking at names first. With paper résumés, cover the name or fold over the part showing it. With online résumés, scroll up the portion revealing the name. This also helps remove gender bias claims.
  • Evaluate résumés objectively. Assess experience, credentials and skills and then identify the name if the candidate meets the requirements.
  • After viewing the name, keep an open mind. Guard against quick judgments and assumptions.   
  • Don’t discuss the ethnic origins of applicants’ names with co-workers.

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