Is Job Seeker And Resume Discrimination Real? What’s In A Name?

We’re often asked by job seekers who have ‘non-Western’ names if they might be being discriminated against in the job market because of their name …

We work with many overseas-born and international job seekers and over the years have gained a full appreciation of the many naming conventions that people may use and sensitivities around the issue of names used on resumes. While discrimination is illegal in Australia (see details of the relevant Act by clicking here), it is clear that name bias does occur.

We see it as our job as resume writers to remove as many barriers as possible to our clients being shortlisted for jobs and being contacted by recruiters.

This issue is considered so serious by the Victorian Government, that is has instituted a trial into ‘Name Blind’ resumes. In the trial, specifics such as names, ages, location and gender are to be removed from job applications. (As an aside, Age, Full Address and Gender should never be included in a resume anyway).

Sadly, we are very aware that names can sometimes give rise to conscious or unconscious bias, and the research now proves it, so the following may be helpful.

There are many points to consider here …

Firstly, and most importantly, it is critical that the job seeker is presented exactly as they are and that the job seekers is 100% comfortable with what they are referred to by name.

Personally, we don’t think anyone should have to alter their name for the sake of a job search, but we are very aware that sometimes names can be difficult to pronounce which may be an issue for less confident recruiters, or if it is not clear on your resume what they should call you when they make contact, or that names may cause unconscious bias or even discrimination, and there is now research to confirm the fact.

Research Into Name Discrimination On Employment Applications

Sadly, the facts speak for themselves. Research conducted by the Australian National University (ANU) showed that people from culturally diverse backgrounds need to submit more applications to receive job interviews compared with their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, even if they have the same qualifications.

A) Indigenous people needed to submit 35% more job applications for each job interview compared to Anglo-Saxon applicants.

B) Middle Eastern applicants needed to submit 64% more job applications for each job interview compared to Anglo-Saxon applicants.

C) Chinese applicants needed to submit 68%more job applications for each job interview compared to Anglo-Saxon applicants.

D) Italian applicants needed to submit 12% more job applications for each job interview compared to Anglo-Saxon applicants.

You can read more about the study by clicking here.

Considerations for Names on Resumes

1) You have a lengthy name, or are known by one of your ‘middle’ names.

It’s not unusual for some of our clients to ask that their full legal entity name is included on their documents,  even when they are known simply by a diminutive of one of their names. 

In our experience, it is perfectly acceptable to use the name on your resume that you wish to be known by. For example,  a client has a legal name of ‘James Nicholas Thomas Watson-Crowther-Brown’, but he has been called ‘Jim Brown’ all his life, so we create his documents as ‘Jim Brown’.

Given that a resume is not a legal document or contract, when Jim gets an offer of employment and has to sign a contract, he will need to include his full legal name on that document, and employment documents will usually include a space for ‘Known As’ or ‘Preferred Name’, in which case he will use the name James in that document, with his preferred name as Jim Brown.

In the typical Australian resume, just the first name that the job seekers is known by and called, is listed on the resume, and the last name (without including any middle names).

2) Your name is difficult to pronounce / might be difficult for someone else to pronounce

I  have a Gaelic first name (Catriona), but when giving my name to someone on the phone so I can be called back,  if I am asked to spell my name, I will often spell it out to people without the ‘o’ in it because so many don’t know the ‘o’ is actually silent in my name and in Gaelic, is pronounced differently to the way Australians think it is. My name also starts with a ‘C’ but most people recognise my name when spelled with a ‘K’ and when I say my name, their first instinct is to write it with a ‘K’ (Katrina). This is fine for me in most general circumstances because people can feel awkward when I correct them on the pronunciation when I have given them my full name spelled correctly, if they have then pronounced it incorrectly! 

As another example, many school-age children in Taiwan (who also learn English at school from an early age) choose a western name once they start school, and while it is not a legal name, they use it throughout their working careers when working in western environments to remove any issues with pronunciation and to help with ease of integration into western work environments. 

For clients whose name are difficult to pronounce, we may sometimes suggest spelling it phonetically next to their name, eg: Xanthe (pronounced Zan – thee) or to use another Gaelic name as an example, Caoimhe (pronounced Kweeva).

How to List Your Name on Your Resume

The bottom line here is that your resume is your document and a representation of you, and you need to be fully comfortable with it.

Options to consider for your resume:

1) List your name as your full legal name
2) List underneath your full legal name ‘known as Jim’ or ‘known as Jim Brown’ or words to that effect.
3) List your name as the name your are known by, with your full legal name underneath
4) List your name only as the name you wish to be known by Eg: Bella Smith
5) List your name with the phonetic spelling next to it, Eg: in my case Catriona (pronounced C – TREE – ar – nah)
6) List your name with both your full name and name you are known by Eg: Mary-Arabella (Bella) Smith
The debate on name-based bias continues, and you can read more about it here.