How an ethnic sounding last name can hurt a job search (in Canada at least)

According to a study, “Why do some employers prefer to interview Matthew, but not Samir?”, English-speaking employers in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – who should have an awareness of the diversity of talent in the work force, given their city’s multicultural populations – are about 40 per cent more likely to choose to interview a job applicant with an English-sounding name than someone with an ethnic name, even if both candidates have identical education, skills and work histories.

That’s from the Globe and Mail. You can read the rest of the story here.

As I read this, I thought about the academic job market for philosophers. It would be hard to conduct a study of this sort with academic cvs and philosophy job postings but I’d be very curious about the results. It also struck me that this study focuses on large ethnically diverse urban centres. I shudder to think what the results would have been like in small town rural Ontario, on the east coast, or on the prairies.

The story does include some suggestions: For applicants, submitting a video resume or putting one’s name in a smaller font and specifically providing evidence of language and communication skills. For employers, leaving names off cvs entirely and evaluating them without access to the name of the applicant.

4 thoughts on “How an ethnic sounding last name can hurt a job search (in Canada at least)

  1. I don’t know how familiar people are with this study (it’s old and I apologize if it’s something everyone is familiar with), but something similar was done with effects of gender on the hiring and tenure process in psychology (in the US): The Impact of Gender on the Review of the Curricula Vitae of Job Applicants and Tenure Candidates: A National Empirical Study

    Both men and women were more likely to vote to hire a male job applicant than a female job applicant with an identical record. Similarly, both sexes reported that the male job applicant had done adequate teaching, research, and service experience compared to the female job applicant with an identical record. In contrast, when men and women examined the highly competitive curriculum vitae of the real-life scientist who had gotten early tenure, they were equally likely to tenure the male and female tenure candidates and there was no difference in their ratings of their teaching, research, and service experience. There was no sign i®cant main effect for the quality of the institution or professional rank on selectivity in hiring and tenuring decisions. The results of this study indicate a gender bias for both men and women in preference for male job applicants.

    It seems to me that a similar study could be done with ethnic names and in philosophy. I would love to see the results of the gendered version in philosophy.

  2. Since I’ve been working on job applications this semester (65 down, 15 to go!), I’ve been thinking about exactly this issue. Anonymous journal submission reviews are standard within philosophy now. They’re rightly considered the best way to ensure that publications are awarded meritocratically and without (certain kinds of) gender and race bias. Yet the much-more-important graduate school and job applications are not anonymous in any way at all. Indeed, my name — and thus my gender and some clues about my race — are at top of every one of the 60+ pages in my application dossier.

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