Could Your Name on Your Resume Be Keeping You from Getting Interviews?


An interesting discussion took place on the site Workforce Recruiting earlier this month about whether a job-seeker’s name could keep him or her from being interviewed. The discussion stemmed from an article (which I couldn’t find) in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “Why Jimmy Dick Can’t Get Hired.” In my opinion, an awkward name certainly can be an issue, and research has shown that, unfortunately ethnic and unusual names sometimes result in fewer interviews. Research in 2008 revealed that unusual names were seen as most unique, least liked, and least likely to be hired. The researchers concluded that “the name an individual carries has a significant impact on how he or she is viewed, and conceivably, whether or not the individual is hired for a job. [Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol 23(1), 2008. pp. 18-39. Cotton, O’Neill, and Griffin, authors.] In 2003 research entitled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?“, the researchers responded to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers with fictitious resumes. Each resume was assigned either a very African-American-sounding name or a very white-sounding name. The results showed significant discrimination against African-American names: White names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. [Bertrand and Mullainathan, National Board of Economic Research]. The implication is that if you have an awkward, unusual, or ethnic name, you might want to consider alternate ways to portray it on your resume — as unfair as it is to discriminate against your name. Your name is your name, but perhaps you have a middle name, nickname, or initials you could use. One respondent in the Workforce Recruiting discussion raised a couple of valid points:
  • If you disguise your ethnic name on your resume, you will still probably reveal your ethnicity in an interview (at least if your ethnicity is related to skin color/appearance).
  • Would you want to work for an employer who would discriminate against you because of your name?
One aspect of names I’ve never seen discussed but have written about (until the Workforce Recruiting discussion) is pronounceability. If I were an employer and wanted to call someone for an interview, but had no idea how to pronounce his or her name, I might simply not call. If your name is hard for the average person to pronounce, you might want to include a phonetic pronunciation on your resume.