Even Your Name Could Result in Discrimination

When applying for a job, you don’t have to put things such as age, religion or race. You don’t even have to put your gender as it’s illegal for employers to decide on your worthiness for a particular role based on these attributes. But there’s one thing that you always put, and it’s something that could, even unconsciously, be stopping you from getting a job, and it’s your name.

It seems obvious that you should put your name on a CV and covering letter, but what does it say about you and are you likely to suffer discrimination because of it?

In a government experiment way back in 2009, 3,000 job applications were submitted using false identities and names to find out if employers were discriminating those that appeared to be foreign. The results were shocking.

They found that an applicant who appeared to be white would send nine applications before receiving a positive response of either an invitation to an interview or an encouraging telephone call. Minority candidates with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response.

That’s quite a discovery, and it has prompted some companies to look at using “name-blind” job applications as a way to stop even unconscious discrimination from happening.

According to David Cameron, “The civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, HSBC, Deloitte, KPMG, Virgin Money, Learndirect – all these and more will now recruit people solely on merit. The Conservative party HQ will do it too.”

But should you?

As a candidate looking for a job who happens to have a name that might seem to suggest a race or religion, would you be able to submit an application without putting it at the top of your CV or letter? The thing is, although it would probably be wrong for the employee to dismiss it, they are really under no obligation to take an application further if they simply don’t want to.

You could argue that you don’t want to discriminate yourself because of your name, but just by saying it you are in effect, doing just that.

Two things need to happen to ensure we have a level playing field.

Firstly, employers need to ensure they have a mix of people screening, interviewing and employing people. But secondly, the government needs to act and to make it a requirement that job applications do become name-blind by law so that nobody has to take a stand but that completely gender and race neutral selection can take place.