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What’s in a Name? Does Your Name Face Discrimination?



We live in uncertain times, in times of turmoil, in times of up rise, in times of love and chaos, in coming together and falling apart, we are awake (woke), we are asleep. We are basically walking contradictions, worlds divided in belief and thought. And here you are, just trying to make a living, a foot in the door. You come in peace, you come with hope, you come wanting to work and contribute to society. However, for whatever reason, you never seem to get a phone call from that recruitment agency. Your resume seems to be on point, all I’s dotted, and T’s crossed. So, what is going on?

Before we continue, we want to point out that this blog may be a little sensitive for some, it is not a reflection on our beliefs, ideas or how we operate our recruitment process. Nor do we subscribe that this is your case or a correct assumption of your personal situation. However, we are here to educate, to share our experience and to hopefully, make you walk away with a little more knowledge, and a whole lot more confidence in your journey of job hunting.

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From our experience, we have faced several individuals who are prejudiced against by other people for no known good reasons. For example, we used to know one man who had a feminine name. Until he put a Mr. in front of it, he did not get a single phone call from a recruiter. Another individual’s name was not easy to pronounce, and even though it was a beautiful name, it seemingly held him back. At least, that was his assumption. As soon as he changed his name on his resume reflecting a more Caucasian title, he started to get phone calls. Both men were educated, experienced individuals, however, were seemingly held back by their names.

Sadly, this did not shock us, as we have heard too many times “we need someone with experience, who is willing to put in extra hours, but please, no Indians / no Chinese / no Russians / no one from another state / must not be older than 50 / no males / no females…”. The list of discrimination is vast, and sadly, no one is immune to it. Sure, there are certain groups of people who would find it easier to get a job due to race, gender and age; however, they too are not 100% exempt from being discriminated against. For example, one person has communicated to us that her boss only hires attractive young women. Whilst another workplace we know fired every female, leaving it an all-male office.

So how does one overcome this? Well, firstly, you need to question if you even wish to work for someone who has such low ethical standards that would overlook ‘qualification and suitability’ over race, gender, looks and age? We do not live in an ideal world, so of course situations like who you know trumps what you know, and Mr Brown as a name gets the first phone call, not, Mrs Vozenilekishtinanan. However, it is assuring to know that not every person out there is prejudiced by name, race, or religion. And whilst you may wish to change your name on paper (a solution we have found effective for many), it is a personal decision and one we do not feel comfortable to recommend.

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Why don’t we recommend you changing your name on your resume?

What we encourage is being proud of who you are, where you come from, your background, and your culture. What you can bring to the table as an individual based on your skills, knowledge and professional abilities should be what makes you stand out. At the end of the day, you should be judged by your professionalism and your capabilities to perform the job successfully. You, with your name, got you that education and that experience. You did this with your name, step by step working hard to get to where you are today.

This is not an ideal world, we know, however; you can stand up for yourself, turn the tables on the recruiter to find out the truth about why you did not get that job or phone call. They may not specify it is your name, but we recommend you still ask the recruiter why you were overlooked for the role. If you do not agree with the answer, explain why you disagree in a calm professional manner. This can build your confidence and make the recruiter rethink their position. At the end of the day, be proud of who you are, however, if you feel like making an edit on your resume, we understand and support your choices too.

Happy Job-Hunting,

My Career Angels

“Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.”

Dalai Lama