Job Discrimination against Foreign Sounding Names

Job Discrimination against Foreign Sounding Names

Job discrimination against foreign sounding names is not a myth.  In fact, it was confirmed based on a 2009  UBC Research Study of 6000 mock resumes sent out to 2000 online job postings in 20 categories in the Toronto area.

The study shows that a complete foreign name as as “Deng Xiao Ping” has a 40% less chance of landing interviews, compared to a mixed name such as “Peter Deng” which has a 20% less chance of landing interviews.

Callbacks nearly doubled when applicants with foreign-sounding names held at least one previous Canadian jobs.  This shows that Canadian employers put great emphasis on Canadian experience over Canadian education, and a foreign sounding name can imply lack of Canadian experience.

“The findings suggest that a distinct foreign-sounding name may be a significant disadvantage on the job market even if you are a second- or third-generation citizen,” said Philip Oreopoulos, a professor of economics at UBC who led the research.

a good job interview leaves a good impression
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

There can be some logic to this prejudice. It is assumed that a second or third generation immigrant who is educated in Canada will have the advantage of a “known quantity” Canadian education. Someone with a foreign sounding name may not be truly assimilated or integrated into Canadian society. So, if you really want to land that job you aspire for, consider getting an alias. If your name is Srinivasa Ramanujan, consider the name Sean Ramanujan. You can still keep your legal name. Just make life easy for everybody else with pronouncing your name.

Whether you are looking for a job, or working on a project bid, here are some tips on skills you can add to your resume.

This article was first posted in 2009, and was recently updated in Feb 2020.

6 thoughts on “Job Discrimination against Foreign Sounding Names”

  • I don’t understand why a name can put a stamp on someone. The nationality or origin of somebody shouldn’t influence the opportunities of job or any other thing…

  • That’s why here it’s already possible to submit a cv without putting one’s name coz it might cause discrimination… Also religion should not be present in the forms for the same reason…. to avoid discrimination.

  • I suspect it will be a long time before we are able to rid ourselves of this subtle prejudice. It is born out of fear and stereotype for sure; which makes it wrong.

    However, we all have the reasonable, and strong, desire to protect ourselves, our friends and loved ones from potential danger. Even when the fear may be irrational.

  • I know many friends with foreign names, and they adopt a new name or alias. For example, one can be Robert Xiao Ping Deng. It certainly makes communication easier, as foreign names can be hard to pronounce. This is also legal.

  • I wondered why the name Barack Hussein Obama is an exception. I quickly realized that President Obama went to Harvard Law School, and that made the difference.

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