Job Seekers With Non-Anglo Names Face Discrimination

August 5 2010 - Recent University of British Columbia research has found that job seekers with typical Anglophone names are more likely to be invited for interview than applicants with Chinese, Indian or Pakistani names.

Thousands of resumés were sent to Canadian employers and the study found that applications using Anglophone names such as Jill Wilson or John Martin attracted invitations for interviews 40 per cent more often than those with names like Sana Khan or Lei Li. This suggests that Canadians and recent immigrants with non-'English' names are facing discrimination from employers. The findings help to explain why skilled immigrants with university degrees and significant work experience still do badly in today's job market.

In a working paper released by Metropolis BC, part of an international immigration and diversity research network, UBC Economics Prof. Philip Oreopoulos states that:

"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."

6,000 mock resumés were prepared for the study. They were intended to represent recent immigrants and Canadians with and without Anglophone names. The resumés were tailored to meet job requirements and sent to 2,000 online job postings adverised by employers covering 20 occupational categories in the Greater Toronto Area - the largest and most multicultural city in Canada. Each resumé listed a bachelor's degree and 4-6 years experience. Names and Canadian or foreign education and work experience were randomly assigned.

Philip Oreopoulos said:

"If employers are engaging in name-based discrimination, they may be contravening the Human Rights Act," adding that more research is required to determine whether the behaviour is intentional. "They may also be missing out on hiring the best person for the job."

The study also found that apparent work experience in Canada seemed to make a huge difference in employer attitudes. Interview invites were almost doubled when mock resumés with foreign names and education listed just one previous job in Canada.

"This suggests policies that prioritize Canadian experience or help new immigrants find initial domestic work experience might significantly increase their employment chances," said Philip Oreopoulos, hoping that the study findings will help to improve current immigration and diversity practices.