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Are recruiters discriminating based on name?

Published: Thursday 29th November 2018

A study from StandOut CV has found that candidates with non-typical ‘British’ names get fewer call-backs from recruiters after submitting their CV. When researchers created two identical CVs, one belonging to ‘Adam Smith’ and the other belonging to ‘Ravindra Thalwal’ and used each to apply to 50 jobs in sales and administration, with the same location and salary expectations, they found that Adam’s CV received 34 responses while Ravindra only received half as many. Ravindra’s CV fared a little better in finance. But only secured more responses than Adam’s CV when applying for technology jobs. This example of recruiters discriminating against a candidate based on only their name is considered illegal.

Growing evidence of religious discrimination

Recruiters discriminating against religion

Other research backs up the suggestion that there is discrimination against non-British sounding names in the job market. According to a study by the Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol, Muslim men are 76% less likely to be employed than their white Christian counterparts. Professor Modood, who carried out the study, was asked to use a ‘British  name’ earlier in his career.

These aren’t lone examples. A field experiment for the Department for Work and Pensions in 2009 found ethnic minority applicants were discriminated against in favour of white applicants in 29% of cases, while a report on 2015 by the charity Demos found British Muslims were less represented, proportionally, in managerial and professional occupations than any other religious group.

It’s against the Equality Act of 2010 to discriminate against anyone because of religion in the UK. But there have been cases of employers taking disciplinary action against workers for practicing religious customs in the workplace. As well as action taken by applicants who feel they were discriminated against on the basis of name.

One famous example of recruiters discriminating In 2013, an employment tribunal heard that Virgin Atlantic discriminated against Liberian born Max Kpakio, because of his ‘African-sounding’ name. Max was denied an interview under his real name at a Swansea call centre. So he applied again under the name Craig Owen. He was subsequently invited to interview.

Is ‘name-blinding’ the way forward?

Name written on wooden blocks

In an effort to combat the problem, prime minister, David Cameron, announced in 2015 that UCAS, the universities admission system, would be ‘name-blind’ from 2017, meaning applicants’ names would be removed, and the same would apply for apprentices and graduates for entry to organisations such as the BBC, NHS, and local government. Some big accountancy firms, such as Deloitte have already implemented the practice.

However, in France, some companies have found name-blinding to be counter-productive. There, anonymous CVs were found to be discriminated against based on whether or not they lived in an underprivileged area.

AI is thought to be another tool in combating name bias, as theoretically, it should lack the ability to discriminate. However, in the case of the AI system used at Amazon, an algorithm was found to discriminate against women, so these systems aren’t infallible either.

At Zoek, we don’t tolerate any recruiters discriminating against anyone. Any type of discrimination will be treated very seriously and we won’t list jobs that contain any form of bias. Whether it’s jobs in London, jobs in Manchester, jobs in Liverpool or jobs in Birmingham, at Zoek we take care to ensure every job on our site comes from a reputable employer that complies with all equality legislation.

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