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Jennifer, Alison, Phillipa, Sue, Deborah, Annabel, too: Is your name holding you back in the workplace?

20-August-2018 10:46
in General
by Admin

“What’s in a name?” asks Juliet in Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet.  As it happens, quite a bit so Hermeisha Robinson would argue after she received a rejection letter from a potential employer stating “Thank you for your interest. Unfortunately, we do not consider candidates that have suggestive 'ghetto' names. We wish the best in your career search." 

The company that issued the letter, Mantality Health, in Missouri, later confirmed that a “disgruntled employee hacked their email system and sent the reply”.

There are two angles I could take in this blog, first, cyber security, or secondly, ‘ghetto’ names.  I’m a specialist in neither, but marginally more intrigued by the latter.

Do employers and recruiters deploy unconscious (or indeed conscious) bias when looking at names on CVs?  Almost certainly, yes.  Should that happen?  No, of course it shouldn’t – as Juliet went on to say, “That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet”.

Names will always incite bias – when naming children many options are quickly ruled out because they are synonymous with those who display unfavourable characteristics, we make judgements based on names before we meet people – often incorrectly – and those with more unusual names may be subject to more scrutiny than those with names considered to be more mainstream.    

Recruiters can and do remove names from CVs – not just to eliminate any gender bias, but perhaps to eradicate any name bias too.

The irony is, as we get older and our memories become less reliable, the first thing we often struggle to recall is someone’s name.  Yet we can remember their face, where and how we met and that they love rugby. 

Names are arbitrary.  It’s worth trying to bear that in mind when considering a CV. 


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