If you have an Asian-sounding name, the job hunt might be a bit more challenging in Canada.
A Canadian study released last week revealed that those with names like “Xuiying Zhang” and “Samir Sharma” have a smaller chance of nabbing a job interview compared to those with names like “Greg Johnson” and “Emily Brown” ― even when they have more impressive credentials.
Rupa Banerjee, who co-authored the joint study between the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, explained that these biases come into play during the employers’ snap decisions.
“A name matters because it draws on implicit response and activates stereotypes on what a job candidate would be when you only have less than seven seconds to look at a resumé,” Banerjee told the Toronto Star. “People judge by the name they see.”
In the report, researchers used data from a large-scale Canadian employment audit study and looked at both large and small employers as well as the callback rates for Anglo- and Asian-sounding names ― particularly Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani names. They found that even with more education, the gap in callback rates between Anglo- and Asian-named candidates persists.
Having a master’s degree improved an Asian-named candidate’s chances of a call from 46 percent to 57 percent. But people with Anglo-sounding names still continued to fare better with just an undergraduate degree and also saw a similar jump in probability with the additional master’s degree.
Without the graduate degrees, candidates with Asian-sounding names saw a significant discrepancy in callback rates compared to those of their Anglo-named counterparts. The team found that applicants with Asian names who had Canadian qualifications were 20 percent less likely to get calls from large organizations with 500 or more employees.
That percentage jumped to 39 percent when the team looked at medium-sized companies. And when it came to small companies, candidates were found to have a similar probability.
The notable difference in callbacks between large and smaller employers, researchers suspect, may be due to the different HR and hiring practices. Larger employers might devote more resources to the recruitment process, have a more sophisticated HR staff, and also already employ a more diverse workforce. All these factors could help a minority applicant’s chance of being considered.
Small employers, however, do not have the resources that their larger counterparts do and are more likely to operate in a more informal manner, according to the study. It’s possible that they “may be isolated to some degree from trends across industries toward more flexible and open hiring processes.”
There isn’t an easy answer to tackling implicit bias, but an anonymized recruitment process could be one solution, the study suggests. Such a tactic was employed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1980, when it began to audition musicians blindly. The orchestra went from being almost all-white male to becoming the half-female, more diverse group it is today, CBC News points out.
Making an effort to incorporate more diversity into staff is worth it, and studies show that there’s a real payoff. A study from the Center for Talent Innovation, noted that those with diverse backgrounds are “better attuned to the unmet needs of consumers or clients like themselves.” What’s more, employees at diverse companies are 45 percent more likely to report that their firm improved market share over the previous year, noting that diversity spurs higher levels of innovation.
“Companies with multicultural workforces have the means at hand to grow and sustain innovation,” the report explained. “...Innovative capacity resides in an inherently diverse workforce where leaders prize difference, value every voice, and manage rather than suppress disruption.”