Name Bias In Hiring

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Name Bias In Hiring

Name bias in hiring has been a topic of conversation in the corporate world for going on 20 years now- with the first studies being done in the early 2000s. "Name bias" (also known as name discrimination) refers to an employer's preferential treatment of certain names when reviewing resumes and job applications.

Common examples of name discrimination in hiring have surfaced in a "watershed study" according to NPR. In their article, "White-sounding names get called back for jobs more than Black ones, a new study finds," they reference a joint working paper between UC Berkley and University of Chicago researchers that studied the "call-back rates" from some of the largest US-based corporate employers.

The working paper, "A Discrimination Report Card," is a combined effort between Evan Rose, Patrick Kline, and Christopher Walters to expand on the findings of Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan in their 2003 paper titled, "A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination." and build a new statistical methodology to grade employers on their name discrimination practices.

The original study found that the "whiter" a person's resume name was, the more likely they were to get a call back for an interview. This means that applicants with names like Emily, Greg, and Claire were 50% more likely to get a callback than those with names like Lakisha, Jamal, or Aisha.

The new study found that name bias operated on a spectrum with the lowest rates around 3% and the highest around 24%. This is an interesting result to me because it shows progress. While there is still a long way to go, it's encouraging to see that many companies are actively working towards reducing name bias in their hiring practices.

So why does this matter? Why is it important to address name bias in hiring? And, what impact is it having on employers?

First and foremost, it is a form of discrimination that can greatly impact the lives and opportunities available for individuals with "non-traditional" names. It also perpetuates discrimination and reinforces stereotypes, making it difficult for people who are trying to build a better life for their families to create the economic means to do so.

Additionally, name bias in hiring limits diversity in the workplace. When certain names are favored, it means that individuals from diverse backgrounds may not have the same opportunities and representation in various industries. This can create a homogenous work environment, stifling innovation and creativity.

Finally, name bias can have a hugely negative impact on employers. We live in a world that's becoming far more transparent, and companies with a reputation for name bias may face backlash from the public, damage their brand image, and limit access to qualified talent.

There are many great tools available to help you eliminate name discrimination. Blind recruitment software, interview intelligence, and resume-screening programs are all great examples of technology that can help reduce name bias in the hiring process.

Examples And Case Studies Of Name Bias

In 2003, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan released their seminal paper, "A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination." To date, this working paper showcased the most illuminating examples and case studies of name bias in the corporate world. Conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, this study put the idea of name bias "top-of-mind" for hiring teams. Focusing on resumes with "white-sounding" names like Emily, Greg, and Claire versus "African-American sounding" names such as Lakisha, Jamal, or Aisha, the study showed that resumes with white-sounding names received 50% more callbacks for interviews than those with African-American sounding names.

This stark difference in callback rates from the original study highlighted the ingrained biases in hiring practices that still persist in many workplaces today - albeit at seemingly lower rates. These name-bias examples also reveal the challenges many applicants face in applying for jobs and the discouragement that comes with it.

In 2017, a study out of Canada found that candidates with Asian names — names of Indian, Pakistani, or Chinese origin — were 28 percent less likely to get called for an interview when compared to Anglo last names. One particular tech company that found itself at the center of a controversy after an internal audit revealed that candidates with Asian names were less likely to be selected for technical interviews, despite having similar or even better qualifications to their counterparts.

Overcoming Name Bias: A Hypothetical Scenario and Action Plan

Imagine a hypothetical tech company we'll call "TechForward Inc." One day the hiring manager is reviewing recruitment data and notices a significant discrepancy in the callback rates for interviews for candidates with names  that sound "Anglo" versus those that sound "ethnic." The hiring manager is disturbed by this realization and wants to take immediate action to address this issue.

Action Plan to Overcome Name Bias at TechForward Inc.

  1. Implement Blind Recruitment Practices: TechForward Inc. decides to anonymize resumes and applications by removing names, addresses, and other identifying information. This step ensures that the initial screening process focuses solely on the qualifications, experience, and skills of the applicants.
  2. Standardized Interview Questions & Structured Interviews: To further reduce bias, the company develops a set of standardized interview questions that are asked of all candidates. This approach aims to provide a fair and equal opportunity for all applicants to showcase their abilities.
  3. Diversity Training for Hiring Managers: Recognizing that biases are often unconscious, TechForward Inc. introduces diversity and inclusion training for all its hiring managers and staff involved in the recruitment process. This training includes sessions on understanding and overcoming name bias.
  4. Utilize Software Tools: The company invests in blind resume-screening and interview intelligence software designed to reduce bias. These tools help in objectively evaluating candidates based on their skills and potential rather than their names or backgrounds.
  5. Track and Analyze Data: To measure the effectiveness of these initiatives, TechForward Inc. sets up a system to track and analyze recruitment data, focusing on the diversity of its applicant pool and the outcomes of its hiring processes. This data-driven approach allows the company to make adjustments as needed.
  6. Promote a Culture of Inclusion: Beyond the hiring process, TechForward Inc. works to foster an inclusive workplace culture where diversity is celebrated, and everyone feels valued. This includes creating employee resource groups, hosting diversity-focused events, and setting clear policies against discrimination.

Taking quick actions like the ones listed above will not only to overcome name bias in the hiring process but also allow TechForward, Inc. to become a leader in promoting diversity and inclusion within its space.

The Impact Of Name Discrimination

The impact of name discrimination manifests at both the organizational level, and with candidates. Applicants with names that would be considered difficult to pronounce buy some, create barriers that make them feel marginalized or defeated before even getting a chance to showcase their skills, experience, and qualifications. As you can imagine this barrier to entry affects their confidence and career trajectory, contributing to an overall sense of exclusion from opportunities that they're perfectly qualified for. This is why name discrimination in the workplace should be mitigated and even eliminated where possible.

Name discrimination in the workplace also has adverse effects on organizations as candidates need to feel that they can thrive in a company without being subject to discrimination. This bias subverts an inclusive culture and will have a dramatically negative impact on employees' well-being, job satisfaction, and overall productivity.

In the next few years, organizations that fail to address name discrimination will face greater challenges in accessing top talent and risk their competitive edge in today’s global market. As the marketplace goes global, name discrimination statistics showcase that businesses that succumb to this bias, even unknowingly, will miss out on a vast pool of talent that could drive their organization forward and fill necessary roles.

Equity In Hiring Practices

Equity is a critical element of fair and inclusive hiring. Organizations striving to create equity in hiring practices will win, and create brands that attract the best talent- and avoiding bias in hiring, is the first step.

Committing to managing bias in hiring involves an uncomfortable truth - acknowledging that the bias exists and it might be happening in your company. This realization requires a level of introspection that takes honesty and awareness, but it's also the necessary first step to take to move forward with creating an inclusive culture. Before an organization can leap to mitigate name bias, there must be an organizational acknowledgment of its presence and an understanding of its impact on hiring efforts - this is a top-down commitment.

This commitment maintains moral and social responsibility and boosts business performance. Fair hiring practices lead to a diverse team capable of tackling global challenges and enhancing innovation and creativity through varied perspectives. Companies must eliminate bias in their hiring to access the widest talent pool. Ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity, regardless of their background or identity, not only enhances the company's reputation but also contributes to a more equitable society. Ultimately, fair hiring results in smarter decisions, creative solutions, and a more competitive business.

If you've seen the impact of biased hiring practices and would like to implement systems and technology to help you avoid them in your organization, book a demo to chat with someone from our team. You'll discover how structured interviews and interview intelligence can drive meaningful change and increase diversity hiring by up to 42%.