April 22, 2016

Are name-blind CVs ending ethnicity discrimination?

Large numbers of ethnic minority women are using false names in job applications in the UK because they fear that their ‘foreign sounding’ names might otherwise count against them.

New research by the name-blind headhunting company, Nottx.com, found that around one in five of the 540 female black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) jobseekers it polled had changed their name in job applications. Even larger numbers – four in five – said they think that their gender and ethnicity are barriers to employment.

Nottx, a new headhunting company that launched the UK’s first ‘name-blind’ CV service for women and ethnic minorities, says almost half a million female and ethnic minority jobseekers will not be considered for jobs in the finance and IT sectors purely on account of their names.

It is by no means the only organisation that thinks a person’s name can count against them in the recruitment process. The government announced at the end of last year that recruitment for the NHS and civil service would be name-blind by 2020. David Cameron also said that several high profile graduate recruiters, including KPMG, HSBC, Deloitte, Virgin Money and the BBC, will follow suit and ensure a name-blind application process for all graduate and apprentice positions.

What is a name-blind CV exactly? It is when candidates are not required to state their name on a job application. It is hoped that by going ‘name-blind’, organisations can remove any unconscious bias in the recruitment process, meaning that it’s just a candidate’s skills and experience that count.

Research carried out in the States highlighted how much name bias is a problem. The National Bureau of Economic Research issued a piece of research called ‘Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination’. This research found that jobseekers with white names usually send out 10 CVs to receive one call back, whereas jobseekers with African-American names had to send out around 15 CVs in order to receive one call back.

The situation is as bad in the UK – findings from the National Centre for Social Research and the Department for Work and Pensions found that white-sounding candidates need to send nine job applications before being called to interview, compared to ethnic minority candidates having to send 16 applications before being called to interview, even when they have the same or similar skills and experiences.

It is not just women who think their names are harming their job prospects. Many ethnic minority men interviewed by Nottx also believe they have suffered from discrimination on account of their ethnicity, but are less willing to change their names. Less than a tenth of the 460 men polled in the survey said they had changed their name in a job application.

These findings are issued against a backdrop of high BAME unemployment, compared to the UK average. Figures from the Office for National Statistics demonstrate that unemployment rates for BAME workers educated to A-level or equivalent stands at 14% in the UK. Unemployment for white people with the same qualifications in the UK stands at 4.5%, however.

According to research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), people from a BAME background are up to three times more likely to be unemployed than equally skilled white people.