Name-Related Bias

We’ve all heard about discrimination and bias related to
one’s gender, race, age, etc.

But can your name influence the way you’re treated in the

A variety of research studies suggest that the answer to
that question is “yes.”

In a study published in the “Journal of Experimental
Social Psychology,” Dr. Simon Laham from the University of
Melbourne and Dr. Adam Alter from the New York University
Stern School of Business contend that those with simple,
easy-to-pronounce names are more likely than others to
garner positive results in the workplace.

The researchers, who used names from Anglo, Asian, Western
European, and Eastern European backgrounds in their
studies, found that people with easy-to-pronounce names
(1) were evaluated more positively and (2) were more
likely to receive job promotions than those with
difficult-to-pronounce names.

“Research findings revealed that the effect is not due
merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or
unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,”
Laham states.

Alter conducted a study of U.S. lawyers’ names and found
that attorneys with easy-to-pronounce names rose more
quickly in their firms. “People simply aren’t aware of the
subtle impact that names can have on their judgments,” he

In one study titled, “Are Emily and Greg More Employable
than Lakisha and Jamal?” researchers found that applicants
with “white-sounding names” were 50% more likely to be
contacted for job interviews. This statistic was the same
regardless of occupation, industry, or employer size.

HR POINTER: Organizations can limit the likelihood and
impact of name-related bias in the hiring process by:

#1 Training managers to recognize unintentional bias.

#2 Removing names and addresses of applicants from resumes
before they are circulated to hiring managers.

#3 Conducting “blind interviews” (i.e., phone interviews)
initially to minimize the impact of any bias because of
physical appearance.

#4 Creating structured interviews in which all candidates
for a given job are asked the same questions.

#5 Using multiple interviewers with diverse backgrounds.


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