Black HR Professional: We Judge Hood-Sounding Names On Resumes, Hide Your Real Names To Get In The Door

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Written by Ann Brown
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Black HR Professional: We Judge Hood-Sounding Names On Resumes, Hide Your Real Names To Get In The Door. Stock image photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Your resume may be too “hood” for some job recruiters. A Black HR professional went online to warn job candidates that they should be whitening up their resumes by deleting references to their race, and research has proven the strategy pays off.

Saying she was “just trying to keep it real,” Revamped|Career Strategist identified on Twitter as an HR professional and advised job applicants to make themselves seem white on their resume.

“Tips from the HR department.Hood names on resumes. Listen, are we judging you, yes we are. I’m just trying to keep it real. When we see a name that’s hard to pronounce… We are judging you by your name first…If you have a middle name that is maybe less hood, do your initial, your middle name, and last name. It will get you in the door…”

Twitter had lots to say.

“This type of rhetoric is what enables discrimination in the work place and it has got to stop. You have no problem judging the name ‘Timothée Chalamet’ so why are you suddenly having a hard time judging a ‘hood’ name? People like this shouldn’t work in HR,” replied one user.

Others tweeted that they felt the information was helpful. One user wrote, “The Black ppl commenting on her being elitists Or classist when she’s giving everyone an insiders perspective and free game is why Black ppl can’t get ahead. You have to get your foot in the door to spark real change not just be angry and scream injustice from outside the door”

Another said employers are now seeking out people with “Black” sounding names: “i’m an HR manager and ‘hood’ names, Washingtons, Jones, Curtises, Freedmans, and Browns get moved to the very front of the list. y’all better hope y’all’s momma didn’t name you Paul or John because your application going straight to the bottom.”

Another tweeter said the HR professional’s advice can work. “That’s exactly what i did with the company i work for now bc my name is Yasiah and nobody can ever pronounce that when i used my middle name as my first name i started getting so many calls back.”

There is research to back up the HR professional’s tip.

Companies are more than twice as likely to call minority applicants for interviews if they submit whitened resumes than candidates who don’t hide their race, according to research in 2016 by Katherine A. DeCelles, the James M. Collins Visiting Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

“Discrimination still exists in the workplace,” DeCelles said. “Organizations now have an opportunity to recognize this issue as a pinch point, so they can do something about it.”

DeCelles was one of the authors of a September 2016 article about a two-year study, “Whitened Resumes: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market” published in Administrative Science Quarterly. It was co-written by Sonia K. Kang, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the University of Toronto Mississauga; András Tilcsik, assistant professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto; and Sora Jun, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University.

Another 2016 study entitled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination,” found that resumes with names traditionally held by Black people were less likely to get callbacks from potential employers as resumes bearing white-sounding names. The University of Missouri study wasn’t much different from a famous study from more than a decade ago that found Lakishas and Jamals were far less likely to get job interviews than Emilys and Gregs.

The 2016 “Labor Market Discrimination” study differed from research published in 2004 by University of Chicago professor Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, then at MIT and now at Harvard.

Researchers in the 2004 study sent nearly 5,000 resumes in response to 1,300 job ads found in newspapers in Boston and Chicago from fictional applicants with “very white-sounding names” such as Emily Walsh and Greg Baker and “very African-American sounding names” such as Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones. The white names got 50 percent more callbacks than the Black-sounding names, regardless of the industry or occupation, The Chicago Tribune reported in 2016.

In the “Labor Market Discrimination” study, reseacrhers used only surnames that the U.S. Census shows overwhelmingly belong to whites and Black people, while using first names to signify gender. The researchers sent nearly 9,000 resumes to online job postings in seven cities. The resumes from the fictional Black applicants bore the last names Washington and Jefferson, while those from white candidates bore Anderson and Thompson.

On average, 11.4 percent of resumes received a response from an employer, and there were no statistically significant differences across race, ethnic or gender groups, The Chicago Tribune reported. In essence, the study found racial discrimination is less prevalent than it was a dozen years ago — though it was still present.

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The Whitened Resumes study found that whitening doesn’t just refer to names. African-American job applicants have toned down mentions of race from Black organizations they belonged to, such as dropping the word “Black” from a membership in a professional society for Black engineers. Others omitted notable achievements, including one Black college senior who deleted a prestigious scholarship from his resume because it could reveal his race, Harvard Business Review reported.

“Some applicants were willing to lose what could be seen as valuable pieces of human capital because they were more worried about giving away their race,” DeCelles says.