What’s in a name?

I had my very first job interview today. I don’t think it went too badly, it’s hard to tell.

I have only applied for 4 jobs so far. One had ignored me, one sent me a letter telling me they didn’t want me, one phoned me to tell me they’d just hired someone and the other gave me an interview. My boyfriend has now applied for between 20-30 jobs and he has had 2 replies, both telling him the job he applied for isn’t in the same city he lives in. (He knows this or he wouldn’t have applied!!!)

His CV is in perfect English; I have checked it many times and also asked my family to check it too. I think it looks quite good, so there is no obvious reason to ignore it. We also changed his CV to include my home address (we are applying to jobs near where I live and his home address is the other side of the country) in the hope that there will be no more issues with location, though location shouldn’t really be that much of a problem anyway. Surely when you finish University, you’re going to consider relocating? He has applied to a variety of jobs, but nothing seems to make a difference.

So why is he not getting any replies? Is it a coincidence? Is he applying for really popular jobs? Do they not want to risk an interview with someone who lives so far away? Is he actually under qualified and they can’t be bothered to reply to tell him he doesn’t have an interview? Or is it because he has an Asian surname?


Are names effecting job applications?

I don’t want to come out and say he is a victim of racial discrimination, but I find it so strange that he is being ignored like this. I thought companies would actively want to hire people of a Chinese ethnicity, with the stereotype that they are hard working and intelligent. However, a report from Parliament.uk states that between July 2011 and June 2012, the percentage of unemployment was 7% for whites and 12% for Asians. It seems like it really is harder for Asian’s to get a job.

There is evidence behind the idea that his name could be the problem. Earlier this year, an African man applied for a job under his real name and was rejected. He then simplified his CV, re-submitted it under an English name and got an interview (You can read the full story here).

I’m sure many places would have no issue with hiring foreign people, especially places like London, but where I am from there are few Asian’s, just a lot of eastern Europeans, so it might seem like more of a risk to some companies to hire them. It’s also possible that any discrimination isn’t intentional. Employers flick through CVs so quickly that they could subconsciously dismiss someone with a foreign name.

With mixed race couples these days, there must be so many women married to foreign men, and many adults who have a British mother and a foreign father, giving them a foreign sounding name. A name shouldn’t make any difference. Britain is becoming a multi-cultural country and just because you name sounds foreign, it doesn’t mean you are. Are people going to have to start writing that they are British citizens to stop being ignored, or even go as far as to change their names by deed poll?

It would be pretty drastic for my boyfriend to change his name legally just to get a job, so we’ll just have to see what happens. Keep your fingers crossed that we both manage to get jobs! I’ll keep you updated on what happens.

Has anyone had any experience of possible race discrimination at work?

Image: flickrhivemind.net

19 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. I think it’s because if he still hold a HK passport it might be too much to do for the boss to get him into the company. What degree he has? My husband has bachelor in aerospace engineering, master in engineering managment and official american engineer license – he got his job 1.5 month before he graduated from EM, as a industrial engineer. Maybe he should try in Asian companies, just like my husband?

    • My boyfriend is a British citizen with a British passport so that shouldn’t be a problem! He did Accounting so not quite as specialised as your husband but still quite a lot of jobs in that area. I do think maybe trying companies than have Hong Kong or Chinese offices might be a good idea, they might see being Asian as an advantage rather than a burden!

      • British Overseas (old HK passport) or British British? I don’t know why but some UK people look on BO passport in a bad way… really try Asian companies – if he speaks Cantonese and Mandarin it shouldn’t be a problem, but then if he get hired you need to know that he might not earn as good as in ‘white companies’ and also work more/harder – my husband works in Asian company, he gets so so salary, but he has a lot of overtime (some paid, some of them are bonus money on paycheck) but you know they don’t really care much if it’s Christmas, even Chinese New Year – if they can earn money they will prefer that rather than celebration. On the other hand in that company he might have a chance live in Asia in that company’s place but get UK salary which is good. Since he has accounting degree and British passport (but only if he’s BB, not BO) he might have quite good, but hard working future in HK. I guess you don’t want him to move so keep on trying with Chinese companies, make him also account on LinkedIn 🙂

      • British British. He is 100% British now, something to do with his Dad working for the British government before China took HK back which meant they were all allowed to move to the UK and become British citizens.

        He really doesn’t want anyone to know he speaks Cantonese but I think it’s a big benefit to have another language. I forced him to put it on his CV. I need to show him your comments so he knows to make the most of being Asian and go for companies that will have lots of other Asian in!

        No way am I moving to HK, he can go on his own 😀 (Don’t think he’d want to though)

        He has LinkedIn already too 😀 We’re trying hard!

      • so it’s not anything related to passport and paperwork… he speaks and he doesn’t mention it? oh, spank his ass! maybe that’s why he couldn’t get a job, because there are people who admit they can speak – that’s a huge benefit! business with China/HK is getting more and more serious, more people are needed and since he’s a native speaker for Cantonese/Mandarin that can help him a lot! 🙂 everything ‘extra’ he can do is always a plus 🙂 any language, course ever made, any kind of small job or intership, volunteering 🙂 he shouldn’t be ashamed, he doesn’t steal or prostitute – that’s good reason to be ashamed 😀

      • Well I think it’s no disadvantage if he doesn’t admit he speaks it because hardly anyone in the UK knows more than English, but it should be a benefit if he’d just admit it!!! I think it’s because he only knows it to 10 year old level (when he left HK), so he feels like it isn’t his first language now but that’s still pretty good! I hope he doesn’t prostitute ;D

  2. I think this is definitely a real problem. My fiance has mentioned several times that he wants to take MY “American” last name when we get married, since he is worried about job hunting. That’s not fair.

    I hope your problem works itself out..

  3. I’d like to add a suggestion. He can use this to his advantage. On his CV or interview, talk about how he does speak fluent Cantonese and is willing to travel to China in order to do open up more business opportunities for UK based companies. During his interview, he needs to mention that with China’s booming economy, he could help serve as a mediator for whatever business opportunities of which a UK based company can take advantage.

    Always remember that when applying for a job means you are looking to make that company a profit. If you mention advantages that could stimulate more profit for a company on a CV, you will be noticed above others. At that point, your name doesn’t really matter. Good Luck.

    • I agree he should make more of speaking Cantonese on his CV – only problem is he isn’t fluent. He also can’t speak Mandarin. He seems pretty damn good to me, but he did occasionally struggle when we went to Hong Kong and people started speaking English at him. I don’t think he would cope in a business environment. That being said, he would still have a much better chance than the majority of people in the UK. It’s so hard to know what to do >_<

      Fingers crossed it will all work out ok though in the end 🙂

  4. Pingback: English names in Hong Kong | AMWF Couple

  5. Perhaps the percentage of unemployment was 12% for Asians because many Asians have an “under the table” job where they don’t report their income. I’m not convinced that Asians, that are typically hardworking, would be so unable to find a job. I live in the US though, so maybe it’s different in other Western countries around the world.

    • It’s possible they have jobs like that but then if they did, I think they would have to be illegal immigrants and therefore they wouldn’t have been surveyed. I think it’s based on the area that I live in more than anything. It’s very white here, unlike somewhere like London which has more foreigners than white people. I think it’s probably just slight ignorance or keeping with what is familiar rather than actually really not wanting to hire an Asian. I think if faced with the choice, UK people would choose the name Smith over the name Tong.

  6. I’ve done this test myself, the big firms tend not to be as discriminatory but the small businesses are so blatantly obvious (yet can’t be proven in courts because I’m going by the numbers). Case in point: the EXACT same CV, one posted exactly a year after the other (in May, where all the employers are looking for new graduates). Most in office-admin jobs, some in waiting-hospitality. All local small firms. Note the CV is obviously tailored for each job, but the same for each business. I sent 22 out over the month, one with my Chinese surname, then the next year with my “native” made up surname (Jenkins) – I got 4 replies (3 rejections, 1 interview) with my real name, 18 (!) (a couple of rejections, the rest were interview offers and 5 of them called me up for a phone interview where I explained myself) with Jenkins. Same qualifications (actually it was even worse as during that year I had lost a reference and had a gap of unemployment). How could that NOT be discrimination?

    • Ahh, that is just horrible >_< When you got the interview with the English made-up name, did you have to explain to them that wasn't your real name and did they have a problem with what you had done?

      • With the follow up interviews I either declined or ignored them. Maybe I should have attended at least one to see their reaction, but obviously lying about something on your CV (especially your name) would have me kicked out as soon as they got the message.

        With the phone interviews I told them the truth, they were confused more than anything, I don’t think they put much thought into chucking out “foreign” names, it’s part of the subconcious for most people.

      • I’ve actually been looking into it…and it’s completely legal to use whatever name you want without changing it. Still, it’s not easy to explain it to people.

  7. there must be so many women married to foreign men, and many adults who have a British mother and a foreign father, giving them a foreign sounding name.
    I have neither, both parents are British, both with Chinese surnames. It’s a mistake to assume that all foreign sounding people have a father who is foreign. They might have been born here, or made residents when they were young.

    Are people going to have to start writing that they are British citizens to stop being ignored
    I already do that, same story. Most racists don’t care, they see a face or a name and think “foreign”. In a way you made the same mistake just now.

    • I wasn’t assuming that at all, I can’t list every possibility or I would end up with the longest blog post in history. I don’t really see how I made a mistake 0__O

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