Your foreign sounding name
And how it affects your job hunt.
By Jacquie Liversidge
Your resume is fantastic.
You have made all the right decisions.
Perhaps you have engaged us and we have sent you into the job market with the best material we can produce to win jobs.
Your work experience is from overseas, but this doesn’t actually matter so much.
Or, at least, for me it wouldn’t. I am Australian, I am white and my name is a regularly used Anglo name.
I know that were I to go overseas and seek work that my achievements and my resume would be considered with the weight that I would hope it to be.
But I remember applying for roles in male-dominated spaces.
For me, this is the only thing I have to worry about. I would worry about the leadership team and whether there was female representation in management.
I’m of child birthing age but I try not to give that away. I don’t have children or prospects to have them, but employers tend to be cynical at best and at worst discriminatory.
And whilst that is not true for all employers, their goal in hiring their candidates are purely commercial.
A sales role, with a portfolio comprised primarily of a male majority? Your achievements are fantastic, but John might fill the bill better here.
A woman ‘at risk’ of childbirth and maternity leave? Perhaps her children will distract her from the role.
These are not unfounded fears, and they play out in very real ways in the job hunt.
“Statistically speaking, you need to appeal to Anglo/European men in leadership. And if you are a woman with a name that sounds foreign, despite your achievements, despite everything you have done, you are now at a worse disadvantage.”
Yesterday, it came up. I never want to mention it. A client asked whether their name will affect their prospects in job hunting, and their name was a common name– from a different country. A non-european country. I want to believe that it doesn’t exist, I want to bury my head in the employment sand and believe in the meritocracy.
But the reality is, if you are a woman with a female name on your resume, you are less likely to get to an interview.
Indigenous, Chinese or Middle-Eastern sounding names were found in a 2015 study by ANU to achieve far fewer interviews.
95 per cent of senior leaders are from white or European backgrounds in Australia. 0.4 per cent are Indigenous.
Looking towards government to achieve that legislated meritocracy? 99 per cent of government leadership are from Anglo or European backgrounds.
Statistically speaking, this means you need to appeal to Anglo/European men in leadership in your application.
And if you are a woman with a name that sounds foreign, despite your achievements, despite everything you have done, you are now at a worse disadvantage than everyone.
The decision to anglicise your name by using a pseudonym is highly personal, and, perhaps more sadly, highly effective.
I am not going to tell you what to do here, reader, if you are wondering whether your name places you at a marked disadvantage. But I have considered writing my name as Jack, rather than Jacqueline, on applications to mask my female-ness.
This example is a direct quote from the 2019 ABC article “Name discrimination can make finding a job harder, but is changing to a pseudonym the answer?”:
“Rudabah* had a different experience when applying for work.
After leaving her first job at a consulting firm in her early 20s, she made the conscious decision to keep her “long and complicated” full name on her CV.
“But I just wasn’t getting any calls from [recruitment] agencies,” she says.
Eventually she relented and changed her CV to show her nickname, Ruby.
“And I kid you not, [I got so] many more calls.”
Rudabah says the experience really bothered her and has impacted how she approaches recruitment as an HR professional herself now.
She’s conflicted about whether she’d recommend others change their names too.”
From the 2013 article “Job Hunters Change Foreign Sounding Names”, published by the SBS: “researchers from the Australian National University submitted 4000 fictional job applications for entry-level jobs, and found those with “non-Anglo” sounding names had to submit more resumes in order to gain an interview.”
The research uncovered that Middle Eastern sounding names submitted 64 per cent more applications than someone with an Anglo-sounding name, Chinese-sounding names on resumes submitted 68 per cent more, Indigenous persons 35 per cent more and Italian names 12 per cent more.
So, if you do decide to Anglicise your name, are there repercussions?
Firstly, it’s not illegal. It would be illegal however to provide your employer with a fake name on a tax file number. The use of anglicised names is widespread, and it is an accepted practice.
All of us with foreign friends or colleagues know someone who has anglicised their name.
You won’t lose your job once you attain it for using an anglicised name.
However, once you have attained the role, you may have to navigate introducing your real name.
This is a personal story published in the SBS by Saeed Fassaie, author of Rising From the Shadows, detailing his experience introducing himself as Saeed after professionally being known as Sam for fifteen years.
The majority of job seekers with a foreign-sounding name in Australia will face discrimination.
This is a fact.
For you as an applicant you must decide whether the compromise of changing your name to an anglicised version is something you are comfortable with to improve your chances in attaining a role.
I personally favour the act of not changing one’s name and using this as a vetting tool to find an organisation that is non-discriminatory, but circumstances often do not grant job seekers the luxury of the additional time it will take to find a role.
Be informed and empowered with the information to make your own decision, and good luck in the hunt.