Minority job applicants get fewer callbacks

Study reminiscent of 1948 Maclean’s article by Pierre Berton


Photo by |Mahin| on Flickr

A new study has shown that Canadians with English-sounding names on their résumés get many more responses from employers than those with foreign-sounding names, even when applicants have identical qualifications and make it clear they can speak English or French proficiently.

Philip Oreopoulos and Diane Dechief of the University of Toronto found that of the 8,000 fake job applications they sent out, those with English-sounding names at the top were 47 per cent more likely to receive callbacks in Toronto than resumes with Greek, Indian or Chinese-sounding names. In Montreal, English names had a 39 per cent advantage. In Vancouver it was 20 per cent.

Oreopoulos told The Globe and Mail that subconcious discrimination may partially explain the difference. Another part of their study showed that human resources professionals cite concerns over language or social skills for the possible differences in their reactions—despite the fact that such skills can easily be determined with a simple phone call.

Surprising as it may be, such discrimination is nothing new. A.B. McKillop notes in his biography of Pierre Berton that the young Maclean’s journalist undertook a similar investigation in 1948.

Berton had two assistants apply to jobs as stenographers, typists, bookkeepers and filing clerks. One gave her name as Grimes (English-sounding); the other said she was Greenberg (Jewish-sounding). Both were highly-qualified. Out of 47 calls, Grimes scored 41 interviews. But Greenberg was told 21 times that the job had been filled and nine times that she “wouldn’t want it anyway.”


Minority job applicants get fewer callbacks

  1. Then there are all the government jobs that are only open to visible minorities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to apply for a job in a federal government department, only to be told I didn’t qualify because I wasn’t a visible minority or disabled.

    I’m all for equality in the workplace, but equality doesn’t mean only having certain jobs open for visible minorities. That’s a different kind of discrimination, although it is legal in this country.

  2. Canada is a democratic country. Democracy has something to do with equality I think . I have a foreign last name , likely why I got hard work to do that made other men cry or go home and commit suicide. I worked with people from all over the world, I learned many of their languages (not fluently ). I am a person who worked in night clubs as a musician and entertainer with many bands,I am a portrait artist and carver,I also worked in many factors where likely my last name was detrimental to me. I am a skilled tradesmen, but I was pulled off my job sometimes to do work other people wouldn’t do. To employers , if you are judging people by their name , colour or whatever, that is your loss, because there are so many brilliant hardworking people in this life and they are not just born in Canada, but they are from all over the world !

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