Applying for a new job can be tedious, stressful and often times, a long process.

A recent story released by the Huffington Post informs us that Jose Zamora, a 32-year-old Mexican-American, was far from an exception; in fact, his experiences while job searching prove that a single letter could lead to far greater scrutiny when applying to jobs.

While most applications explicitly state that the information regarding ethnicity and gender will not be held against you, the recent case of Jose Zamora proves differently. In a Buzzfeed video, Zamora said that he would awake every day and apply to 50 to 100 jobs online. With no success, he said that a gut feeling influenced him to attempt to send out the very same applications with the exception of a single letter. He deleted the ‘S’ in his first name.

A week later his inbox began to fill up. Simply changing his name from Jose to Joe altered his ability to get work. It is rather despicable to think that today in 2014 people continue to place judgment on people  based on their ethnic group when they are applying for job positions.

The story of Jose Zamora shocked me. It had never occurred to me that a first name could influence whether a company was interested in an interview with an applicant.

Having read Zamora’s story and watching the video of him discussing his experience, I felt compelled to see who else has experienced such prejudice. Sadly my Google search proved that the society we live in is riddled with scenarios exactly like this. Just Google, “not getting job because of name.” There are pages of links to stories of now-successful businessmen who struggled to succeed as entrepreneurs until they Americanized their names.

There are also many stories of people with white-sounding names that are simply difficult to pronounce who believe that their name has stood between them and a call back from the company that they applied to. In either case, it is irresponsible of the person overlooking the applications to let the detail of name prevent an interview offer.

This says a lot about our society. Unfortunately, human beings are judgmental by nature. This kind of false classification is common throughout the world. Often times the ignorance is actually a misunderstanding as the person judging does so unconsciously.

Making a conscious attempt to recognize the insignificance of what an applicant’s name may be is necessary by employers in our modern era. Equality is far from amongst us, but simple things such as disregarding a name can move us closer to a sound and balanced world.

According to a study performed for the National Bureau of Economic Research by the University of Chicago’s Marianne Bertrand and Harvard’s Sendhil Mullainathan, resumes with white-sounding names have a 50 percent greater chance of receiving a callback when compared to those with African American names. This study shows that these judgments may be absurd, but the fact is, they are being made.

Realizing that people reviewing the job applications may have unintentional bias while overlooking applicant’s names, I find it concerning why it is necessary that the person hiring employees needs to see a name.

Perhaps instead, applications should come in with a specific application number and the name of the applicant would only be released if the person doing the hiring were interested in an interview based on the qualifications they have reviewed within the application.

It seems unnecessary to have to remove the person from their application so much as to address them merely as a number, but based on the multiple cases of people being disregarded or not taken seriously due to their name it is evident an adjustment must be made to the way these applications are reviewed.

This case of prejudice demonstrates the fact that we are not an equal society.

Despite the attempts people make to seem unbiased or judgment free, the unconscious mind controls our actions more than we are aware. Hopefully action will be taken by employers in order to correct this unfair approach to considering people for job positions.

 

Arline Votruba can be contacted at avotruba@keene-equinox.com