Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Should One Have To Anglicize Their Name To Get Hired?

Name discrimination is something I never thought about at all until recently.

I saw something on the news which bothered me terribly.  A man named José was out of work and having trouble getting interviews; he changed the name on his résumé from José to Joe and started getting positive response (http://bit.ly/1s5fraY) . A couple of weeks ago this was all over the internet and the television news.  Much has been written about this kind of discrimination (see: http://bit.ly/XqD1km as a typical article.) But what has been written is very academic; what I keep thinking about is the human side of this issue.  Name discrimination is apparently as prevalent as other kinds of discrimination but it is much more insidious.

I think it is awful.  But name discrimination may be a sad fact of life.

I once had a candidate who used the name William, although his given name was Guillermo.  He was successful in his career.  He then made a decision not to anglicize his name.  That was twenty years ago and we lost contact.  I understood his decision, but he paid a price for going back to his Hispanic name.  

To change or not to change, to anglicize or not to anglicize?  That is the question.

Advertising, marketing and other white collar jobs aren’t like show business where Archibald Leach becomes Carey Grant or Francis Gumm becomes Judy Garland or Caryn Johnson becomes Whoopi Goldberg, all to increase box office appeal. This is still a country of mainstream ideas, principals and names, particularly in business.  In service businesses like advertising and marketing, do companies actually believe that one's given name could effect client relationships?  It is sad and surprising.  It would appear that companies want to be seen as mainstream, even in terms of the people and talent they hire. Name discrimination is as bad as any other kind of discrimination.

There is both risk and reward in making the decision to anglicize one’s name.  The risk is the loss of identity and, possibly, self-esteem as well as pride.  The reward may be that an Anglicized name is an easier path to career success. It shouldn't be, but it is.

It should be that one has nothing to do with another.  But that may not be the case.

What do you think?


  1. This is an issue women have also grappled with for years. A man named Kim added a "Mr." to his resume and described how suddenly the interview offers flowed in: http://whatwouldkingleonidasdo.tumblr.com/post/54989171152/how-i-discovered-gender-discrimination

    I can only imagine what women of color have to deal with every day; African-American sounding names are 50% less likely to get a response.

    I think it's terribly sad that in this day and age, so many ethnic and cultural biases still exist; so much so that you take a risk naming a child Keisha or Admir or Tammi-Sue.

    The first step is for those of us who are employers to admit our own prejudicial assumptions (everyone has them) and push past them to try and find the best candidates, regardless of the name on the resume.

    1. The things you point out are startling. I had no idea. Imagine today having a Muslim name like Mohammed?

  2. Sad but true … Racial and religious prejudices in the U.S. are facts of life, whether in business or social matters. And I don’t think things will ever really change until we and our parents are all dead (my highest hopes for the new Millennials, who seemingly have integrated, at least online.)

    As to Jose’ changing his name to “Joe”, this is nothing new.

    In the early 1930’s, many of today’s most iconic actors, screenwriters, directors, producers, etc. in Hollywood "Anglo-sized" their names to avoid anti-Semitic prejudice. After Pearl Harbor and the Japanese “invasion” of the U.S. auto and consumer electronics markets in the ‘70s, many top expatriate execs from Tokyo named Yoshio and Hideki changed their names to Bob and Tom.

    Now we have Jose’, and I wonder what group or person is next.

    At the same time, I think the lack of diversity and ingrained prejudices still persisting on “Madison Avenue” today are largely our own fault. We’re the guys who decided to split-up the business and create separate agencies specializing in Anglo (white mass-market), African-American, Hispanic, Cuban, Asian, Mideastern, and countless other EU consumer constituencies.

    And while I certainly “get” the cultural and social differences among us all after having lived most of my life in NYC, we all still buy universal things like toilet paper, tooth paste, and fast-food. So why does one have to be black or white; brown or yellow; pink or green; just to order a cheeseburger or get a job on Madison Avenue, Eighth Avenue, Broadway or Park Avenue South?

    I’m embarrassed and ashamed for all of us. Bill Crandall

  3. Not too surprised by these observations and it probably happens more frequently than most people realize. When I entered the business world, I didn't encounter such obstacles. However, I can recount several times people were pleasantly surprised when we initially met as they exclaimed based on my name they were anticipating me being angelo.

    We in the communication industry should not make prejudgments, unfortunately people have prejudices and sometimes those prejudices prevail.

  4. I think every parent has their own way in giving a name, so I'm sure the name that has been given is the best name, though it seems silly name.


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