A recent study as to why immigrants are struggling so much more in Canada’s job market today reveals some startling findings: A lot of it may come down to ethnicity.
“Why do some employers prefer to interview Matthew, but not Samir?” This is the title of a new study from two University of Toronto researchers interested in ferreting out ethnic bias by human resource professionals in Canada’s largest cities.
University of Toronto researchers Philip Oreopoulos and Diane Decheif e-mailed thousands of randomly created resumes in response to job postings across multiple occupations in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver between February and September 2010.
“Combining all three cities, resumes with English-sounding names are 35 percent more likely to receive callbacks than resumes with Indian or Chinese names,” the researchers wrote.
Where the callback rate for those with English-sounding names, Canadian experience and Canadian education was 13.4 percent, the researchers found, “Changing only the name to one with Indian origin lowers the callback rate by 4.2 percentage points, to 9.2 percent… and changing it to one with Chinese origin lowers it to 10.8 percent.”
Being educated at a Canadian university did not seem to make a substantial difference in callback rates, "as there is only a small difference in callback rates between Type 1 and Type 2 resumes (1.4 percentage points), which systematically differ only by whether they list a bachelor’s degree from a Canadian (Type 1) or foreign (Type 2) university,” Oreopoulos and Decheif wrote.
On the other hand, “Switching from job experience acquired in Canada to job experience acquired from India does seem to matter a lot."
Callback rates for resumes that list almost all job experience from India fall to 5.7 percent, for instance.
Commenting on the study, The Vancouver Sun reports:
“If your name is Alison Johnson or Matthew Wilson, [this] inventive national study suggests you could do better in the job market than if you go by Min Liu, Samir Sharma or Lukas Minsopoulos.”
According to the Globe and Mail, managers were contacted and asked about why ethnic-sounding names might be a reason to not follow up on a qualified candidate’s application.
“Dr. Oreopoulos said it was very difficult to get recruiters to talk about their own potential discrimination, so the researchers asked participants to suggest reasons why other hiring managers might be more likely to choose people with English-sounding names for interviews. Respondents “tended to jump to the conclusion that those with the ethnic names were immigrants,” Oreopoulos said, implying that this would raise questions about whether the person had the social and communications skills to be successful in the job.
One HR professional quoted in the study reported confusion when trying to assess foreigners’ qualifications:
“In the last competition I was hiring for, I was actually looking at the resumes and I was thinking to myself, especially if they had experience from outside of Canada, take a closer look -- are they really qualified? And I found it really difficult because I don’t understand the experience in many cases. For example, it is very common in the Middle East for senior level people to do everything from soup to nut[s]. It doesn’t mean they’re not doing the senior level work, but they’re also doing things that you just normally wouldn’t expect here, to be in a job at a senior level. If you just are looking at it and just are going based on what you know, you’re probably going, ‘What does that mean?’”
Another HR executive confided that “fortunately there is some reverse discrimination at play here: Asians are known to be apt with numbers.”
The study found that of the three cities considered, Metro Vancouver employers were the least swayed by the ethnicity of applicants’ names. But even in Vancouver, resumes with English names were still 20 percent more likely to get a callback than those with Chinese or Indian names.