Job Seekers Get Callbacks Based on Their Names

A new 'Discrimination Report Card' is out, and white-sounding names seem to get more callbacks
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2024 5:20 PM CDT
'Discrimination Report Card' Is Out for Job Seekers
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/YakobchukOlena)

In 2004, a study found that job applicants with stereotypically white-sounding names got callbacks for interviews 50% more than applicants with Black-sounding names. Now, scientists have rebooted that research, and while the results are better than they were two decades ago, they show that racial bias still appears to come into play when it comes to hiring practices. Per NPR, in their new working paper titled "A Discrimination Report Card," researchers out of the University of Chicago and UC Berkeley submitted 83,000 phony applications for 11,000 entry-level gigs at more than 100 Fortune 500 firms. Fake names used on the applications were culled from a North Carolina database of speeding tickets, as well as from the 2004 study.

The names were assigned to particular race categories if they were found to be "racially distinctive"—for example, "if more than 90% of people with that name shared the same race," per NPR. Meaning, in essence, that "applicants with names such as Brad and Greg were up against Darnell and Lamar. Amanda and Kristen competed for jobs with Ebony and Latoya." What researchers found was that the average employer called back the seemingly white applicants about 9% more often than apparent Black ones—with some of the most flagrant offenders coming in much higher. The initial experiment was actually conducted back in 2021, but now, the researchers are also releasing how individual companies fared.

Companies that seemed to exhibit the least discrimination include Kroger, Hilton, and Dr Pepper, while AutoNation and Genuine Parts showed a disparity rate of about 25%. One interesting finding: Companies with more centralized and organized HR departments seemed to show less disparities in this regard, notes NPR. Career coach Dorianne St Fleur tells the outlet that companies can tamp down on racial bias in hiring by standardizing and anonymizing the process, training staff better, and making job candidates go through multiple recruiters. In the meantime, St Fleur reminds rejected applicants who suspect bias not to be hard on themselves. A no from an employer "does not mean you suck, you're not a good worker, you don't deserve this thing," she says. "It's just the nature of the systemic forces at play." (More job application stories.)

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