top of page

In Living Color: Name Bias in the Job Market - it's "machine"

A picture can say a thousand words. I often begin introductions of my name by saying, "it's "Shaheen," like "machine," with an "S."" The impact of name-based discrimination on people of color, like yours' truly, is shocking. Here's my POV to "shaking up colors."

In the competitive landscape of job seeking, every detail matters. For people of color, however, a seemingly innocuous detail like their name can become a barrier to opportunities. As a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience, I've navigated this reality firsthand, facing the challenge of name-based discrimination in the recruitment process.

Recruiters play a pivotal role in shaping a candidate's journey. They often visit a job seeker's social media pages; LinkedIN is typically a "go-to," to gauge their "presentability," forming initial impressions that can influence the decision-making process, if any. For candidates with names that sound Black, Hispanic, or Asian, this practice can lead to biased judgments and fewer callbacks for interviews.

My own experiences reflect this harsh reality. Despite my extensive background and professional experience, I often found my applications met with silence, only to discover that the positions were filled with candidates who had significantly less experience but had "generically-based American" names of European descent. These experiences have been demoralizing, highlighting the deep-seated biases that exist in the recruitment process.

Addressing name-based discrimination requires a multi-faceted approach. Recruiters and hiring managers must confront their biases and make objective decisions based on qualifications and experience. Implementing blind recruitment practices, where identifying information is removed from resumes, can help mitigate the impact of name bias and level the playing field for all candidates.

This isn't meeting diversity hires and qualifications - but bringing the best candidate forward based on experience: not name, gender, color, dialect, etc.

As job seekers of color, we can also take steps to navigate these challenges. At one point, I thought it "advantageous" to use a more "digestible" name to gain exposure. Maybe, "Stinson, Saul, Sam, Bill the Third of his name;" haha. It wasn't me. I focused on highlighting qualifications and experience, and networking within my chosen industry, helping mitigate the impact of name-based discrimination.

There have been many that have used nick-names to gain a leg-up in being noticed - and to no surprise, they received interviews. However, upon leaving the interview, they were disappointed by the reception, shock and awe, and immediate questions about their name and then pointed questions like, "where are you from."

Despite these challenges, I remain hopeful for change. By sharing personal experiences and advocating for inclusive recruitment practices, we can work towards a job market where all candidates are judged based on their abilities rather than their names.


bottom of page