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Cultural, ethnic and name discrimination is occurring in recruitment practices, which from my perspective is disgraceful.  I read an article recently published by Mladen Adamovic, a Research Fellow in Diversity Management based at Monash University.  He provided key findings into how people from ethnic backgrounds can suffer from recruitment discrimination.  This is largely evidenced in a research study which indicated job applicants receive bias because of their foreign name.

There are other studies in Western countries that showed that applicants with Arabic or Chinese names receive around two times fewer positive responses for their job applications than applicants with ethnic majority names, such as English, US or Australian).  This name-based discrimination against ethnic minorities exists in many occupations, industries, and countries and has been happening for years.

What can you do?

To avoid name discrimination and to increase the chances for attending a job interview, here are some key tips

1. Change names on paper:

Change or modify your name on your resume.  With more people in Australia who anglicise their name, there is strong evidence for the success of changing names.  However, changing the name could lead to an identity loss and make the person feel uncomfortable.  Also, in the light of multiculturalism, it is sad to see people changing their names because of a broken recruitment system for which they are not responsible.  One example could be, if you are of Chinese nationality and your name is Meiling, you could shorten this to May.

2. State your citizenship, permanent residency, and work rights: 

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident, it is an advantage to include this into your resumé.   The reason is that many businesses avoid hiring people with a non-English name is due to potential visa issues and the necessity for sponsorship.  Make it clear in your job application that you have the required work rights, and that no sponsorship is required.

3. Have your degree recognised in Australia:

It could help to get an Australian university degree or an Australian certificate that is common in your profession, because many Australian employers value domestic education and work experience.  However, getting an educational degree can be very expensive in Australia.  One alternative is to have your overseas qualification recognised by an Australian University or Professional Association.  For example, many states and territories have government departments that assist with this process – Qualifications Recognition

4. Apply for volunteer jobs: 

Volunteering helps to gain local work experience and create a professional network.  With community experience on your resumé it can be much easier to find a job that corresponds to your skill level.  However, no research exists about hiring discrimination for volunteering jobs and ethnic discrimination may exist in the recruitment of volunteers.

5. Customising job applications and searching for jobs: 

Some jobseekers apply for as many jobs as they can.  Prior research reported that ethnic minority applicants widen their job search because they expect name and ethnic discrimination.  They apply for jobs in many more occupational categories and search broadly.  However, narrowing your focus to targeted jobs often work better and cause less confusion.  Successful jobseekers focus on jobs that correspond exactly to their education and skill level.  I recommend customising the job application, cover letter and resumé to suit the advertisement. 

6. LinkedIn and social media: 

Yes, recruiters check your LinkedIn and social media profiles.  If you think this might be one reason for being rejected, you can try to hide your social media profiles or photos and see if anything changes.  One option is to source more “business-like” photos on your profiles.  Use LinkedIn to network, find jobs, connect with recruiters and read about Australian companies. It’s also an opportunity to tell your ethnic story!

It is important to state that it should not be the responsibility of individual job applicants to fix a broken recruitment system and labour market.  Instead, it should be the responsibility of corporate and political leaders to fix these issues and to reduce name discrimination.  In the long term, a reduction of ethnic discrimination requires a change of a country’s education system, values, and beliefs.