Do Hiring Managers Discriminate Against Asian Candidates?

hiring discrimination, asian names, name discrimination

According to a new study, candidates with names of Asian origin are less likely to book interviews. The joint Ryerson Munk School of Business and University of Toronto study found that even when Asian candidates had higher degrees and better resumes than other applicants, they still landed fewer interviews — and obviously, were therefore less likely to get the job.

Researchers used data from a 2011 discrimination audit where Canadian employers “were sent 12,910 resumes in response to 3,225 job postings, and the study recorded whether the employers called to request an interview.” The resumes were computer-generated and had candidate names from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. They found that name discrimination was still prevalent, but strikingly, was more common at small employers.

Do Hiring Managers Discriminate Against Asian Candidates?

Asian applicants received about 20% fewer calls from large employers, and almost 40% fewer calls from small employers. Candidates with some or all foreign qualifications received 35% fewer calls from large employers, and over 69% fewer calls from small employers.

Skill levels also played a part in how hiring managers responded to resumes. For low skilled jobs, hiring managers were less likely to discriminate against candidates with Asian names or foreign qualifications. According to the authors, while “overall the Asian-named applicants had about 53.3 percent less chance of receiving a call-back if they had some foreign qualifications, this number rises to 58.5 percent for applicants to high skill jobs; for applicants to low-skill jobs the Asian applicants were 45.7 percent less likely to receive a call.”

Studies have consistently shown that hiring discrimination at the point of resume assessment is still a big problem. Recruiters and hiring managers discriminate based on gender, names, schools and a variety of other factors — but they aren’t always doing do consciously. It’s easy to recognized our vocally bigoted or biased colleagues, but much hard to recognize and root out our own unconscious biases — it’s why so many companies are flirting with the possibility of incorporating AI into the hiring process. (Although we’ve already seen that we often program our biases into hiring bots.)

On the candidate side, some applicants have “whitened” their names and resumes in order to book interviews, altering aspects of their resume that might reveal their ethnicity, for example, membership in a South Asian young entrepreneur’s club. It’s not just in Hollywood that people switch from Vera Mindy Chokalingam to Mindy Kaling, or Kalpen Modi to Kal Penn.

The authors of the study, Rupa Banerjee, Jeffrey G. Reitz and Phil Oreopoulos recommend randomized resume assessment, with names removed, as a good first step in tackling name discrimination in hiring. This might shift the needle when it comes to diverse candidates booking interviews, but it’s just one step. There is so much more to do.

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Megan Purdy

Former recruiter, HR pro and Workology editor. Comics, cheese and political economy.

Reader Interactions


  1. R.C. Ogata says

    Thanks for your report, Megan. While I’ve believed such things are operating in the background during the selection process, I’ve tried to ignore the impact of discrimination since it’s something that I can’t control other than imparting a slightly Irish spin to my last name (O’Gata) as some of my wife’s relatives like to do. Further, I’ve put a headshot on my LinkedIn profile as the recruiting pundits recommend, so hiding my Asian heritage while being fully transparent regarding my professional and educational background poses a moral dilemma. Add age discrimination to the selection soup and it makes matters all the more frustrating for some of us. But, I whinest too much.


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