When I was in high school I applied for a job at Pizza Hut. A few of my friends worked there and I hated my current job so I figured I’d try it out. The day of the interview I was a little nervous - standard nerves about an interview - nothing crazy. The manager came to the front of the restaurant to meet me and we sat in a booth to begin the Q&A. The first thing he asked was, “So that’s your real name? We all were taking bets it was a stage name.” To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. “Yep.” was all I could muster. I will never forget that. It had never happened before - it has happened a lot since. I don’t know what was more shocking at the time. Was it the fact that he thought my name wasn’t real or the fact that he asked a high school aged girl about a possible stage name? And no, he didn’t mean that I was in the pageant circuit, he meant the pole. If I had a dollar for every time someone said it could be a stripper name I’d have all the dollars. Let’s get one thing straight - I LOVE MY NAME. Insult is jealousy wrapped in a dick tortilla. Why would it even matter if it WAS my stripper name? Why would it matter if I WAS a stripper? Why do you even CARE what my name is? Why does my name have anything to do with getting this job at Pizza Hut? How would my parents feel if they know you thought that about my name?
As a kid the only thing other kids would say were poor attempts at rhymes. "Ginger...ALE!" "Cinderella!" "Ginger....BREAD!" (I told you they were poor attempts - and how could I be offended by being compared to delicious snacks and a PRINCESS?) Even now when I have to spell my last name for someone - I'll spell it out then say, "Like Cinderella but GINGER."
I sometimes wonder if I’ve ever been passed over for job opportunities because of my name. Do people always think it’s fake? Do people think it’s foreign? Why does it matter? They’re looking at my resume and assessing my skills...right? I guess they weren’t assessing my skills in high school - but still. With the majority of job applications now happening online - how often are job opportunities missed or misplaced? We can so easily Google someone or find them on Facebook or LinkedIn - are we still putting as much emphasis on names as we used to? Remember when you had to apply for a job on ACTUAL paper and wait for a phone call and then MEET someone IN PERSON for an interview? Remember solely having to rely on what you had written down or typed and not your appearance or number of Twitter followers? Do we now just see a name and a face and THEN make a decision? As recruiters, how many of you HONESTLY look at skill set first these days. Say all you have is an email address and resume - are you reading that resume as soon as you get it? Or are you grabbing that email address and going to town on LinkedIn or Facebook to find the person and LOOK at them first?
Fun fact; I have cousins that because of spelling and translation issues back in the day - have the same last name as me but spelled different. I am not off the boat, however, and do not claim to be of any specific heritage. I got a great last name but it doesn’t mean I’m a paisano (if you couldn’t deduce that my last name is of Italian heritage). I’m also not a mathematician but I think I’m only something like 15% Italian. I just tell people that I’m a Heinz 57 Variety American mutt. A buddy of mine once commented that my hair color (currently blonde) had to be fake. “With that last name I take it your hair isn’t really blonde.” To which I replied, “My roots are definitely dark but I don’t know because I color it.” A lot of people don’t know this - but Italian people don’t all have brown hair and eyes. And did I mention that I’m like, not very Italian? My first name is Greek. Are my parents Greek? No. They just liked the name, Alexis.
So how often as recruiters do we have this bias? How often have we seen a candidate's name and stereotyped or racially profiled them? In an earlier article I had written about coding, I mentioned that Russia and China are leading the way for the coders with the most skill. But like we do with names, we do with schools. We don’t see skill, we see rank and fame. We see a name that isn’t Smith and we become xenophobic (and sometimes racist, yikes!). We see a school that isn’t Harvard and think we haven’t found the best fit. You’d think that with diversity being SUCH an issue these days, we could at least try to use our brains when it comes to the name game. Lex, Lex, Bo-Bex...
Alexis Gingerella is the operational brainpower behind RecruitingDaily, responsible for managing client deliverables and tracking results, keeping the team on task and on time.
Alexis has over 10 years of marketing and sales experience for companies such as Magnetics, Verizon and NetBiz.com.
Follow Alexis on Twitter @Alraet or connect with her on LinkedIn.