Capital Ideas Blog

Jose vs. Joe: A case of resume racism

By Chelsea Vail
September 04, 2014

From: Blog



Racism occurs in many forms, some subtler than others. Racial bias in hiring practices is among the more studied of the many smaller, more mundane, daily, and unremarked-upon types of discrimination experienced by non-white Americans today. Take the example of Jose Zamora, who by his own account applied to between 50 and 100 jobs per day, for months—with no response. Frustrated, he changed the name on his resume to “Joe,” he told Buzzfeed in a short video profile. He started getting callbacks the very next week. 

Jose’s story is discouraging as an indication of race relations, and all too common. He hypothesized that a “white” name would help him find a job, and he was right. In a similar, larger-scale experiment, Chicago Booth’s Marianne Bertrand and Harvard’s Sendhil Mullainathan found that resumes with "white-sounding" names received 50 percent more callbacks than those with "black-sounding" names.  

We have written before about more encouraging research, which in at least one case indicates that awareness of one’s own racial biases may be enough to reduce or even eliminate them. If you’re interested in better understanding your own biases, taking an Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a good place to start. (IATs are offered by non-profit organization Project Implicit, an international collaboration on implicit social cognition, or the thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.)

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