Emily or Lakisha? Guess which one hiring managers chose.

Emily or Lakisha? Guess which one hiring managers chose.
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People walk by a now hiring sign posted in front of a CVS store
Researchers examined how race affects the likelihood a job applicant will get a callback for an entry-level job.

  • Researchers studied racial bias in hiring by sending over 83,000 fake résumés to big US companies.
  • Résumés with Black-sounding names were often less likely to get callbacks.
  • Now, the researchers are naming names among the more than 100 Fortune 500 companies involved.

A few years ago, researchers determined that having a name like Emily or Greg on your résumé made it easier to get a callback for a job than having a name like Lakisha or Jamal.

Now, researchers are naming names — not of potential employees, but of companies and industries that seem to favor résumés from job candidates who appear white over those whose names suggest they’re Black.

The auto services industry was among those most likely to show a preference for résumés containing white-sounding names.

To determine which names might disadvantage job applicants, researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley, sent more than 83,000 fake résumés to more than 100 big US companies.

In the best cases, employers went for white-seeming résumés more frequently than Black-seeming ones “only slightly or not at all,” the researchers said. But in the most extreme instances, those doing the hiring favored résumés that might be presumed to be from white candidates by 24%, on average.

The findings illustrate how difficult it can be for many job seekers — even in a strong labor market — to find work. Already, some people in fields like tech who have seen cuts in recent years are applying to job after job with little luck. Having to overcome race as an obstacle can make the hunt all the more difficult.

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“Putting the names out there in the public domain is to move away from a lot of the performative allyship that you see with these companies, saying, ‘Oh, we value inclusivity and diversity,'” Pat Kline, a Berkeley economics professor involved in the study told National Public Radio. “We’re trying to create kind of an objective ground truth here.”

Indeed, some companies fared worse than others. The authors said the worst 20% of companies accounted for about half of the discrimination Black applicants faced.

Genuine Parts Company, parent of NAPA Auto Parts, and AutoNation, one of the biggest auto retailers in the US, were among those researchers ranked lowest in their assessment.

The researchers did caution that the nature of the experiment — sending fake résumés to companies — results in “only noisy” estimates of a company’s potential discrimination.

Another company where researchers identified disparate response rates for candidates was Costco.

Representatives for Genuine Parts Company, AutoNation, and Costco did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider ahead of publication.

Of the 108 companies researchers sent résumés to, among the best performers were car-rental company Avis Budget Group and the grocery chain Kroger. Representatives from both companies did not respond to a request for comment from BI.

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Researchers deemed names as “racially distinctive” if more than nine in 10 people called that were of the same race, according to NPR.

What did that look like in practice? It meant pitting a Brad or a Greg against a Darnell or a Lamar, NPR said.

The findings build on work done two decades ago by University of Chicago researchers, who found that résumés with white-sounding names were 50% more likely to get a call from a hiring manager than those with Black-sounding names, the university said.

The researchers also examined how much names associated with a particular gender affect an applicant’s success in getting a hit. Some industries preferred men, while others went for women more often. In most cases, however, gender didn’t appear to play a role in how often a candidate got a callback.

Concerns about hiring bias have drawn attention in recent years because of fears that artificial intelligence could exacerbate inequities in who gets a shot at what jobs. That extends to furthering racial bias.

Yet researchers have also said that, done right, AI could help reduce bias in hiring — by helping women, for example, land roles in fields like tech that men have historically dominated.

Andreas Leibbrandt, an economist at Australia’s Monash University, previously told BI that if AI could remove identifiers like gender — or names associated with gender — that could help make the process fairer.

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“We do observe that when recruiters know the gender of the applicants, then they discriminate against women. When we remove the gender, there is no gender difference,” Leibbrandt said.

This kind of bias is one reason Khyati Sundaram, the CEO of a hiring startup called Applied, doesn’t think the résumé should be central to getting a job. Instead, screening for skills through tests could help make the process fairer, she previously told BI.

Kline, the Berkeley professor, told NPR he and his fellow researchers hoped people would focus as much on the companies doing better with equitable hiring as the laggards because doing so could help other companies learn how to curb racial bias.

“Even if it’s true, from these insights in psychology and behavioral economics, that individuals are inevitably going to carry biases along with them, it’s not automatic that those individual biases will translate into organizational biases,” Kline said.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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