media release

Employer callbacks favour ‘Matthew’ over ‘Samir’

October 14, 2011

Krishna Pendakur, 778.782.5501; (teaches Fri. 10:30-12:30)
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017/3210;

What’s in a name? Potentially a job, according to a new study from the Metropolis British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Diversity at Simon Fraser University. The study finds that discrimination based on the ethnicity of job candidate names plays a significant role in Canadian immigrants’ attempts to succeed in the labour market.

SFU economist Krishna Pendakur says the latest study confirms earlier findings where thousands of resumes were sent to online job postings in Toronto. The new research was expanded to include other major cities across the country.

“We found that there is significant discrimination by name, ethnicity and city of experience,” says Pendakur, co-director of Metropolis. “Employers in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver significantly discriminate against applicants with common Indian and Chinese names, relative to English names.”

According to the study, Canadian-born individuals with English-sounding names are significantly more likely to receive a callback for a job interview after sending their resumés, compared to internationally-born individuals, even among those with international degrees from highly ranked schools or among those with the same listed job experience but acquired outside of Canada.

The latest study found the greatest callback rate differences were in Montreal and the smallest were in Vancouver. Researchers also found that employers justified name and immigrant discrimination based on language skill concerns but “overemphasized” these without considering “offsetting characteristics” listed on the resumé. The pressure of time and avoiding “bad hires” adds to the problem.

Researchers suggest employers could consider “masking” names when making interviewee choices and could also better train recruiters about possible bias.

The study, Why do Some Employers Prefer to Interview Matthew but not Samir?, is the latest in a series of working papers produced for MBC investigating employment opportunities and immigrants in Canada. Philip Oreopoulos and Diane Dechief of the University of Toronto are the authors.

The MBC was established 15 years ago as part of the national Metropolis Project. It is funded by the federal and provincial governments and located at SFU and UBC.


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