Have you ever “whitened” your name?


dr. Eugen Schochenmaier

Mondonomo, Chief Scientist

Feb. 13, 2022, 6:50 p.m.


Changing one’s name to fit in happens more often than some may think, especially on resumés.

According to research by Stanford University and University of Toronto, nearly half of black (e.g., Lamar) and Asian (e.g., Lei  ZHANG job applicants who altered their resumés did so by changing the presentation of their name in an effort to erase any racial cues. Some also use nicknames or Anglicized names in professional or social environments.

The researchers found those who “whitened” their resumés were twice as likely to get call-backs for an interview, compared to those who left ethnic details intact.

Several other Asian respondents reported using a “white” or “English” first name but noted that they used this name in addition to their “real” name rather than to replace it. Thus these job seekers simultaneously displayed both first names on their résumé, with one of the two names typically placed in parentheses. A Korean-American college student explained: “My freshman year, when I was applying [to internships], I just put my full name, but now I put my [English] nickname first and then my real name in parentheses.”

It means that names can be a strong signal of racial minority status and a basis for discrimination.


Source: Kang, S. K. et al. (2016) ‘Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 61(3), pp. 469–502. doi: 10.1177/0001839216639577.