Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Avoiding Discrimination in LinkedIn

Are you missing out on employment opportunities because of your name? Studies in the United States and France have shown a remarkable difference in being contacted due to name alone.

In the U.S., the study Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination found that resumes submitted with "White sounding names" are 50% more likely to receive a callback for an interview than "African-American ones".

In France, a study conducted by the Observatoire des Discriminations found that a resume with a "standard French name" produced 140 responses, while the same resume with a North African-sounding name yielded 14 responses.

What can you do to avoid discrimination by name? In LinkedIn, one thing you can do is to choose to only show the first letter of your last name to those who are not directly connected to you. To do this:
  1. Click "My Profile" tab.
  2. To the right of your name, click "Edit Basics".
  3. Under "Privacy" header in the middle of the page, select your first name and last initial from the pull down menu labeled "Display my name as".
  4. Click "Update Information" at the bottom of the page.
Of course, there is a downside to only showing your last initial. People browsing though the site that know your name may not recognize your profile when they see it during a search or browsing other people's connections, so you may miss out on being contacted by someone who might otherwise notice your profile and contact you.

Once you accept an invitation or connection from someone, they'll be able to see your full last name. At this point, the person may decide to discriminate against you based on your name. On the other hand, whatever they saw in your profile to motivate them to contact you may outweigh an inclination to discriminate based on name. Contrast that to the person who sees a last name and then never reads the profile.

Some will argue that they have pride in their name and wouldn't want to hide it, and shouldn't have to hide it. Others will argue that they wouldn't want to work for an employer that employs someone who discriminates. I respect those that feel either way.

In a related posting on my Santa Clara MBA blog, I propose that LinkedIn can be used by hiring managers to increase the diversity of candidates for a position.

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