Back when I was a psychology student I was told of a fascinating study. Researchers got hold of an essay written by a primary school student. They asked a couple of hundred teachers to mark the essay and ensured that all the teachers were sent exactly the same essay. The only thing that they changed was the name of the student. They discovered that the names written on the essay affected the marks that the students were awarded. In fact they found that students with typical names such as David were given a whole grade higher than students with names such as Elmer or Hubert.

Laham, Koval and Alter, (2012) took this to a whole new level of science. They looked at issues such as career success, electoral success for politicians, and even the stock market performance of companies with different names. What they discovered was an almost universal rule that people or organisations that had simple names, particularly those that were easy to pronounce, tended to do much better and were more liked than those with complicated names.

So, if you’re applying for a job it is more likely that you will be successful if you are a Jones rather than a Hugenstoch. This is also why a range of organisations are focusing on taking out identifying characteristics of job applications in order to try to avoid bias. Some organisations are investing in software to strip out identifying characteristics such as names or universities attended in order to try to create an even playing field for candidates when they apply for jobs.

This is of course completely contrary to the other trend which is taking place in the employment markets – that of video interviewing. If a person is video interviewed then the interviewer has the opportunity to identify all of the characteristics which may create bias – their looks, their ethnic background, their name, just to mention a few. It will be interesting to see which of these two trends eventually wins out in the battle for recruitment accuracy. Psychological assessments do not care about your name which is one of the reasons why they have been shown to be the most accurate methods of predicting work performance. To find out which instruments work best click here.

 

Andrew Marty
Managing Director
SACS Consulting

 

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Simon M. Laham, Peter Koval, Adam L. Alter, The name-pronunciation effect: Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 48, Issue 3, May 2012, Pages 752-756

 

Andrew Marty
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