Status: 04.12.2023, 12:30 p.m.
By: Laura Knops
A good degree and work experience should be an advantage when looking for a job. But the name also seems to have a significant influence.
Do Kevin and Yağmur have the same chances on the job market as Charlotte and Sebastian? This should actually be the case with comparable qualifications. But the reality is different. Occupational psychologists and researchers have discovered that, in addition to origin, name also plays a major role for HR managers.
Names when looking for a job: Which names do recruiters prefer?
The name should not influence the success of the application in any way. © Panthermedia/Imago
"Names that occur frequently are evaluated more positively: Julia Müller, Klaus Meier – compared to names that are less common, such as a Brunhild, who also has the letters CZY in her family name – also because it is harder to read, you get stuck," reveals Uwe Kanning, psychologist and professor of business psychology at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, to WirtschaftsWoche. A complicated name is therefore more of a disadvantage when looking for a job.
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Psychologists describe this as the so-called similarity-attractiveness effect. Things and people that are similar to us are therefore evaluated more positively than strangers. The preference for simple names can also be explained by the mere exposure effect. Psychologists use this term to describe the fact that something familiar is automatically experienced as more positive. Strange and unusual names, people or things, on the other hand, tend to be viewed more negatively.
Similarity Attractiveness Effect: Familiar Names Preferred
The same is still true for names with an immigrant background. Foreign-sounding names tend to be evaluated more negatively than those that don't. This phenomenon is also due to the similarity-attractiveness effect, but also to prejudices. However, HR managers should be aware of these effects and recognize and eliminate corresponding processes that initially take place in the subconscious. If sufficiently qualified candidates are not invited to the interview because of their foreign-sounding name, this is a clear case of racism.
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For example, several studies in the past have shown that applicants with Turkish names received less feedback when looking for a job. A field experiment conducted by the Berlin Social Science Center also points to discrimination. The researchers sent out thousands of fictitious applications from Germans without a migration background as well as people with different migration backgrounds. To do this, they used country-specific first and last names and other characteristics. The applications of candidates without a migration background received significantly more responses.
The similarity-attractiveness effect also has an influence in the intra-German comparison. "High German is evaluated more positively than a regional colouring of the language, although there are also differences. For example, Bavarian and Saxon are quite different from each other. The former is usually perceived more positively, while Saxon is more of a disadvantage, although of course it depends on where you are regionally," says Uwe Kanning.