What’s In A Name?

–Can it be Helpful to Change it to an Anglo One in a Job Search or Harmful to ‘Whiten’ Your Resume?

Can your name cause or encourage a recruiter or HR pro to ignore your resume? Turns out it can. Name discrimination still exists – even in 2021.

Considered hiring bias, it happens when recruiters eliminate or fail to consider the resume of a qualified applicant because they don’t fit a white person’s (Anglo’s) profile for a variety of reasons. Usually starting with their name. That said, job applicants are ‘whitening’ their resumes in hopes of overcoming this issue.

In a recent article, stated research of firms claiming to be “pro-diversity” yet still favoring job seekers with an Anglo name. Furthermore, the situation gets more confusing when you add cultural attitudes to the mix. And there is also the fact there are those who frown on others who mimic a non-native culture by choosing an Anglo name. With so many rules on self-presentation abounding, how does a non-white job seeker create a resume without upsetting long set – yet unwritten – standards?

It’s discouraging how many companies promote racial diversity yet fail to utilize this practice within their own firms. It’s a sad truth showing hiring bias remains among a large number of American employers.

What’s in a name?

“Our names are an incredibly important part of our identity. They carry deep personal, cultural, familial, and historical connections. They also give us a sense of who we are, the communities in which we belong and our place in the world” a recent report from the University of British Columbia tells us.

Names, in fact, give rise to far more complex emotions than words. Perhaps evoking memories of why the individual was given a particular name, the life and facts about the individual they may have been named for – their accomplishments, the way they lived their life. All or many of these elements may have encouraged this individual to use their namesake as a guide in living their own life.

When you call an individual properly – by their given name – especially when it is unfamiliar to you – you give them the respect they are due. And show you accept them as they are.

Not only that, you give respect to the unspoken personal stories which help make up that individual’s life and help make them the person they’ve become.

That said, it’s no wonder people of color, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans – for example – are what’s called ‘whitening’ their resumes in order to be accepted, receive an interview or get a job. Bottom line – they believe this subtle tactic helps up their opportunities of receiving consideration necessary to get hired. This can mean using a casual name they’ve adopted like Manny, Bobby, Kelly. Changing a letter or two of their last name not only to make it more pronounceable but more Anglo.

When does resume whitening occur?

When an individual believes it’s necessary to adopt a Western guise to fulfill requirements for a specific anglo-type job. Or to fit what’s called the “white” stereotype resume to up their job opportunities.

This can also mean opting to eliminate or hide details in a resume that may provide clues to ethnicity or background in order to better engage recruiters and/or HR pros. It can mean using a common Anglo name to replace your actual last name; even omitting credentials that show experience garnered in their country of birth.

Side Effects of Resume Whitening:

Whitened resumes can draw job offers but honesty is always the best policy. Start off on a negative foot with lies and your reputation may be ruined or best case besmirched.

If a company shows bias because of your name, in accepting a job with them you may open yourself up to a company with other types of prejudices which can negatively affect you in a variety of ways. In short, what other forms of prejudices do they tolerate in the workplace?

Since they can’t embrace the true essence of diversity and do not welcome people from different ethnic groups, what can you expect?

Resume ‘whitening’ is but a short-term solution to bias or inequity. It can and may make matters worse for you. Once your name is fully discovered the possibility exists you could lose the job hired for or for another biased reason.

Before ‘whitening’ your resume ask yourself “Will doing this help provide a positive impact – not only in my current job search – but on long-term career goals?”

Final Note:

The US employment department currently has a campaign to fight racial bias. Unfortunately by tweaking your resume, you waste or harm their campaign progress. To eliminate this bias, companies must advocate against prejudice, working on hiring based upon skills and expertise rather than ethnicity.


Jean L. Serio
Jean L. Serio
JEAN is a certified Human Resources professional with more than twenty-five years of experience in recruitment, interviewing, job training and development, resume, and LinkedIn Profile writing and review. The last 5 as a Certified Interview Success Coach, CEIC. With a passion for training, she guides others in first understanding their skills and strengths and how to best present themselves during an interview to help them secure the job. Her skills and expertise are also utilized to optimally prepare clients for confidently engaging with HR, hiring pros and decision-makers, and guiding them in how to enthusiastically and professionally respond during an interview rather than fearing the process. Her solid experience, coupled with expertise in the unspoken workings of the interview and hiring process, helps individuals prepare to present their achievements, skills, and expertise not only in a professional but compelling, way using stories of achievements which help the interviewee engage the interviewer or hiring a pro to effectively respond to questions to help raise their get-hired opportunities. Jean has been featured in Forbes;; BLR-Daily HR Advisor; ERE’s Daily HR Advisor; Next Ave. division of PBS; Medium; Entrepreneur HQ Magazine; Self Growth; beBee International, CBS, and NBC online and more. Her past has also included workshop trainings for HR, hosting hiring forums, speaking at job conferences for both job seekers and hiring pros, and more.

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  1. Reading your valuable post, Jean reminded me of an excellent applicant who was turned down because of his name.
    Blieve it or not not for the reasons you highlighted in your post, but rather for his last name.
    In our country the name means sexual….and I leave the rest for your imagination.
    The employer said how could the women working for the company address this man with such an embarrassing last name.

    As for what you wrote ”
    That said, job applicants are ‘whitening’ their resumes in hopes of overcoming this issue.

    Is this authenticity? Now I believe more that keeping authenticity is a very challenging task.

    Whitened resumes can draw job offers but honesty is always the best policy. Start off on a negative foot with lies and your reputation may be ruined or best case besmirched.
    Unfortunately, people get away with such horrible acts. We are encouraging people to cheat and beat round the bush.
    It seems this is done on a large scale