Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ethnic Names Hinder Job Hunting

I complained several times about how employers used to ignore my CV when I was seeking for a job. A close friend of mine, Grace, also complained that she sent out over hundreds of CVs and got no responses. I thought that was strange, she had more A’s than I did. What was the problem? This took place in New Zealand, dated back in 1999.

There is this fantastic chef. He was born and raised in NZ. He could not get a job in any restaurants because his name was Michael Wong. He even had to change his last name from Wong to Long just to get an interview. I thought that was a bit too much to change his last name!
When I first arrived in Christchurch for high school, my aunt advised me to use a name she picked for me. I should not be using “Ai Shiang” and she said, “ang moh is very suku, they don’t know how to pronounce Asian names” – hokkien in italic. I didn’t take her advice until I really could not get those damn employers to look at my CV.
Some time I even got really frustrated that they thought “Shiang” is my middle name. Since when do Asians have middle names? They don’t even know that Chinese write their surnames first. How many times do I need to tell them that?
Several years down the track, when I caught up with a few friends, they all have Anglo-Saxon names – Grace, Jocelyn, Kenny, James, Suzanne etc. I never ask why, we are all in the same boat.
Just a few days ago, I heard from the news that “a new study has found job seekers with ethnic names are less likely to be considered for positions than those with Anglo-Saxon names”.
A research has been carried out in Australia - more than 4,000 fake applications were sent out to employers, all containing the same qualifications but different names. They found those with Anglo-Saxon names received more interviews than those with Indigenous, Chinese, or Middle Eastern.
If you have a Chinese name you will need to submit 64% more applications. If you have a Middle Eastern name you will need 68% more applications. With an Anglo-Saxon name, you just need to try 14% harder!
A professor from the Australia National University says it is not clear whether employers were being deliberately racist.
C’mon, what else is new? I just hate it when they are trying to be politically correct and pura-pura (pretend in Malay). I know their chaw kuan already - hokkien again, meaning stinking behaviour.
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Willie said...

My goodness! A simple thing and yet a big fuss! Geee... I know, westeners had problem with my name to...hahaha they thought "Ak" is my name...geee...har har har

No Body said...

so sad to hear that..
i insist not to pick any anglosaxon name so i remain my chinese name til now.. for 2 reason :

1. i appreaciate the name given by my parent.
2. i just can't make up my mind to pick one that i think fit for me.

haha.. luckily i am living in m'sia don't have such problem..

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Very Well Said !! Great Post...Most of the people are unaware..Unseen Rajasthan

Anonymous said...

I will not be changing my name whatsoever if I were to ever look for a job outside M'sia. They can either take it or leave it. That's my stand. I don't see them changing names when they work in Asia do they?

Depending on the situation, sometimes I register my name with my surname last no there's no confusion with those unfamiliar with Asian names. Can't blame these people. They just aren't used to seeing Asian names with surnames first.

The ugly nature of racisim exists universally....manifesting itself in various forms.

HappySurfer said...

That is such a shame. Basically, people are still racist by nature - hard to eradicate that. Over here, people number in big corporations are still going by racial mix - numbers are tracked and reviewed regularly. Even promotions are skewed towards that.

Christchurch is a lovely city. How long were you there for?

hcpen said...

hola~~glad to find a fellow malaysian hokkien speaker blogger in sydney! love all ur little witty takes on life,etc and especially the hokkien!!! hahaha..i didn't know they speak hokkien in east malaysia?? i'm from penang so of cos we speak hokkien, anyways, will be back for more:-)

Ayie said...

Racial discrimination i should say. Many suffer from all these kind of stuffs. I also just find it terrible having to change your change just to beaccepted or to have things easier for people.

foongpc said...

Oh yes, the Westerners do not know our Chinese surnames are at the front and not at the back like theirs.

That's why I hate to fill in forms that ask for first, middle and last name. Now what should I fill in exactly? My surname in the first or last name?

Rajesh said...

Sad, people give more value to the name rather than the caliber of the the person.

Ai Shiang said...

Haha! I guess westerners must be confused with many people with "Anak" in their names huh?

Hui Ming,
I "boh pian" had to use an anglosaxon name just to get jobs. I'm sure there won't be any problem in Msia. Multi cultural bah, everyone knows how everybody else name should be called and/or written.

Unseen Rajasthan,
Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you find this post worth reading.

Mei Teng,
I have been putting my surname last for the past 15 years already :o). I have to say aussies know better than kiwis. 90% of the time kiwis think Shiang is my middle name. Maybe it's more "kampung" in NZ, hardly see any Asians. I agree, racism exists everywhere.

Wow, seriously! they don't want any races to be more than malay right? I was in NZ for 10 years, but just 1 year in Christchurch.

lu ho boh? I heard that Penang hokkien is a bit different than East Msia's. I think Penang's hokkien is pure. Ours is quite a rojak with lots of malay and indonesian, campur-campur. You read Malay right?

Yeah, many suffer from it. I sometime pity those with very long names like Indian names. They also get discrimination.

Haha! That's so funny. I used to have that problems too. Hate that middle name blank spot. I usually cross it out with a very long line. :o)

hcpen said...

hi~~yea,i read glad we were forced to learn it during my school days, at least now know some basic malay which is very useful for living in malaysia..actually har, penang hokkien is also campur with malay one..but we also campur mandarin and abit of english in it..:-)

Bengbeng said...

i get yr point. my two overseas sisters hav changed their names so much they r no longer recognizable as M'sians esp after taking their married name. no more Chinese name left :) for convenience sake i suppose

Bogey said...

I have worked with people with exactly that kind of attitude. At my old job I worked with an Engineer from China for about 7 years. When he started at our company, the Human Resources Manager told my boss that his Engineering Degree was the "equivalent of a High School Diploma". It sickened me. He too took on an Anglo name, Simon, instead of his given name, Beichen. I left the company last fall and about a month ago received an email from Beichen looking for a reference because I used to be his Supervisor. I agreed and now he is working at another company who treat him a hell of a lot better.

I'm sorry that you have to jump through hoops in order to get job recognition. It's tough when people close their minds to other cultures. But I am happy to see that you are willing to share yours.

Ai Shiang said...

yes sadly that happens all the time.

I thought of changing my name as well once because of this problem. But I am glad I did not. My original name reflect who I am.

I see that happened at your end too huh? I am glad to hear that your colleague resigned from that previous company.

Well, I guess that's part of my life experience. Sometime I do laugh at the situation thinking that at least I don't need to dye my hair blonde just to find a job :o)

Bengbeng said...

My grandpa did insist the grandchildren did keep some Chinese sounding names but they were not used :)