Say my name, Say my name

” Nice to meet you! I’m Georgina!” 
” Oh Georgina, thats a nice name….whats your background?”
” Indian! ” 
” Really? I wouldn’t have thought so with a name like that…”
” Well, I was born in England….” 

” Nice to meet you! I’m Gurpreet!” 
” Sorry I didn’t catch that, your name is..”
” Gur-preet” 
” Oh, where are you from?” 
” England” 
” But I mean, whats your background?” 
” Indian…” 

There has been a definite shift in baby names for Western South Asian’s over the past 20 years’. You will notice less ‘Harbakhish’s’, and more ‘Harry’s’, it mostly comes from a good place. ‘Harry’ is an easier name to pronounce and spell and, in countries where you are a minority, it can make a child feel more included. Not only is it new baby names, there has been a shift in nicknames for young adults.

office worker talking on landline phone
The typical confused look of recruiters trying pronounce foreign names without offending the other person

For the last two years’ I have been working as a Technical Recruiter for the Automotive industry. The main skill sets that I would recruit for were mechanical and electrical engineers (and let’s be real, this is a popular profession within the Indian community) . Here are a few observations:

  1. I had more Indian Engineers in my network, than anyone in my office.
    Why is that? Is it because I am Indian? That might be true to an extent, but it was mostly because of the perception of Indian names.
    As a recruiter, I would have over 300 LinkedIn Requests each day, I would spend the first two hours going through resumes that were sent to me and sift through over 100 resume’s a day. A lot of the time, a resume would come through from a fresh graduate with no work experience which wouldn’t work for my role. However, if there were two fresh graduates; one with the name ‘Tyler Jones’ and one with the name ‘Kashish Sachdeva’, I would be more tempted to call ‘Tyler Jones’.
    The perception is that a foreign name, must mean a foreign person. Being foreign often times mean a language barrier, cultural differences, and lack of North American work experience. Although, I often fell into this trap – I still called the Kashish’s and Vivek’s and it sometimes would give me a competitive advantage.
  2. I met more ‘Preeti’s’ and ‘Jay’s’ than I have in my entire life.
    Another observation was the amount of nicknames and pseudonym’s that I came across.  Many candidates felt that by using a western sounding name, it improved their chances of getting to the interview stage. In today’s job market there are already so many barriers, having a name that is hard to pronounce shouldn’t be another. The onus shouldn’t just be on the candidate to lower this barrier, but I found that most of it did.
  3. If you had a foreign sounding name, I had to become a greater sales person.
    Once I had found a qualified candidate, I would then proceed to pitch this candidate to a client. If I had a candidate with a foreign sounding name, I would have to pitch twice as hard and ensure that this candidate was an absolute rockstar. Another perception is that foreign candidates will require more time and money to train. Companies aren’t willing to invest in either, and aren’t willing to take the risk of the candidate not working out.

So, that is the blunt reality! Personally, I like the new wave of names coming in and think you should call your child any name you want! If Beyonce can name her child a primary colour and Kim Kardashian after a direction, then there is no reason you can’t call your child Aditya or Addy for short. It is more about the underlying reason of why these names are gaining popularity that I have a problem with.

– Georgina

What do you think? Is this an issue? Have you ever come across this type of bias? 
Let me know! 

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