October 24, 2011. 11:37 am • Section: The Search
A revealing study into how Canadian company recruiters respond to job applicants with non-English names is full of surprises. One of them, which has gone virtually unnoticed, is that Canadian employers look much more kindly on applications from people with Chinese or South Asian names if they show they’ve taken part in extra-curricular activities.
Presumably, this research data suggests that Canadian employers are wary of the stereotypically “driven” ethnic Chinese, East-Asian or South Asian student. The ones who strive to live up to their parents’ expectations by doing little else but working with tutors to score high exam marks — with no life outside often-arid academic achievement. Employers seem to fear such job applicants have little or no social/life skills, which can be a big problem in the workplace. The topic cries out for further exploration.
But the University of Toronto researchers themselves have not picked up on this statistical revelation about “extra-curricular” activities. The finding is buried in the 50-page report by scholars Philip Oreopoulos and Diane Dechief (photos below), which is titled “Why do some employers prefer to interview Matthew, but not Samir?”
I wrote a column last week about this inventive research project, funded by Metropolis B.C. To complete the study, the researchers sent out thousands of virtually identical resumes to Canadian employers, changing only the names of the applicants — from English-sounding to foreign-sounding names.
They discovered interesting things, which are explained in my earlier article. However, the reference I saw in their report to the crucial issue of extra-curricular activities was just one throw-away sentence in the middle of a paragraph on page 45.
That’s where the authors wrote that they found company recruiters were more inclined to call back “ethnically-named applicants” if they had added extracurricular activities to their resume. “This occurs only for those with Canadian education and experience.”
I’m wondering why the University of Toronto scholars didn’t follow up this important piece of data. Maybe they plan to in the future. To their credit, the researchers did explore what Canadian employers seem to expect regarding ‘ethnic’ applicants and their proficiency in English or French.