There are even more useful instruments in personnel selection than graphology or astrology, who would have guessed? Especially efficient is the name psychology. Whoever feels like screening CVs, sending candidates to assessment tests or conducting job interviews is nothing more than a waste of time: listen up! Especially in Germany, there is a huge bias with regard to candidates’ forenames. Recruiters happen to judge applicants depending on their forenames, representing – consciously or unconsciously – certain social standards.
Bullshit diagnostics: forename psychology
Based on the kabbalistic (not to get mixed up with cannibalistic) key of numbers, there are 22 numbers and respective energies assigned to the Hebrew alphabet. These energies or forces shape the individual character of everyone and can thus deliver further information about each candidate’s aptitude. Here’s the self-test:
F = truth and idealism A = will and energy L = service to the human K = spirituality O = teaching, consulting, educating
Sounds awesome – I would instantly offer myself the job. However, it’s not that easy unfortunately, as the position of each characters needs to be taken into account as well. The complex formular for calculating the correct energies and forces for everyone might even be too complex for us who do not know anything about it.
Of course, this name psychology is, considered from a diagnostical point of view, bullshit. However, there is no doubt that names do have an extensive influence on our decision making process. But this is definitely not due to the setting free of some strange energies according to the kabbalistic systems, but rather to stereotypes and prejudices that go along with some names. Names initiate subconscious processes of association, which, as a consequence, may lead to concrete discrimination.
Is Kevin a worse fit than Max?
The study „Kevin is not a name, it’s a diagnosis“ from German educational theorist Astrid Kaiser caught huge media attention a few years ago. The results suggest that teachers evaluate the same essay better if the pupil who wrote it is called Maximilian compared to Kevin. This effect is reproduced if teachers receive the information that the pupil’s parents are journalists (vs. mechanics) before evaluating the essay. Same principle also applies to gender or ethnical background. There were studies in the sixties which proved that authors were believed to be more credible just because they were male (vs. female).
Discrimination disappears with increasing interview structure
In 2010, a study in HR fuelled the discussion about discrimination and blind applying procedures by showing that applicants with a name that appeared to be Turkish had a fewer chance of being invited to the next assessment step than applicants with a “German” name. This discrimination however disappearded once companies implemented diversity management programmes and established structures and objective criteria for candidate evaluation. A result that has shown consistently through diagnostic research: the more standardized a recruiting tool/ instrument is (e.g. evaluating a job interview on a priori defined criteria and competecies), the less power is given to biases caused through stereotypes or prejudices.
Lucky are the “kings” …
Lucky the people who carry a name like “king” as this surname is supposed to increase chances of succeeding, at least compared to surnames like “farmer”. This was the result of a recent study based on the data of the German online business plattform XING. However, the result was officially corrected: an error in the statistical approach of the study led to wrong conclusions. So there may be hope after all… ;-).
Do you think the forname bias is a major issue in your country as well? Then join the discussion. We’d be happy to know more!
Cotton, J. L., O’Neill, B. S., & Griffin, A. (2008). The ‘name game’: Affective and hiring reactions to first names. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(1), 18-39.
Kaas, L.; Manger C. (2012). Ethnic Discrimination in Germany’s Labour Market: A Field Experiment. German Economic Review 13 (1), 1-20.
Silberzahn, R., & Uhlmann, E. L. (2013). It Pays to Be Herr Kaiser: Germans With Noble-Sounding Surnames More Often Work as Managers Than as Employees. Psychological Science, 24(12), 2437-2444.