Nearly 20% of workers have changed their name on a resume because of discrimination concerns, says new report

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A recent survey on hiring practices led by hiring software company Greenhouse found "pretty sobering stats" about discrimination in hiring processes, says Ariana Moon, head of talent planning and acquisition at the company. 

The 2023 edition of Greenhouse's annual Candidate Interview Experience Report surveyed 1,200 US-based job candidates – 50% of respondents being from historically underrepresented groups – and revealed that over one-third of candidates (34%) have experienced discriminatory interview questions, most commonly focused on their age, race or gender.

Almost one-fifth of job seekers tried to protect themselves against these discriminatory hiring practices by changing their names on applications. Of those that change their names, 45% did so to sound 'less ethnic', 42% to sound younger and 22% to sound like the opposite gender.

"Such questions are not just disrespectful, they are also illegal and can seriously damage a company's business with potential litigation," Greenhouse wrote in a statement. Under federal employment law, applicants are protected from employment discrimination that may be based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.

But despite the illegality of these practices, they continue to persist. 

"I think [these statistics] signal that there is still tons of opportunity for employers to be thoughtful about how they design their interview processes to not have discriminatory practices and how they train their employees who are acting the part of interviewers," Moon tells CNBC Make It. 

In a lot of cases hiring officials may be unaware of their inherent biases. An example Moon gives is called "the like-me bias" where people are inherently biased to like people that they find to be "similar" to them. 

As an executive in charge of hiring practices at the company, Moon highlights some ways that Greenhouse, which has been named one of the best workplaces by platforms such as Glassdoor and Fortune, has taken initiative to combat hiring discrimination.  

She says they have instituted a common rating scale for all interviews, rather than relying on subjective comments based on ambiguous standards. Moon says that Greenhouse also tries to test for technical, 'hard' skills first by conducting anonymized skill-based tests before they reach out to candidates for a face-to-face interview.

"We have a hypothesis that interpersonal skills are more available for interpretation, so it is better for us to dig into them when we have more information on the baseline qualifications of a candidate," Moon says. 

While the Greenhouse survey found that close to half of all candidates (49%) said they strongly or somewhat dislike take-home assignments, of those who somewhat or strongly liked them, 59% were members of historically underrepresented groups. Anonymity in take-home tests is also crucial because, Greenhouse found, Black and Hispanic candidates were less likely to pass these tests when grading is not anonymized, compared to when it is anonymized.  

"Another thing that we try to be thoughtful of is not rejecting a person based on one reason only, because often there is a part of the story that you can't necessarily get from just looking at a resume," Moon says. "So when we coach our recruiters who are often in the front line of screening resumes, we ask them to find a handful of reasons why they don't want to move forward with a candidate."

The labor market remains strong and competition for talent is still robust, Moon says. "It's really important for employers to actually take meaningful action on how they are creating positive experiences for candidates and designing an inclusive structured hiring process from start to finish," she says. "Because if you don't, people will look elsewhere and word does travel fast."

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