Philip Oreopoulos, an economics professor at UBC, says more research is needed to determine whether employers deliberately withheld interviews from candidates with non-English-sounding names. ((CBC))

Job applicants with English-sounding names have a greater chance of getting interviews than those with Chinese, Pakistani or Indian names, a new study by University of British Columbia researchers suggests.

The study found Canadians and landed immigrants with names such as "Jill Wilson" or "John Martin" are 40 per cent more likely to be offered an interview than someone with a name like "Sana Khan" or "Lei Li," given an identical resumé.

Applicants with mixed names like "Vivian Zhang" had a 20 per cent better chance to land an interview than job-seekers with non-English names, but still less than the English-only names.

"The findings suggest that a distinct foreign-sounding name may be a significant disadvantage on the job market even if you are a second- or third-generation citizen," said Philip Oreopoulos, a professor of economics at UBC who led the research.

'There's certainly an element of unfairness going on that an individual with a distinct foreign name is not being given the chance to go to the next round.' — Philip Oreopoulos, University of British Columbia

Oreopoulos's working paper was released Wednesday by Metropolis British Columbia, part of an international immigration and diversity research network.

The researchers tailored 6,000 mock resumés to meet specific job requirements in 20 occupational categories and sent them last fall to 2,000 online job postings from potential employers in the Greater Toronto Area.

Each resumé listed a bachelor's degree and four to six years of experience, with name and domestic or foreign education and work experience randomly assigned.

"I was surprised to see almost as much name discrimination going on here as there was in the United States between distinct black- and white-sounding names," Oreopoulos said.

Might break laws

Name-based discrimination may contravene human rights laws, he said, although more research is needed to determine whether the employers' behaviour was intentional.

"There's certainly an element of unfairness going on that an individual with a distinct foreign name is not being given the chance to go to the next round and prove to the employer that they could be a better candidate," Oreopoulos said.

Michael Lam of SUCCESS, an immigrant advocacy group based in Vancouver, said the findings present a "strong impression that the business community is still not fully aware or understand the immigrant community."

The group's chief executive officer, Tung Chan, added that the phenomenon is nothing new.

"It's something that we hear all the time, that we see all the time," Chan said.

"Many of them feel that there is a glass ceiling that they are hitting, and it comes back to the same thing — the feeling that they belong to a different cultural group."

The study also found employers preferred Canadian work experience over Canadian education.

For resumés with foreign names and education, call backs nearly doubled when the applicant had held one previous job in Canada.

"This suggests policies that prioritize Canadian experience or help new immigrants find initial domestic work experience might significantly increase their employment chances," Oreopoulos said.