New publication

Applying an Identity

Do employers discriminate based solely on an applicant’s name? No, argues a new study published by WZB-researcher Daniel Auer together with Flavia Fossati and Fabienne Liechti. Part of a growing body of research assessing cultural identity and its role on the labor market, the paper aims to investigate the ways in which discrimination may seep into the application process.

The authors find that a jobseeker’s chances are not just affected by their name or country of origin but also by their level of attachment to a foreign culture or their ability to speak another language.

The scientists conducted a survey experiment asking Swiss Human Resources Managers to evaluate fictitious CVs with varying countries of origin, additional language skills and extracurricular activities. Seeking to observe whether an open attachment to the Spanish, Polish or Turkish community impacted on applicants’ employability, they found that the effects too, varied considerably. While signaling attachment to a particular country’s culture proved beneficial in some cases, in others it did not, despite the fact that proficiency in a second language and active roles in the local community are unambiguously regarded a strong advantage on the CV of natives.

The Spanish émigré preserving their cultural heritage was perceived differently to their Turkish counterpart who might instead have been seen to be clinging to traditions, argue the authors. What mattered, they continue, were a society’s ideas about cultural familiarity and distance. The ways in which discrimination seeps into the labor market may be numerous and subtle, yet, as this study shows, they are likely to be affected by ideas about identities and their value.