I have been living in Toronto for two years. My friends told me that I should change my name when looking for work here. I have a name that is often difficult to pronounce in English and many times, people cannot say or write my name and they make mistakes. I find this very frustrating.
My friends think that hiring managers will look at my name on the resume and in LinkedIn and see that I am a new immigrant and will eliminate me in the first few seconds. I am seriously thinking about changing my name. What do you think? Is this a reason for not getting an interview? Am I being ridiculous?
Signed: Am I being Ridiculous? (AIBR)
There are many job seekers from around the world who have resettled in Toronto and have found work in their fields. Many used their authentic and original names with which they were born. Indeed, some of our clients do anglicize their name for employment purposes or because people found it foreign or too hard to pronounce.
The latest statistics on the City of Toronto website, show that Toronto, with a population of 2.48 million people (5.5 million in the GTA – Greater Toronto Area) is heralded as one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Over 140 languages and dialects are spoken here, and just over 30 per cent of Toronto residents speak a language other than English or French at home.
With this information on our city, I cannot imagine that changing your name would make a difference, although I have seen the occasional newcomer change their first name to a more colloquial name or a nickname. In fact, over the past seven years working with internationally trained professionals who are newcomers to Canada from literally around the world, I have yet to see any evidence to suggest that if people change their name, it improves their chances to gain work or opens up more opportunities in the labour market in Toronto.
I can only speak for the scene at the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). According to Karin Lewis, our expert Employment Counsellor at JVS Toronto, a big percentage of the employers in the local labour market are immigrants themselves. Most companies are multi-cultural workplaces with employees who represent talent from all over the world, recruited from across our diverse city.
If you research companies and employees in the GTA (and even across Canada) on LinkedIn, you will find many immigrants, with a wide range of names and pronunciations, working in the local labour market. Sadly, it seems that there will always be racism and discrimination, no matter where you go. Then again, would you want to work for a prejudiced employer like that?!
Karin Lewis goes one step further by emphasizing how “job seekers are not hired because of a name; they are hired because the employer thinks they can do the job; if the applicant cannot demonstrate that they have the skills, experience and education required to do the job, there will probably not be a job offer”.
Changing one’s name to become more “Canadian” or anglicized is old school thinking, and is not relevant for today’s knowledge based economy, adds Karin. In this economy, it’s all about what you can do on the job, and what you can learn to help the company grow and prosper. It’s about knowing what employers expect and marketing yourself to them as the most suitable candidate for the job.
My recommendation is to do the best job search possible:
- work on a professional, relevant and targeted resume and cover letters
- use LinkedIn and other social media tools
- focus on your networking; build up your contacts in your field
- volunteer in your field, if you can
- increase your exposure to the labour market, by joining associations, attending events, workshops, conferences, trade show and related activities
Karin also confirms the usefulness of setting up a complete LinkedIn profile and joining as many LinkedIn groups as possible.
Do all this and the you will see an increase in your job applications being noticed by employers, while still keeping your wonderful, special and authentic name.
Also — Keep in mind that JVS Employment Source Centres can help you with enhancing your job search.
To submit your questions for this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.