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Judging people by their name isn't racist, it's human nature

We've got really good at confusing the word 'discrimination' with 'racism', enabling virtually anyone to take offence about pretty much anything they want.

The latest outcry comes following an ESRI study into employers whom, it found, were twice as likely to grant a job interview to someone with an Irish name than a foreign one.

Sending 240 pairs of "similar" CVs to a variety of companies, they showed that the Paddy Murphys and Mary Maguires got called for interview more often than those with Asian, German or, particularly, African monikers.

Thus, the pre-titled "Discrimination in Recruitment" study was 'proven'. The authors called it a "serious cause of concern".

But, really, isn't it a bit of a leap to suggest that discriminating between CVs is bare-faced racism? Is it not the very point of a CV to enable discrimination? Companies do it all the time. What other option is there? You're discriminating (and let's use the word appropriately -- 'making a distinction' according to my dictionary), between qualifications, age, ability and experience. Vitally so, if your company is to be successful.


It is a well-known fact from other studies that women, the disabled, the obese and those over 50, all suffer discrimination in the job market. In the current climate, add in the overly- educated, under-educated and anyone not prepared to queue for two hours. Of course, it shouldn't matter that you are female, (54), in a wheelchair and 20 stone, if you have the right qualifications. But it does. It also matters if it might be reasonably expected that you don't have a full command of the English language, and many employers, who now have the luxury of selecting from myriad applicants, may well pre-screen on the basis of what a CV conjures up for them.

It might not be PC, it might not even be fair, but it is human nature. People from deprived parts of Dublin struggled for decades to get interviews (or even into college) because their address automatically counted against them. That's not fair, either. But each job application tells a prospective employer something about what they can expect when the applicant turns up. If they have a wealth of options open to them, they will favour those that fit their pre-determined demographic (much like the pre-determined name of the ESRI study).


It is every employer's duty and right to get the best person for the job. At the moment, they are spoilt for choice and in the absence of that most idiotic of laws -- positive discrimination -- they get to pick and choose.

We really shouldn't be so po-faced about it. The aforementioned Equality Authority was typically quick off the mark when the report issued, stating that "some employers ... may regard foreign workers as less productive because of factors such as language skills". Well, smack me with a wet teabag -- of course they do!

They may be wrong, of course, and there are many fine, articulate, well-educated immigrants in Ireland, alongside some of our lazy, illiterate or unlearned indigenous population. And it could be argued that unless you get them in front of you at interview you're not going to find out, but employers have to make some distinction (note the term) before they get to that stage.

Someone I know recently applied for a job publicly advertised in the newspaper. His was one of 1,500 CVs sent in. The employer saw 15 of that number for an initial interview. He had specific skills to match and in all probability did not have the time to wonder if someone could speak English properly or if they had a working visa. Should he have been forced to?

The problem with reports like this, well-meaning though they are, is that we can jump to conclusions that, had the employers been actually interviewed and asked their opinion, may not be true.

None of the employers in this study were identified, or even knew they were taking part (how's that for discrimination), so we cannot ever be sure of their intentions. The ESRI is a fine body, with undoubtedly objective standards, but sometimes, to misquote Freud, a cigar is just a cigar. Or is that discrimination against cigarettes?