Names play a role for some applicants

February 3, 2012 1 Comment »

Western’s rebranding project may attract more new students, but recent findings suggest a university’s prestigious reputation doesn’t always sway employers. An article has suggested employers don’t really care about the reputation of a candidate’s university.

This conclusion came as a result of research conducted by Philip Oreopoulos, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, on Canadian immigrants struggling in the labour market. Oreopoulos sent out 600 fake resumes on various job posting sites, such as monster.ca, some with Anglo-Saxon sounding names and some with foreign-sounding ones. A computer program randomly generated degrees and work experience in Canada or abroad.

According to Oreopoulos’ paper, having a degree from a prestigious Canadian university did not appear to impact call-back rates. “While Canadian experience plays a crucial role in determining the likelihood of a call-back, having a degree from a more prestigious institution or acquiring additional schooling in Canada does not appear to impact the chances of a call-back significantly,” the paper said.

However, the prestige of the applicant’s education does come into play when they have a “foreign-sounding” name. “The one exception is Canadian resumes with foreign names. While there is no effect for similar applicants with English names, applicants with foreign names receive about 40 per cent more call-backs if they list a higher ranked Canadian university,” Oreopoulos’ paper noted.

“We’ll hire from any university or any college, it’s not a big deal for us,” one recruiter from Aerotek, a company which other employers outsource their hiring to, explained.

He explained that other things were more important than the reputation of a candidate’s university. “We look at a student’s resume for credibility, where they held positions. For us, it’s based on personality—when they walk in the door and how they interview with us. We care about whether they have selling mentality.”

Kevin Goldthorp, vice-president external at Western, disagreed. Goldthorp has been meeting with corporations and their HR departments for nine years, and said companies definitely prefer graduates from certain universities, Western among them.

He explained recruiter’s judgments stemmed from the accomplishments of Western alumni. He said, “People experience you as you go out in the world and Western graduates get a reputation of being able to do the job, and do the job really well. People say, ‘Oh you went to Western? I know people from Western who are doing great things. You must be good.’”

Frances Woolley, a professor of economics at Carleton University, also explained other factors in the job search that would affect results more than a prestigious degree.

“Factors include the strength of the local economy, the person’s field of study, the person’s other experiences, networks and connections.”

She also explained that location of the institution was important—Western is not only prestigious, but gives graduates the advantage of the larger Ontario labour market.

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