Changing One Shockingly Small Thing on His Résumé Helped This Guy Land a Job

Going from José to Joe made all the difference in one Los Angeles resident’s search for employment.
Sep 5, 2014·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Job hunting in a recovering economy is not for the faint of heart. But imagine sending out 50 to 100 résumés every day to prospective employers for positions you’re qualified for and getting exactly no emails or phone calls back. That’s what Los Angeles resident José Zamora did for months. Then he hit on a bright idea: He’d “whiten” his name.

As Zamora explains in the above video, produced by BuzzFeed, simply dropping the letters and turning his name into “Joe” resulted in a flood of replies from hiring managers.

Whitening a résumé is a phenomenon The New York Times explored in heartbreaking depth back in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. The paper looked at the lengths people of color go to ensure that their résumés don’t give any indication that they’re not white.

“Research has shown that applicants with black-sounding names get fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names, even when they have equivalent credentials,” Michael Luo wrote in the Times.

As we see from Zamora’s experience, black folks aren’t the only ones who have to jump through these kinds of hoops to get a fair shot at a position. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ August 2014 report, the difference in unemployment for white Americans (5.3 percent), Hispanics (7.5 percent), and black Americans (11.4 percent) is pretty stunning. Zamora’s experience should make us all wonder how much of the difference in those unemployment rates is about merit and how much of it is about discrimination.

“Sometimes I don’t even think people know or are conscious or aware that they’re judging, even if it’s by name,” says Zamora, “but I think we all do it all the time.”