What's in a name? Too much, Kim O'Grady found out after conducting an experiment with his resume. IMAGE: Navpath55, CC License
Kim O’Grady couldn’t figure out why he had sustained four months of job application rejection. He had relevant qualifications, experience and demonstrated success in his chosen career path, yet no one was biting.
Kim writes in a viral blog post:
“I was experienced in managing technical & trade supply businesses. I also had engineering experience and sales experience and had demonstrably excelled at every sales and profit target I had ever been given. I started applying for roles that would stretch me and lift my career up a notch. There were plenty of opportunities around and I usually had a few applications on the go at any one time. I was an experienced guy in an experienced guy’s world, this wouldn’t be hard.”
He didn’t flinch at the first round of rejections, but after four months of no progress, Kim decided to scrutinize his CV. It was the one thing in common with every application that got rejected. He felt he had a good sense of CV design, and saw no flaws in his work.
“My first name is Kim. Technically its gender neutral but my experience showed that most people’s default setting in the absence of any other clues is to assume Kim is a women’s name. And nothing else on my CV identified me as male. At first I thought I was being a little paranoid but engineering, trades, sales and management were all definitely male dominated industries. So I pictured all the managers I had over the years and, forming an amalgam of them in my mind, I read through the document as I imagined they would have. It was like being hit on the head with a big sheet of unbreakable glass ceiling.”
Kim made one change, adding “Mr.” in front of the large “Kim” on his resume. What happened next is annoyingly predictable. Within two weeks he had multiple interviews. One of them led to an excellent job, which provided a substantial upgrade in responsibilities and pay over the work he had had before.
Since posting his story on Tumblr, Kim has gone viral, getting reposted and retweeted along with several requests for interviews. This inspired him to write an epilogue, in which he notes:
“What has been most surprising about this whole experience is not one person has challenged my version of the events. Twitter is full of reactionary trolls that will argue with you on far less anecdotal issues, but I have yet to see one response that has called my story into question.”
Gender discrimination makes everyone’s lives worse. That Kim’s story is not truly a surprise to anyone shows that there is so much work to do, but the fact that it has caused so much outrage is also a sign of the times. Fifty years ago this story would be met with a shrug of the shoulders. These days we expect equality, and get angry where we see it absent. It’s progress, but there’s a long way to go.