Job hunters switch to ‘Finnish-sounding’ surnames to avoid discrimination | News

Finland’s Equality Ombudsman says that recruits often discriminate based on the name of the applicant.

Ilja Timonen, a Russian electronics technologist and translator, moved to Finland in 2006. Photo: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

People of foreign origin who are struggling to find work in Finland must change their surname to a Finnish surname.

This is advice Ilga TemoninA Russian immigrant did just that.

Having studied physics, mathematics and educational sciences in Russia, Timonen moved to Finland in 2006 but was unable to find any work in his chosen fields.

He wanted to become an electrical technician, but was unable to secure a job even as an unpaid apprentice.

“Some companies even advertise that we have Finnish technicians,” he said.

In addition to pursuing his profession as a technician, Timonin also applied for positions as a Russian translator and as a teacher of mathematics and physics – but to no avail. This prompted him to find out what would happen if he applied under a false Finnish name.

“I was called back in a week and was offered a replacement teacher job,” he said, adding that then he started to think he should give up his Russian name altogether because it was causing him so much trouble in the job market.

I became Elijah Temonin

In the end, the decision was easy.

“At first I tried to cherish my identity in Finland, but in the end I found it meaningless. My name doesn’t matter to me. How do I do my job,” Timonen said.

He decided to change his first name from Ilya to Ilga, and took his new Finnish surname from his Karelian ancestors. He didn’t want to reveal his former title anymore.

“According to my genealogy, the [former] The name does not have a long history and means nothing,” he said, adding that it was incorrectly translated from the Cyrillic alphabet into his Finnish passport.

After officially changing his name, Timonen decided to apply for a job as an interpreter, working in a company that provides translation services for cities and hospital districts. He has applied to the same company on two previous occasions, without being invited for an interview.

This time, when he applied under the name Ilja Timonen, he received an invitation for an interview within one week. Three years later, he is still working for the company.

Since then, the person in charge of the recruitment of the company has left. However, the director who decided to hire Timonen told Yle that the name had no bearing on the decision, an opinion echoed by the company’s director of translation services.

“Most of our interpreters speak a foreign language. The name doesn’t make a difference,” the manager said, but noted that another employee changed his foreign name to Finnish.

The story continues after the photo.

Timonen was turned down twice by the same company that later hired him after he changed his name. Photo: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

Another member of the company’s management told Yle that although they were not personally involved or aware of Timonen’s employment, they acknowledged that the applicant’s name could be an important factor in the hiring process.

“There is often a rush to recruit and time can be lost,” they said.

The company’s name is not mentioned in this story, and company representatives have agreed to comment if they can remain anonymous.

Timonen cannot prove why he was previously rejected by the same company, but said that he was sure that having a foreign surname was a flaw.

ethnic hierarchy

Earlier this fall, the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Theology contacted four students about the possibility of offering lessons on Islam at a primary school and informed them that they had been selected based on their “Finnish” titles.

Other students from the same college were excluded from the process.

Equality Ombudsman Christina Steinman The college has requested a report on this practice. Steinman told Yle that recruiters often discriminate based on an applicant’s name, but that people rarely file complaints about the phenomenon.

Evidence of discrimination is difficult to provide, and litigation costs are usually borne by the losing party. It is therefore unlikely that a victim of discrimination would be exposed to such a risk.

It is also unlikely that recruiters will directly acknowledge that some applicants may be disqualified from the hiring process because of their name.

However, anonymous survey of recruits (Move to another service) Conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health last year, up to 39 percent of HR professionals admitted that an applicant’s seemingly foreign surname made them less likely to be called for an interview.

The report stated that “the most common basis for perceived discrimination is racial or national background and gender. In most cases, it is estimated that discrimination by the hiring supervisor was often unconscious or unintentional.”

The issue of employment discrimination has been studied more extensively in Finland in recent years, and evidence of an ethnic hierarchy in the labor market has been revealed.

Sociologist Ahmed’s morals About 5,000 fake job applications were submitted with Finnish and foreign names as part of a large-scale experiment in 2016 and 2017.

The aim of the study was to find out whether a candidate’s name influenced whether or not he was invited to an interview.

Ahmed created five categories of applicants representing five different ethnic backgrounds: White Finnish, English, Russian, Iraqi and Somali.

Then send a thousand applications from each group through the website of the Finnish Employment Office. The jobs were in the catering, retail, office, cleaning and customer service sectors.

The illusionary advancers were equally powerful. They had the same training, the same amount of experience, and they all went to school in Finland indicating that they had lived their whole lives in Finland or at least moved to Finland before school started.

All of them speak excellent Finnish.

The story continues after the photo.

Researcher in sociology ethics Ahmed. Photo: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

If the qualifications of each applicant were the main factor in the hiring process, then in theory each group would have an equally good chance of getting a job interview.

However, the differences were stark.

Applicants with white Finnish names have so far received the highest number of invitations to interviews, with 390 interviews out of a thousand applications. English-language applicants received 269 invitations for interviews, while Russians received 228, 134 Iraqis and only 99 Somali applicants.

Last year, only 12 percent of HR professionals reported that they tried anonymous hiring — the process by which job applicants are selected for interview without recruiters knowing the applicant’s name, gender, or age.

According to Ahmed, anonymous hiring may spoil your chances of getting an interview, but it won’t secure a job for anyone.

If the distinction is based on the presumed foreign language or ethnicity of the applicant, it may be reflected not only in the name but also in the work experience and qualifications gained abroad. Therefore, anonymous recruitment is essentially putting a sticker on a problem that can only be solved by addressing discriminatory situations, Ahmed added.

His research revealed that discrimination can occur in employment even if the applicant has a native English level and has gained educational and work experience in Finland.

as was the case with Caroline Petrovsky.

Assumptions based on surname are always there

Now 33 years old, Piotrowski started working at the age of 15, first as a hotel cleaner, then in a restaurant and as a receptionist. She was often criticized by Russian agents who assumed she spoke Russian because of her Polish surname.

“We have two words in common. I speak Russian and the average Finn speaks Estonian,” she said.

Piotrovsky told Yle that assumptions about her based on her surname have followed her throughout her working life, usually sticking to the same pattern.

“Even if I apply in Finnish, I will get the answer in English. If I get to a job interview, the beginning always includes a discussion about my last name. Then I have to talk about where I come from and how many years I’ve lived in Finland. And then the praise comes on How do I speak Finnish well,” said Piotrovsky, adding that she was born and has lived all her life in Helsinki.

The story continues after the photo.

Caroline Petrovsky.

The Piotrovsky family has Polish roots and their original surname was Sagor, a Jew. The family changed the name during the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.

However, the name was a burden in Finland.

“As a kid who competes in athletics, my name couldn’t be announced. I was called up at school pseudo rubbish [roughly translated as Piot-trash]You remember.

After completing her studies, Piotrowski worked as a graphic designer in the games industry for a few years. There, she did not find that her name was a problem among her colleagues because the company’s employees came to Helsinki from all over the world and the working language was English.

Piotrowski currently works as a computer science teacher, and her students and colleagues know her as Sajur. It was easier for everyone, she said.

Although the name change isn’t official yet, Petrovsky said she plans to officially confirm the change once her current passport expires. A few of her relatives also reverted to their previous names in order to get better jobs.

“I’ve noticed a huge difference in the number of interview invites depending on whether I use my Polish surname or a more neutral surname. As a Sajur, I also don’t have to spell my name at the hotel reception or upon checkout from Starbucks,” she said.

It also happened that Sajor’s first job became permanent.

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