By LaTisha Conto
I am no longer putting my name on my resume. My name has nothing to do with my work experience, accomplishments or skills. A name on a resume is used to make a judgment. It is fair to judge me on my work experience and skills, but it is unfair to judge me based on a name. Names are not verbs. Names are not actions. Putting my name on a resume means that I am at the mercy of the resume reader’s biases.
I was in my mid-twenties the first time I realized that my name was an issue in the hiring process. I was between jobs and having a hard time getting interviews. A friend of mine suggested I see a staffing agency. I went in and the recruiter suggested that I shorten my name on my resume to Tish. This was disappointing. My whole life I had been called Tish and thought nothing of it. But I didn’t like Tish anymore. I had grown out of Tish. Tish seemed like a little girl and I enjoyed hearing La Tisha.
I was living with an African-American girl named Monique at the time, and when I got home I told her what happened at the office. I told the story like a clueless white girl, telling her I was sad that I had to go back to using Tish and felt like I had worked hard at getting everybody to call me by La Tisha. She said “you know why she said that, don’t you?” I really didn’t. The clueless-ness of my mid-twenty self still makes me cringe. Monique said it was because I had a black name.
I had never really thought about it but I had that moment when you realize something and you start to go back and piece together moments of your life and things start to make sense. Many of my interviews usually started out with “you aren’t what I expected,” and now I know what that means. It means “I expected an African-American girl.” Now, of course these are the situations that went well – I was called in for an interview.
The personal stories I can not relay are the real problems. They are the hunch. They are all the times I was never called in. And I wonder why. And it makes me angry that I have to consider my name as the culprit. Every time I have sat down with a recruiter to talk about my work experience they congratulate me and say I must get called in all the time with my work experience and skills. I don’t. They seem surprised. And then of course they say “have you thought about shortening your name? Hiring managers like short names.” Which I know is code for “your name sounds really black and I wish it would shorten to Jessica or Mary but Tish is going to have to do.”
My mother named me La Tisha. I can close the gap and it will read LaTisha. I can make the “T” lower case and it will read Latisha. I can go by a nickname I don’t like and shorten it to Tish. Or, instead of changing my name, I can submit resumes that don’t give away any kind of identifiers about the two things that have no bearing on a job: gender and race. This is what I choose. This is me saying I don’t like the way things are done and so I will no longer participate.
I’m sure doing things this way will cost me a job. I’m sure more than one hiring manager will read the asterisk and decide I will be a problem. I know this is false. I know I am not the problem. I am a great employee; creative, thoughtful, smart and empathetic, on time, organized and easy to be around. I speak up when I see injustice and I learn something from every person I meet.
This piece is not a think piece. It is not researched, and there are no statistics that I am going to include. I don’t need to. I know that people have biases when hiring and I know it starts at the very top of the resume. I have lived these experiences. My friends have lived these experiences. At best, I have not done enough to change the systemic racism and sexism that exists in our society, and at worst I have participated in its survival. I am going to do better. I am going to do more. I am going to start by taking my name off my resume.
LaTisha Conto is a native of Los Angeles. She is a writer and filmmaker. You can read and watch all that she creates at Latishaconto.com. She has three cats. Yes, this is what the crazy cat lady looks like when she’s a young woman. You can also follow her on Twitter. This blog post was reprinted with permission and originally appeared on LaTisha’s website.