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What about my name

My name is Donya Azizi Babani and I’m going to tell you a story about my 185 job applications!

You may know me from Linkedin by my full name or by different nicknames such as Donna, Dony, or even a simple D!

Yes, people have called me D many times! A simple, single, capital letter. And you know what? I don’t believe they had any bad intentions. In fact, as an Organizational Psychologist and an experienced recruiter, I firmly believe that most people don’t put a lot of thought into making a judgment about my name. Yet, I also know, based on a research stream going back more than 12 years on the Swedish labour market, a significant amount of people will make a quick judgment call about hiring me or not just by looking at my full name.

Unbelievable, right? I thought so too!

How could hiring managers make such a big decision based on such a small thing? Well, I have the answer for you. A significant number of decision-makers in the hiring process; including hiring managers, the CEO, and different people involved in various stages of hiring such as resume evaluation, interview callbacks, and final decisions very comfortably say that they make their decision based on their “gut feeling”. I’m sure you heard that phrase as well here and there that hiring someone should ‘feel’ right.

Well, going back to my story, I immigrated to Sweden about 4 years ago to get my Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology. I had about 7 years of experience as a recruiter in the Technology sphere before coming to Europe and while I was received very well and even occasionally managed to impress people, I still could not even get an interview for a full-time relevant position after applying for more than 100 jobs when I arrived in Sweden.

I had my experience specifically in recruitment, so I decided to play around with my CV to see if it worked. I remember that I marked CV number 101 because it was special. I changed my name and went with the nickname “Donna. B”. Naturally, considering my enthusiasm for the scientific approach, I tried to control for all other possible contributing factors. Everything was the same on the CV but my name. And I remember vividly that I got a callback for an interview on CV number 106.

Does it sound shocking to you? Well, scientists working on different forms of unconscious bias warned us many many years ago. Job seekers with Arabic-sounding names like mine have a significantly lower chance of even getting called to an interview.

And it sometimes gets even worse for women if they apply for a job in a male-dominated industry like Tech.

It took me 185 job applications, two boring part-time jobs, and one really horrible job experience to find We Exist. At first, I was afraid to be in a managerial role. It involves interacting with clients, and candidates and being a source of support for the rest of the team. What if my name becomes an obstacle again? What if clients refuse to take me seriously? What if I’m pushed aside just because my name is unfamiliar?

This was my experience from a previous job. I was thrown into a system that wasn’t built to support me enough to help me get results. I needed to be somewhere that cares about me and my career. We now know that diversity alone does not bring any value if inclusion is not there. That was what I needed: Inclusion!

I talked to my boss about my concerns and thankfully, I was met with understanding and a shared value of improving the lives of women and non-binary individuals. At We Exist, I was placed in a system that was designed to include me, which made it possible for me to build productive relationships with clients, candidates, and my teammates. It wasn’t difficult since the foundation of our company culture was built on diversity, inclusion, and equity values but it may be harder for other companies.

It may take time, effort, and financial resources to incorporate inclusive strategies that will in turn translate to the success of your employees, their happiness, and revenue for your business.

But it is an investment that will make you a winner in the long run. And if you don’t know where to start, we are here to help!

We Got Your Back 🧡

We will be by your side every step of the way. If you’re thinking about how reducing unconscious bias in the hiring process relates to the overall company culture that results in higher inclusion - let us know! 🧡

If you have any questions, don´t hesitate to reach out to us at


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