Applied Values: Be curious and true to evidence

Published by:
Cameo Choquer
September 18, 2020
min read

Why research, data, and evidence is at the heart of what we do...

Hi my name is Cameo. Yes, that’s right - Cameo.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have been teased about my name, how it’s been misspelled, mispronounced, and elongated (no, my name is not camilla), or that one time when I showed up to an interview and the hiring manager was surprised that I wasn’t a 6’4 body building black man (their words, not mine).

What’s in a name anyway? Quite a bit it turns out. A number of studies show that your name can have impact on your professional life.

In fact there are lots of different factors that can affect how we view candidates, and thus our hiring decisions.

At Applied, we think about this problem a lot, especially in terms of what the statistics and research tells us. We’ve recently updated one of our values related to data and evidence and would like to give frame of reference for our 'why'. But first, here is a quick personal story from me to give some context.

My sisters names are Champagne and Chanel. What were my parents thinking you may be asking in your head right now… I’m not really sure.

My last name is Choquer, so there may be an element of our names ‘sounding good’. But it’s impacted how my sisters and I navigate the world of work. Champagne doesn’t use her first name but defaults to using her middle name on CVs and I tend to switch my name up depending on where I (used to!) apply.

I grew up in a quirky small town in Canada so it took me a while (mostly until University) to realise that my name could have a significant impact on how people would treat me.

The peak of this was when my rowing coach in the UK inferred my socio-economic status and if my parents had gotten name ideas from the TV show Footballers' Wives or Desperate Housewives. It also hit me when I started to apply for jobs with ‘Cam’ or ‘CJ’ with more success where my gender was ambiguous and my full name was masked. From what I can recall, CJ worked the best.

Your name says more about your parents than it does about you or your potential future earnings. This comes from Steven Levitt’s research in Freakonomics on The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names on future earning potential. There are more studies related to name discrimination in hiring (don’t worry, we’ll list those below). At Applied we often point to the specific case study of the Sandra Bauer where changes to a more English/German sounding name resulted in a 5% increase in successful Application.

Last year Freakonomics did a follow-up interview with Dr. Marijuana Pepsi where they discussed the qualitative research Dr. Pepsi conducted on the impact on children in educational settings due to their name. Her takeaways from the research? These students end up being successful despite of and in some instances because of their name. While many people with different names are successful it’s important to note how they have to navigate through society. She made it clear that the negative impacts created by other people misnaming and projecting prejudice or stereotypes on others have lasting effects to the way people see themselves in the world.

We internalise these acts of misnaming and projection. So, while the quantitative research gives us the numbers, we also need the qualitative to give us the story. Ultimately what we do has an impact on peoples' lives and getting the full picture, with all the gritty details, can help us change that scale.

We recently updated our company values and I’m proud to say that out of 5 one of them is:

“Be curious and true to evidence”

To us, figuring out what works requires looking into the hard facts and figures and digging beyond them to test our assumptions and experiment. We like to roll up our sleeves and challenge the status quo so when we get the numbers we also get the story behind them.

So, why 'be curious'? We have to be inquisitive and investigative. We need to ask questions, if only to ask… how do you say your name?