In Germany, wearing a headscarf may spoil your job interview chances

Posted on September 11, 2013



n a study due to be released in full at the end of the year, economists at the University of Linz in Austria examined whether wearing a headscarf affected women when applying for jobs at German companies.

Initial results show that German firms appeared less inclined to invite an applicant for an interview if they were wearing a headscarf in their photo. This also applied, to a lesser extent, for applicants with a non-German surname.

One woman who took part in the study was 23-year-old Sevda Yilmaz. A newly-qualified bookkeeper, she applied to 1,500 jobs with the same CV, using both her name and a German name – Tina Meyer. She alternated attaching a photo with or without a headscarf on applications she sent under her real name.

Yilmaz was invited to interview for 18 percent of the applications she sent under the name Meyer. This dropped to 13 percent under her real name and plummeted to three percent when she used her real name and a photo of her in a headscarf.

“From an economic point of view, discrimination tends to have two explanations,” study head Doris Weichselbaumer told newspaper Tageszeitung. “Either it lies in a basic aversion towards a certain group, or it is statistical discrimination.”

She said this meant that employers either tended to dislike people who clearly identify as Muslims, or they were concerned that employees would have language problems and thus be less productive at work.

Weichselbaumer argued that companies should not be allowed to ask for photos. In other countries, such as the UK or US, it is not common practice to include one.

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