Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 1/2, January 2005 (
The Name Game: Employability Evaluations
of Prototypical Applicants with Stereotypical
Feminine and Masculine First Names
faye l. smith,
Judi McLean Parks,
and Janean S. Kleist
This study was designed to examine professional human resource managers’ recommenda-
tions and inferences about prototypical applicants who had identical qualiﬁcations, in which
the presence of periods of unemployment and name (feminine, masculine) of applicants were
manipulated. Results indicate that although overall income for female applicants was less
than male applicants in some conditions, male applicants were penalized and evaluated more
harshly than female applicants when they had experienced periods of unemployment. Specif-
ically, male applicants with employment gaps were seen as less committed and as less hirable
than their female counterparts. Overall, male applicants were less likely to be recommended
for an interview, and, when they experienced multiple gaps, they were less likely to be rec-
ommended for further consideration.
KEY WORDS: employment gaps; stereotypes; gender; human resources; discrimination; unemploy-
ment; hiring decisions.
How do discontinuous work histories, which
are reﬂected in resumes inﬂuence human resource
managers’ judgments about the employability of ap-
plicants? This question is one that may concern
many people when they send their cover letters
and resumes to potential employers. With the in-
creasing likelihood that a person may become un-
employed as organizations respond to economic
conditions, employment gaps on resumes likely
will become more common. Recent layoffs pro-
vide evidence of this likelihood, including Lucent
Technologies (52,000), General Electric (75,000),
Nortel Networks (48,000), Boeing (38,600), Ford
School of Business, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas.
College of Business and Economics, Towson University, Towson,
John M. Olin School of Business, Washington University, St.
Medtronic, Inc. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at School of Busi-
ness, Emporia State University, 1200 Commercial, Box 4058, Em-
poria, KS 66801; e-mail: email@example.com.
Motor Company (35,000), Merrill Lynch (23,000),
UAL Corporation (20,000), Montgomery Ward
(28,000), and Kmart (22,000) (CBS MarketWatch,
May 14, 2002).
The effects of being unemployed have long
been of interest to organizational scholars. Re-
searchers have investigated the legal and moral obli-
gations created by employee handbook passages con-
cerning termination for cause (e.g., McLean Parks
& Schmedemann, 1994; Schmedemann & McLean
Parks, 1994), the psychological effects of layoffs and
unemployment (e.g., Eisenberg & Lazarsfeld, 1938),
the effects of layoffs on survivors (e.g., Brockner,
1988, 1990; Brockner & Greenberg 1990; Brockner
et al., 1997; Wiesenfeld, Brockner, & Thibault, 2000),
and perceived fairness in job terminations (e.g.,
Rousseau & Anton, 1988), as well as the effects
of layoffs on satisfaction, income (e.g., Schneer &
Reitman, 1990), well-being, work centrality, and
health (e.g., Isaksson & Johansson, 2000). Past re-
searchers have explored how employees cope with
job loss (e.g., Bennett, Martin, Bies, & Brockner,
1995; Latack, Kinicki, & Prussia, 1995; Leana &
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.