At the doorstep to employment: Discrimination against immigrants as a function of applicant ethnicity, job type, and raters' prejudice

Franciska Krings, José Olivares
Published Online:
14 Nov 2007
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 42 Issue 6

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This study examined the impact of applicant ethnicity, job type, and prejudice on evaluation biases and intentions to interview in an experimental simulation. We suggest that bias and discrimination are more likely when foreign applicants who belong to disliked ethnic groups apply for jobs that require high interpersonal skills, and when raters are prejudiced against immigrants. Subjects were Swiss university students who evaluated Swiss, Spanish, and Kosovo Albanian fictitious applicants. Foreign applicants were second‐generation immigrants, i.e., Swiss‐born descendants of immigrants. Thus, all applicants had similar schooling and language proficiencies but differed with respect to ethnicity. As predicted, discrimination was only observed for members of the disliked ethnic group (Kosovo Albanian) and not for members of the well‐accepted group (Spanish). Moreover, this discrimination was only apparent when applying for a job requiring high interpersonal skills and not when applying for a job requiring high technical skills. Symbolic prejudice towards second‐generation immigrants interacted with applicant ethnicity and job type to affect evaluations of foreign applicants: Persons high in symbolic prejudice devalued foreign applicants belonging to the disliked group but only when applying for a job requiring high interpersonal skills. Overt prejudice was unrelated to evaluations and intentions to interview. These results suggest that discrimination against immigrants is highly specific, targeting only members of certain ethnic groups who apply for certain types of jobs. Moreover, evaluation biases may be more apparent in raters who are prejudiced. Thus, our results support the notion that discrimination for employment results from a complex interaction between characteristics of the applicant, the job, and the rater.

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