Aristocratic title: More success with a "from" in the last name?

Published by Alina Giannone on 9/6/2016

The principle of equal treatment applies to applications and promotions. But such a “from” in the name is sure to look good, right?

In Germany, a lot of value is placed on anti-discrimination laws and equal treatment, both gender-specific and with regard to the origin, religion or political attitude of the people - and of course that's a good thing! Unfortunately, this is once again easier in theory than in practice and in fact applicants with foreign names often still have disadvantages for apartments or jobs. At least that is the assumption of numerous experts, of course there is no evidence, because that would be punishable. And for many years now, the assumption has been haunted by the world of work that the "Mr. / Mrs. von ..." does enjoy one or the other advantage in the job or the privilege of an application or promotion. It is worth taking a closer look.

Intent or subconscious? Noble title influences professional decisions

Psychologists agree that a noble title is an advantage for applications, and maybe even tipping the scales for difficult decisions. Of course, we don't want to assume any malicious intent here. However, it is difficult to say whether this is really a conscious decision or maybe just a stroke of the subconscious, and certainly also varies from case to case. Nevertheless, the psychologists were able to make clear in a study that identical CVs and applications with a "von" in the name of the subjects from HR were rated more positively than the 08/15 names à la Müller, Schmidt & Co.

A title of nobility sounds like success - and magically attracts it

It is well known that only part of the degrees, certificates and qualifications serve as a basis for decisions when applying. There are also numerous other factors, such as professional experience, soft skills or the job application. Now, of course, the recruiter could create a list of all pros and cons and then choose the best applicant on paper. In practice, however, the procedure is different. As a rule, applications are pre-sorted according to qualifications. However, if there are several applicants with a similar requirement who could be considered for the vacant position, the decision will be based on knowledge of human nature, or rather, on the gut. That doesn't have to be bad, especially since factors such as charisma or rhetorical skills are beneficial in professional life, but often only become apparent in the interview. Even minor details, such as avoiding eye contact in the job interview, can have an impact on the final decision of the HR manager - consciously or unconsciously. It is therefore hardly surprising that even a noble title has an impact on the "gut feeling" of the HR specialist. For many people, nobility still means wealth, influence, power or success. They assume that it is a well-respected family with prosperity, perhaps even with its own company, which was built up through determination, discipline and hard work. But there is also another nobility. The one who was impoverished a long time ago and now lives a completely "normal" life. And with others, the title of nobility is simply married or a leftover from times long past, without anyone even knowing the origin of the "von" in the name. They still enjoy its advantages.

Every chance also carries a risk

Where there are advantages, there are always disadvantages. In principle, psychologists assume that a recruiter is strongly guided by his own life story when selecting applicants. Basically, he is always looking for "himself" or an optimized version. If he comes from a noble family himself, the chance is very high that he prefers applicants with a "von" in the name. However, if the recruiter has worked his way up from scratch as a nobody, he may combine the title of nobility with laziness and arrogance and would rather choose the applicant Müller or Schmidt. Perhaps the noble personnel manager in youth felt so uncomfortable in this social class that he now thinks: "Everything, but please no more nobility!" especially since you cannot have it officially entered on your ID card anyway. In addition, you do not always have the guarantee that this will work for your advantage and not turn out to be a disadvantage instead. Our advice is therefore: convince by personality, not by your name. True quality can only be seen in everyday work and if you don't convince here, the “from” in the name doesn't help either.