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The best person for the job is the most qualified, right? An experimental study about Islamophobia in hiring practices

Yassmeen El Maohub (BeCHANGE Research Group, Institute of Public Communication, Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland)
Natalie Rangelov (BeCHANGE Research Group, Institute of Public Communication, Faculty of Communication, Culture, and Society, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland and APS AG, Zurich, Switzerland)
L. Suzanne Suggs (Social Marketing, BeCHANGE Research Group, Institute of Public Health and Institute of Communication and Public Policy, Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 19 October 2022

Issue publication date: 2 January 2023

54

Abstract

Purpose

Islamophobia is a growing social problem that leads to the discrimination of Muslims. Using Group Conflict Theory and the Integrated Threat Theory as the theoretical frameworks, this study aims to measure the presence of Islamophobia in the hiring practices of the most southern state of Switzerland.

Design/methodology/approach

An experimental formative research study was conducted with employees. Based on CVs for two positions, back-office and front-office, candidates were selected for interviews and reasons were provided. Two variables were manipulated to represent the “Muslim appearance” on the CVs: the picture and the name. A content analysis of reasons was conducted in addition to descriptive statistics of survey responses.

Findings

A negative perception of Muslim candidates emerged from the answers with a clear difference between the two scenarios: candidates perceived to be Muslim were not rejected from the back-office position, but they were from the front-office position.

Social implications

Results demonstrate that hiring practices in Ticino Switzerland are, in some cases, based on a prejudicial attitude. As long as Muslims were “not seen as Muslims to the customers,” they were judged as acceptable for the job. This has implications for social marketing research and practice aimed to change this discrimination behavior. A next step could be to understand if it is fear of Muslims or fear of what the public might think of Muslims that cause the selection difference between the two jobs. Systems-wide and macro level social marketing research is well suited to investigate such problems and test solutions, in a local context, following the methodology used in this study.

Originality/value

A disturbing escalation of the phenomenon of Islamophobia has emerged across the globe. This paper examines a fundamental issue in equity and prosperity, which is equal opportunity for employment. Using experimental design, the authors find that discrimination exists in hiring practices, which is a problem that social marketing is well equipped to address.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the participants in the study and those who served as applicants in the experiment, agreeing to have their photos on the CVs and in the published paper.

Citation

El Maohub, Y., Rangelov, N. and Suggs, L.S. (2023), "The best person for the job is the most qualified, right? An experimental study about Islamophobia in hiring practices", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 63-81. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSOCM-07-2021-0164

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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