Bias against *certain* candidates – advice on how to deal with it!

Bias against *certain* candidates – advice on how to deal with it!

Bias against *certain* candidates – advice on how to deal with it!

In the age of globalization, a mix of cultures brings a lot of unique opportunities, but also reveals one unsettling fact about ourselves – we all have our (un)conscious biases. As much as we would all rather work with people who are completely unbiased towards our [fill in the blank with what’s relevant to you] (e.g. nationality / origin / skin color / religious beliefs / sexual orientation / disability / age), the reality is that there exist explicit (overt and conscious) and implicit (automatic, ambiguous, and ambivalent) prejudices (emotional bias), stereotypes (cognitive bias), and discriminations (behavioral bias).

So if you know you belong to a group that could be discriminated against based on the information in their CV, erase or “re-brand” it. Why? How? Continue reading!

In many ways, looking for a job bears resemblance to dating. Your potential matches on a dating app will briefly look through your profile and choose whether to swipe left or right. Some people might discard you at the very beginning if the first thing they see is that you have five kids or that you’re struggling with health problems at the moment. As a matter of principle, you may think, “If they don’t want to be with somebody who has got children, I don’t even want to go on a first date!”. As a consequence, you might choose to stay single for the time being – no big deal. But can you be this picky when it comes to job seeking? In other words, can you afford to stay unemployed just because your potential employer “doesn’t like you” based on your [fill in the blank]? Can you say, “If they don’t like me being [fill in the blank], I don’t want to work for them!”?

There are two important aspects to remember and consider:

  1. The person screening your application is – in theory – a representative of the organization, but they certainly, in the majority of cases, do NOT speak for the entire organization.
  2. Bias can be implicit – in other words, without proper training a person can’t help reacting in the way they do.

Most of us have probably held a stereotype against a group of people without ever having met its representative. And once we did meet one, we discovered, “Hey, that’s a nice / competent / friendly person! I’d like to work with them”. Right?

With the understanding that the goal of a CV is to land an interview, we want to minimize the “potentially disadvantageous” information at first sight. Important: don’t lie. Simply don’t mention or “re-brand” certain aspects. We want to create a CV that doesn’t trigger the interviewer’s bias. Once they speak to you, they’ll most probably discover that you are [fill in the blank], but by then, they will have already decided that you might fit the role!

Let’s assume – to put that into a concrete context – that you want to “score a date” (aka interview) on a job market that is new to you and where your country / culture of origin might face discrimination.

First and foremost: localize your CV.

Adapt certain aspects of your CV to the target country / culture. The person who screens CVs might think, “Why should I call a candidate who is 4 time zones away if there are plenty of local candidates that I can call for free?”. You can do the following adaptations:

  1. Get a local phone number.
  2. Set up an email address with the target country’s domain extension (, .de, .se).
  3. If you can’t use a friend’s local address, say, “in the process of relocating to XYZ”.
  4. Do not include a photo – that’s already standard practice in the US and it’s finally picking up on European job markets.
  5. Adapt your name to reflect local practices. E.g. in France, last name is written in all caps. Candidates in most European countries have one first and one last name – adapt to that format. Important: in case you are wondering how that might affect your employability: your CV is not a legal document that a contract will be based on. Tips:
    • Make sure that all of your communication channels (email, LinkedIn, signature, etc.) follow that same format.
    • If you have to transcribe your name from a different alphabet, make sure that the transcribed version is uniform across all channels – that’s especially important for Cyrillic.

Highlight parts of your experience that are connected to the target market.

E.g. you are based outside the EU and looking for a job in the Netherlands: review your experience and see which of your experiences are connected to the Netherlands. Maybe you reported to somebody in the Netherlands? Had a client there? Interviewed candidates from there? Sourced suppliers from there? What if that connection doesn’t exist or doesn’t seem to be enough? In today’s online world, you can join Dutch conferences, networking events or take (free) courses offered by Dutch companies. Add all of them visibly to your CV.

Once you’ve done that, all standard job search recommendations that you’ll find in our Job Hunting Strategy apply, with the following special considerations:

  • You are already starting at a disadvantage, so you need to make sure that your job search process is intensified by using all four job search channels!
  • If you have connections in the target country – now is the time to use them.
  • If you know people from your country who have worked in the target country for 2-3 years already, contact them as well and ask for tips.
  • Join professional associations or local networking groups that will help you navigate the foreign job market. Usually, a good address is


Frequently Asked Questions

1)  What if I target two different countries at the same time?
Then you need two CVs!

2)  What if my country of origin “really doesn’t help me”?
Well, in some cases you might want to move (legally, of course) before finding a job locally.

3)  What about my LinkedIn profile?
“Move your LinkedIn profile” to the target country. You want to be seen as a local candidate! If you pursue two different countries, pick one!


In the end, it is a job search like any other, but with a challenge – you truly have to give your 150%, and even 200% to be successful, and it may take several months longer on average.

Whether it be dating or hiring, there are people who are able to look past their initial bias (and let’s remember that most of the bias is implicit) and stereotypical beliefs – we just need to create the right conditions, so that they’d want to meet us in the first place!

If you’d like to discuss your current professional situation and/or job search challenges, book a free 20-30 minute-long online career consultation by clicking here, or send an email to Subject: Career Consultation. To speed things up, add your CV, your availability (2-3 slots), and a brief description of what you’d like to discuss, so we can match you with the right person!

If you want to train your staff to fight bias and embrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, get in touch too!