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, the melting pot 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 [nationality / origin / skin color / religious beliefs / sexual orientation / disability / age], there is no denying the existence of both explicit (overt and conscious) and implicit (automatic, ambiguous, and ambivalent) prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination.

To maximize your chances of landing your dream job, if you know you belong to a group that could be discriminated against based on the information in their CV, you should erase or “re-brand” this information. Why? How?

In many ways, looking for a job bears a 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!”. You simply 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]?

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 and education, a person might make discriminating decisions subconsciously.

Most of us have probably held a stereotype against a group of people without ever having met one of them. And once we did meet someone, we realized, “Hey, that’s a nice / competent / friendly person! I’d actually like to work with them”. Right? How can we get to this moment of realization sooner?

Knowing the goal of a CV is to land an interview, we should aim to minimize the “potentially disadvantageous” information at first sight. Important: don’t lie. Simply don’t mention or “re-brand” certain elements. We want to create a CV that doesn’t immediately trigger the interviewer’s bias. Only once they speak with you will they discover that you are [fill in the blank], but by then, they will have already decided that you might be a good fit for the job!

Let’s assume – to put that in a specific context – that you want to “score a date” (i.e. an interview) on a job market that is new to you and where your country / culture of origin might face discrimination. What should you do?

1. First and foremost: localize your CV

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?”. Prevent this by adapting certain aspects of your CV to the target country / culture. You can apply the following changes:

  1. Get a local phone number.
  2. Set up an e-mail address with the target country’s domain extension (, .de, .se).
  3. Use a friend’s local address. If you can’t, add: “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. For instance, in France, a 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.
    • Make sure that all of your communication channels (email, LinkedIn, signature, etc.) follow that same format.
    • If you have to transcribe your name into a different alphabet, make sure the transcribed version is uniform across all channels – that’s especially important for Cyrillic.

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

Let’s assume you live outside the EU and are 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 located in the Netherlands? Had a client there? Interviewed candidates from there? Sourced suppliers from there?

What if the connection doesn’t exist or doesn’t seem to be enough? In today’s digital world, you can join Dutch conferences, networking events or take (free) courses offered by Dutch companies. Add all of them to your CV in a visible place.

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

  • 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”?

Unfortunately, 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 an added 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, some people can look past their initial biases (and let’s remember that most biases are 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, don’t hesitate to contact us. To speed things up, attach your CV and mention your availability (2-3 time slots), as well as a brief description of what you’d like to discuss, so we can match you with the right person!

PS. If you want to train your staff to fight bias and embrace Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, get in touch as well!