How To Overcome Bias Against Me In The Job Search

This is how to overcome bias in the job search, as a job seeker in Canada and the United States. Job seekers should remove information that can lead to various types of discrimination in hiring. Personal identifiers like your name, where you’re from or religious affiliations, could be impacting your ability to land an interview and get the job offer.

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Personal information, like your name, the location of your work experience and your religion can impact your ability to land a job interview.  There is bias in the recruitment process.  This is something that job seekers can try to mitigate to increase their odds of landing an interview. 

As a job seeker, you need to be aware of what you’re up against to increase your odds of fair and equitable treatment in the recruitment process. This video provides answers to the big questions you have like:

  • What personal information could be impacting my ability to get an interview?
  • What can I do to overcome bias in the hiring process?
  • Do people really change their name on their resume?

3 tips to protect yourself from bias in the Canadian recruitment process

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Job seekers can start to overcome some biases in the process by thinking intentionally about the personal identifiers which may be found on their resume.  By making changes and edits, job seekers can increase their odds of landing a job interview.  Recruitment bias is not right or fair.  But it is real. 

Here are 3 tips to protect yourself from bias in the recruitment process:

1.  Consider changing your non “North Canadian” name on your resume.

There are studies that show that folks with white, North American names are two times more likely to get an interview than someone who has an ‘ethnic’ sounding name. So, have you considered changing your name on your resume to a more North American-friendly name to fit in the job market that you’re targeting? (Side note: This is data-backed fact. I personally find this infuriating).

It’s wrong that some candidates have to consider this.  As a result, I don’t think you should take this decision lightly.  But I do think it’s important consider the possibilities angles and the realities of bias in recruitment processes. Is it possible that you are getting screened out of the process on the basis or assumptions that a recruiter or a hiring manager is making from your name?

Consider changing your name on your resume, if that feels okay to you. If it doesn’t feel okay to you, absolutely don’t do it. The way to change your name on your resume is to select a name or a nickname that’s traditionally ‘North American’ sounding.  This would become your nickname. I’d even re-submit my applications for any jobs that I applied for under my legal given name, under my new nickname.  There have been candidates who make this single change and move from being screened out to landing an interview.

If you’re considering changing your name on your resume, make sure to check out my full post on that topic, Should I Change My Name on My Resume to Get More Interviews?

2. Delete work locations. 

Consider removing work locations, like the country and city, from your resume. I’ve seen newcomers to Canada list all their great experience in oil and gas, for example.  They include the country in which they achieved this experience.  Say Nigeria, or India, for example.  I’ve seen employers discount the value of that previous experience because it was not North American work experience. The work location piece of information may not be relevant or bolster your candidacy. On a North American style resume, we wouldn’t typically include this country tidbit (in most cases).  So, why do we expect newcomers and International Students to disclose work locations?

My recommendation is to exclude this from the resume and talk about your work locations in the interview instead. North American employers can tend to pass judgments about other locations and overemphasize the value of Canadian and American work experience.  As a job seekers with International experience, I think (most of the time) you’re much better served to omit the work location on your resume.

3. Delete religious or ‘other’ identifiers.

Religious or other identifiers shouldn’t have a place on your resume. So, make sure you’re not listing anything that would tell a potential employer about your religious beliefs. Even if you volunteered at a youth group, you need to be aware of the information you’re sharing on your resume.  Instead of saying ‘I volunteered at the youth group for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.’  Say this instead ‘I volunteered at a youth group’.  Be aware of personal identifiers that can sneak into your resume in cases like this.  With both examples, the employer is getting the same information about your volunteer work.  In the latter example, you are protecting yourself from any sort of bias about your religious affiliations.

As a candidate, we probably don’t know what the thoughts, opinion, perspectives are of the person reviewing your resume.  They might have a dislike for this particular church or affiliation.  While this shouldn’t impact your candidacy, the reality is, it might. The best practice is to delete the information altogether.

Conclusion: overcoming bias when you’re trying to find a job as a BIPOC, underrepresented or new Canadian professional protects you.

There are simple and easy things that you can do to remove personal identifiers from your resume.  Removing this information can help you to protect yourself from recruitment bias. Not all of these things feel great…  And for the record, there is nothing wrong with your name, your past work locations or your religion. 

There are, however, often problems with bias in recruitment processes.  Bias is wrong and unfair but very real.  Through this awareness and knowledge the candidate starts to take back some power in the process.  With this new information, you can decide whether or not you’d like to make changes to your resume. 

Shauna Cole

Shauna Cole is the founder of hirediverse.ca. She is a Human Resources Consultant and Instructor at the University of New Brunswick. She’s been featured by CBC, The Canadian HR Reporter, CareerBeacon, The Maritime Edit, Jobscan and more. She founded hirediverse.ca to connect underrepresented job seekers with employers who value diversity. Join her on LinkedIn or watch her videos on Youtube.