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Resume Racism

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

As a new RD graduate, I fixed up my resume, re-wrote up my cover letter and the job search began. May the odds be ever in your favour. Now I’ve worked in prominent positions, but usually these jobs were very accepting of black and POC in the workplace. LinkedIn was never a “thing” when I applied for my past jobs and volunteer positions, therefore no one knew what I looked like. However, I didn’t think I would face Resume Racism even prior to an interview.

So, what is this coined term resume racism? Resume Racism is racism, prejudice, or bias that a recruiter may interpret via a resume prior to the face-to-face interview. I am going to list two examples of how resume racism occurs and discuss an article I read.


Keywords: There are certain words and phrases that I include in my resume because those are qualities registered dietitians should have. Words such as advocacy, diversity, cultural, ethnic, and community. However, these words can make my resume appear more “ethnic” than others. I love acute care and I also love community health; a lot of the work I've done has been in the community. Communities are diverse, cultural, ethnic, and require efforts of advocacy, so why would I not include these keywords? It almost feels as if I am forced to swim up a current to include these terms, but also not too many...


Your name: To the average person, my last name sounds quite “Asian”, but if you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a professional footballer in Europe. With my name alone, a recruiter can think:

  1. Is this person’s native language English?

  2. What is their ethnicity?

  3. Is their name "professional?"

White-sounding applicants get more callbacks than BIPOC sounding candidates.


There was a study conducted by Kang et al. (2016) called Whitened Resumes: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labour Market, based out of the University of Toronto and Stanford University. With the use of interviews, laboratory experiments and a resume audit study they analyzed resume whitening. They uncovered that minorities who apply to pro-diversity positions are actually at a disadvantage when they don’t make their resume appear more “whiter”.

So hold up. This company is all pro-multiculturalism but is more likely to not interview me because I am a racial minority. What kind of institutional racism is this, how does that make sense? What these organizations do is include these pro-diversity terms to meet companies’ mission and values, and it stops there. There isn’t enough work done to ensure when resume and cover letter scanning that there is no racial selection occurring.


Overall, companies need to work on ensuring that once they receive an application, everyone is evaluated fairly. I know for recruiters it can get quite tiring to scan through 100s of documents to determine who they should continue on with in the recruitment process. With sites such as LinkedIn where recruiters can see your face, it becomes more important and a discussion that we should not mull over. When narrowing down to those two-to-three candidates for an interview, they should have an equal opportunity based on their skills and not on their ethnicity.

It’s in our Canadian Human Rights Act

all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered”


Kang, S. K., DeCelles, K. A., Tilcsik, A., & Jun, S. (2016). Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market. Administrative Science Quarterly, 61(3), 469–502.

Canadian Human Rights Act, RSC 1985, c H-6

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