6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Discrimination If You Have a Less-than-Ideal Work History

6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Discrimination If You Have a Less-than-Ideal Work HistoryFor most of my tenure in the career management industry, I’ve been proud of the way my country (the U.S.) combated discrimination in the workplace. But, unfortunately, after 9/11, the Patriot Act, and the Great Recession, discrimination in hiring is once again surging.

And that means job seekers must recognize this potential danger and be prepared to protect their candidacy.

If, for example, you’re over 50, you need to age-proof your resume and LinkedIn profile. If you have a criminal record, you need to take care in answering related questions on job applications and may need to pursue non-job-board search strategies to get your foot in the door with target companies. If you’re a minority or have a disability, you will likely want to take advantage of favorable hiring quotas.

Here are 6 “fixes” that can help turn your job-hunt around:

To age-proof your resume, combine your pre-2000 work experience in an additional section (Early Achievements; Early Career Snapshot) and omit your dates of employment. This is imperative because those pre-2000 dates may inadvertently be used against you if the job you are applying for requires less experience than you possess.

  • To protect yourself on LinkedIn, you will have to pull off your education dates and temporarily eliminate any jobs listed that have pre-2000 dates. Open the job listing for the first post-2000 job you have, and briefly summarize your older experience without dates. List your titles, employer names, a brief achievement or two, and nothing else. This will insert key words into your profile, yet protect you from being eliminated up front from jobs requesting less experience than you have.

If you have a criminal record, even if it is decades old, you need to be prepared to answer related questions when they arise on job applications. Instead of reporting the original infraction(s), for example, state that you will discuss the matter during an interview. This response makes it clear you want to be open, yet allows you to protect yourself unless and until it is safe for you to disclose your record to strangers.

  • In addition, if your work history has been damaged by your record, incarceration, or time spent in a rehab facility, you will need to be strategic in how you report your work history, especially on LinkedIn. You may need to eliminate some jobs, report a shorter period of your history on your resume, or combine jobs with short stints.

If you belong to a protected minority class or possess a disability (I am not conflating these two, but have combined them here because the career management recommendations are identical), active discrimination will likely come in the form of reaction to your photo on LinkedIn (for those whose disability is visible). In some cases, it may be wise to use a neutral image for a photo rather than a picture of yourself.

  • For some, it may be smart to “advertise” your minority status or disability in selective ways. For example, if you are Hispanic and have led minority hiring events, training, or related initiatives in the workplace, mentioning these gently highlights your ethnicity in cases where your name does not do so.
  • One of my clients is a diabetic. He finds that many employers consider diabetes a disability. In some cases, disclosing it at the application stage can be a positive move. But if you do so, be sure to note that your diabetes (or other qualifying health issue) is under control and being managed proactively. Yes, this can cause a different kind of discrimination (fear of hiring someone with a preexisting condition), so you will have to weigh which is the greater barrier for you to overcome.

If you don’t possess a degree or some required licensure or certification, you can still get your foot in the door with some companies if you are currently pursuing or have previously pursued the credential in question.

  • For example, if you completed some college coursework but did not attain your degree and keep running into jobs requiring a BA or BS, try this. In your resume’s education section, list your coursework as Bachelor of Arts-level (BA) or Bachelor of Science-level (BS), depending on the types of classes you completed. This will get the relevant key words into your resume without you having to hide or lie about your academic background.

If your career history is chaotic, perhaps due to frequent job changes (even if you had no control over and didn’t cause those job changes), you may have to restructure how you present your experience in your resume and LinkedIn profile.

  • If your jobs have been in a single industry, you may be able to lump some roles, if highly similar, together. Or, you may be able to eliminate some positions if this can be achieved without revealing gaps in your work history.
  • If you’ve worked in multiple industries, you may be able to break your work history into sub-sections that highlight those industries in a favorable way while taming the overall number of jobs you’ve possessed to date.

If your career trajectory is trending downward, perhaps due to early promotions that you haven’t had the chance to repeat or because of mergers/acquisitions or reorganizations that negatively impacted your job titles, you may need to consider adding a brief comment after one or more titles on your resume or LinkedIn profile to alert your readers to its misleading nature.

There are many legitimate reasons why your resume and/or LinkedIn profile may need special attention to protect you from overt (human) or inadvertent (computer) discrimination and the foregoing is but a short list. If any of these (or any other issues) apply to your situation, you may need professional help to position your career communications portfolio, career brand, and candidacy in the most advantageous way possible.

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.

  • Love this article! Do you have workshops or teach classes? I am establishing my resume business and find that your articles have great gems of information! Would you share some reliable resources for how an up and coming writer and potential career coach would obtain the latest industry standards? Thanks for sharing!

    • Cheryl Lynch Simpson says:

      Hi Morgan, my apologies for getting back to you late. I appreciate your comments and feedback!

      The best advice I can give you re building out your business would be to (a) secure 1-3 top-shelf certifications in resume writing and career coaching and (b) start now to work toward winning a TORI nomination or award. In addition, join 1-2 professional organizations in our industry and get involved. Also, get a coach ~ someone to help you elevate your business. Are you aware of TCE (thecareerexperts.com)? They’re in the process of launching mastermind groups for career professionals and joining something like that could be quite beneficial for your business.

      Always happy to chat if that helps!


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