Educated immigrants dumb down CVs

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Many immigrants remove masters degrees and other accomplishments from their resumes in order to find work in Norway, according to workplace diversity groups. Foreigners said they are often overlooked for jobs in their field of education, but are then deemed overqualified when seeking unskilled work.

Statistics Norway (Statistisk sentralbyrå, SSB) research showed many educated immigrants who come to Norway end up earning much less than Norwegians who are equally educated, reported newspaper Aftenposten. Foreigners often struggle to get jobs relevant to their field of expertise, largely because of language barriers or Norwegian employers undervaluing their education.

Downplaying their skills
When they then seek other work they have the opposite problem, said Loveleen Brenna from workplace diversity organization Seema. “Many jobseekers tell us they’ve either removed or have considered removing part of their education from their CV,” she said. “If they get the message from a potential employer that they’re overqualified, they resort to lowering their skills.”

Brenna said most feedback companies give upon rejecting immigrants is that they were overqualified, couldn’t speak enough Norwegian, or didn’t have relevant experience. “It’s a vicious circle,” she said. “Since they can’t get work, they often choose to study further. Then they end up overqualified. If they choose a job that isn’t relevant, they get told they lack experience in the area.”

Foreign names rejected
The Institute for Social Research (Institutt for samfunnsforskning) found many immigrant job seekers are rejected on their name alone. While there have been signs that some Norwegian companies are finally recognizing global talent and the advantages of diversity in the workforce, the institute’s Arnfinn Midtbøen said research shows when two people have the same education, applicants with foreign names still have less chance of being called to an interview.

“If it is true that immigrants are labeled as overqualified when they have very high education, that’s serious,” he said. “That applies both to the job seekers themselves, and the Norwegian employers who miss out on valuable skills.”

Education not seen as advantage
When Vijay Prabhugaonkar’s came to Norway from India in 2003 he already had two masters degrees, but couldn’t get a job relevant to his education. When he sought other work he constantly heard that he was overqualified, so he removed a couple of degrees from his CV. Eventually he decided on further study. “I wanted to show that I had the capacity to get a masters in Norway also, and that I had skills in Norwegian conditions,” he told Aftenposten.

Sharmin Ahmed is responsible for diversity and integration at the Norwegian postal service, Posten. She said when it takes immigrants a long time to find work in their field, other problems arise. “For every year spent in a job that isn’t relevant, the value of both the education and experience you have decreases,” she said. Her husband arrived in Norway from Bangladesh seven years ago and works as a cashier, despite having two masters degrees. “Now we’re considering if he should take a degree in Norway as well, because it has been such a long time.”

Brenna said that having multiple degrees is really only a strength that many employers don’t value highly enough, or recognize as an advantage. “They don’t just have several masters degrees, but can also speak many languages and have different perspectives,” she said. “Bosses must know how they can use different people’s skills and how to lead diverse workplaces.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate