We build software that is used in recruiting. Candidates apply through our system and recruiters see all of the candidates in a list.

We categorize candidates based on their inputs. The worst category a candidate can get is "doesn't meet must-have requirements". Our system currently symbolizes this by displaying a "thumbs down" next to the candidate.

We're a company in Europe and haven't had any bad feedback from recruiters or candidates regarding the thumbs down. In a recent discussion with an American however, he pointed out that the thumbs down might be considered discriminating. I'm asking here to find out the common sense of this.

Will a thumbs down be considered discriminating in certain cultures / by certain people?

Note that the thumbs down is only visible to the recruiter, never to the candidate himself.

  • 4
    I'm not sure 'discriminating' is the right word. If you're thumbing-down because they're not the right fit for the job (qualifications, skills etc) then that's the opposite of discrimination - you're judging people by their merits. Whatever symbol you use for 'this person doesn't have the requisite skills' I can't see how a thumb would qualify as discriminating. Discriminating against... what?
    – JonW
    Nov 15, 2016 at 11:11
  • Well the process itself is created to discriminate people. To divide the eligible candidates from the noneligible ones. You can call it discrimination, division, grouping, etc. However, the candidate itself is not directly discriminated (publicly), so I think there is no problem with that. Nov 15, 2016 at 12:58
  • When you say 'discriminating' what you really mean is 'unfairly discriminating' - As Kristiyan has noted discriminating has the same meaning as selection. And that is what the process is designed to do !
    – PhillipW
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


Gestures don't translate well cross-culturally. Depending on the culture and even subculture, a given gesture can be interpreted as bizarre, obscene, insulting, or actively hostile.

Better to avoid them. You believe that only the recruiter sees them, but there's no way to be sure that no outsider will ever see them or learn about them.

Use door symbols instead (closed door, door ajar, open door, etc)

  • Do you have any reference about the doors? Or is it an idea you just came up with? I'm asking because that's the first time that I hear about doors being used to indicate a rating.
    – theDmi
    Nov 16, 2016 at 7:48
  • I don't know of any case in which they've specifically been used as a rating icon, but they are widely used cross-culturally as a metaphor for opportunity & acceptance: "they found all doors closed to them"; "even with her doctorate she found few doors open to her"; "his easy charm opened doors that others found closed". Etc. People have no trouble understanding their meaning.
    – MMacD
    Nov 16, 2016 at 14:02

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