Forum: Blind recruitment promotes a stronger and fairer workforce

People at a pedestrian crossing at Raffles Quay, on Nov 4, 2019.
People at a pedestrian crossing at Raffles Quay, on Nov 4, 2019.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Forum contributor Cheng Shoong Tat asked whether job applicants honestly believe that identifying details should not be disclosed to potential employers (Tafep job application guidelines are unrealistic, Jan 23).

But isn't that only right?

In response to a parliamentary question last year, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that in the last three years, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) received 50 gender-related discrimination complaints and 70 maternity-related dismissals annually.

These numbers do not even include other forms of discrimination.

This is consistent with the experience of a newly launched service by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) - the Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Advisory. So far, the majority of discrimination-related calls received by our adviser have to do with maternity issues.

Mr Cheng also questioned the efficacy of blind recruitment, that is, the removal of identifying information.

Blind recruitment reduces the risk of conscious or unconscious bias affecting the decision-making process. Several experts have found blind recruitment - including the removal of names - to be particularly helpful in enhancing the diversity of their organisations, providing better team performance and making talent retention easier.

Organisational change to a new system of hiring will come with costs, and we must be mindful of these, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The writer highlighted one such cost: blind recruitment leading to extra rounds of interviews.

But online applicant tracking systems can help. They are designed to blind the identifying details you do not want access to, so that employers do not have to do it manually.

Blind recruitment is not the panacea for all biased hiring ills.

This is why it is important to set out objective criteria for hiring, promotions and performance management, as well as to develop tests that assess the skills required for the job rather than relying on the subjective assessment of hiring managers.

The success of any blind recruitment strategy ultimately relies on educating employers on the advantages of a diverse workforce.

The guidelines on recruitment acknowledge a world where people of a similar calibre may be rewarded differently in the hiring process because of their name, age or gender.

We should build on the successes of the guidelines and move the conversation to a different type of intervention: a national anti-discrimination law.

Shailey Hingorani (Ms)

Head of Research and Advocacy

Aware

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2020, with the headline 'Blind recruitment promotes a stronger and fairer workforce'. Print Edition | Subscribe