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askST: Make fair hiring a priority

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) advises employers on fair hiring and selection practices

Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), jobs, employment, hiring practices
Asking a job applicant for information that is irrelevant to the role can be considered discriminatory and places your company at risk of not abiding by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Q: I am creating a job application form for my new company. Are there any best practices to follow?

A: Job application forms are more than just an administrative tool. They help your organisation better understand and shortlist the most suitable candidates for employment.

It is therefore important to align your job application form with the requirements for the job.

Asking the applicant for information that is irrelevant to the role can be considered discriminatory and places your company at risk of not abiding by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

Here are some steps to guide you: 

  • Ask candidates for only information directly related to the job, such as their employment history and qualifications
  • Refrain from asking for personal information such as age, date of birth, gender, race, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, and their disabilities
  • Avoid requesting personal details such as photographs and national service liability or a declaration of mental health conditions

If you need to ask for personal information before making a job offer, you should explain why the information is needed to assess the candidate’s ability to do the job. 

Q: What other areas of the hiring process should I take note of?

A: Employers should uphold fair hiring practices and hire based on merit. Besides reviewing your job application form, it is also important to ensure your job advertisements are non-discriminatory and to train your hiring managers in conducting job interviews fairly.

Be clear in your selection criteria

Review your selection criteria in job advertisements to make sure they are related to the qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience of candidates.

Be mindful of unconscious biases and avoid using words or phrases that can come across as discriminatory, such as stating a preferred nationality, language, gender or age group without justification.

Focus on merit during interviews

A job interview should focus on the candidate’s job-related skills and experience to assess the candidate’s suitability and likelihood of success in the job and in the organisation.

All hiring managers should be familiar with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices and apply the principles set out within to the interview process. 

Treat everyone with respect

Train your hiring managers to exercise tact and sensitivity when interviewing individuals from all backgrounds and demographics.

Company policies and/or practices that may involve attributes such as age, race or religion should be carefully conveyed, so as not to be misconstrued as discriminatory. 

Standardise the interview process such that each candidate for the same role is asked the same set of questions to avoid subjecting your candidates to unconscious bias. 

Q: Does remote hiring make it harder to practise fair hiring?

A: Remote hiring is becoming increasingly common, as organisations adjust their hiring processes in response to more employees and job seekers working from home.

Even so, employers should ensure their interview processes and questions are merit-based and non-discriminatory.

During remote interviews, there could be technological barriers, such as difficulties in reading body language and making direct eye contact, between the interviewer and candidate.

In addition, candidates who are unfamiliar with the technology used may not be able to effectively resolve technical errors that occur during the interview.

Such issues may disadvantage some candidates and adversely affect the interviewing experience. Under such circumstances, it is important to maintain a fair hiring environment and fairness in selection.

Some actions that employers can take include:

  • Sharing in advance any new processes that the candidates need to observe with remote hiring 
  • Ensuring all candidates receive comprehensive instructions on how to set up the interview and providing them ample time to do so
  • Making sure every candidate is given the same amount of time and freedom to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and experience 
  • Applying a consistent set of selection criteria to all candidates

Conducting virtual interviews allows the sessions to be recorded, but be sure to inform the candidate that you are doing so beforehand.

All employers are expected to abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices when interviewing, regardless of the mode used.

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