Should Australia adopt name-blind recruitment policies?

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name-blind recruitment

Should Australia adopt name-blind recruitment process?

Following recent terror attacks at home and abroad, key figures in the Muslim community are encouraging employers to give young Muslims a chance in the workplace.

Muslim candidates are claiming it’s become increasingly difficult to secure job interviews or progress through the job application process, with some suspecting an element of discrimination based on their Arabic sounding names.

It has been suggested it might be time for Australia to adopt ‘name-blind’ CVs, so hiring managers won’t be able to discount a Muslim candidate, or a candidate of any other ethnicity, on the basis of religion or cultural background.

In an address in Melbourne late last year, Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour, revealed the past 18 months had been particularly challenging for Australia’s Muslim community in the wake of increased activity from ISIS in the Middle East and following a number of terrorist attacks committed by Islamic extremists.

Fahour is now urging companies to support trainee schemes targeted specifically at young Muslims, to give them a leg up with employment and provide them with the foundation for a bright future.

Companies in the UK have already adopted a name-blind policy, with Prime Minister David Cameron pledging his support for a pilot program for employers to receive name-blind applications for graduate positions. Companies participating in the program include some of the UK’s biggest employers such as Deloitte, HSBC, the BBC and the NHS.

It is hoped the introduction of name-blind recruitment processes will help prevent unconscious bias and ensure that job offers are made on the basis of potential – not ethnicity, religion or gender.

The UK government hopes the change will prevent discrimination against those with ethnic-sounding names, based on stereotypes. So should Australia take the same hard line stance and introduce name-blind recruiting?

Employment Office Managing Director Tudor Marsden-Huggins says it’s a question of whether the existing state and federal legislation governing equal opportunity employment and anti-discrimination are functioning appropriately.

“The laws are in place to prevent any overt workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity or religion, but as far as the recruitment process goes, it is very possible for the issue of name bias to fall through the cracks and not be under the same level of scrutiny as the interview stage,” he said.

And the data backs up claims that name-based discrimination, whether it’s unconscious or deliberate, is taking place in Australia.

In a 2010 study conducted by the Australian National University, economists sent out 4000 fake employment applications, which revealed the applicants with Anglo-Saxon names had significantly higher call-back rates. Applicants with Middle Eastern names had the lowest rates.

Marsden-Huggins says eliminating candidates based on their name is not only illegal and unethical, it can also result in wider ramifications for the organisation.

“Census data tells us one in four Australians are born overseas and over 40% of people have at least one overseas-born parent. If employers are eliminating applicants based on names they’re not only discriminating unfairly, but they are also closing themselves off from a wide pool of great candidates,” he said.

Marsden-Huggins says to avoid undue name bias, it is important to include tailored online screening questions before candidates reach the CV assessment stage.

“Using online e-recruitment software, it’s possible to ask candidates to submit answers to a series of tailored screening questions before they upload a personalised CV. This means a hiring manager can assess a candidate’s suitability based solely on their responses, without external factors such as name, ethnicity or gender playing a role.

“For now, Australian organisations have not implemented a name-blind recruitment process, but all employers should be mindful of their obligation not to discriminate based on name and the potential religious or ethnic backgrounds those names infer. You could not only be in contravention of the legislation, you could also be missing out on your next great hire based on a stereotype,” he said.

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