Job seekers and recruiters in Singapore are facing formidable hurdles that are hindering them from clinching their dream jobs and hiring the best talent for their companies: bias and discrimination.
As research has recently uncovered that almost half (46%) of Singapore’s job applicants have encountered some form of bias and discrimination when applying for a new job, the issue of unfair hiring practices could be considered particularly rampant among the island nation’s workforce.
But as intractable as the problem may be, the time might just be right for a revolution in the recruitment process to create an environment in which job seekers can be properly represented and hirers are able to confidently secure the most suitable talent.
That is the vision of employment search engine Indeed’s senior vice president of marketing, Paul D’Arcy.
In an interview with Business Insider at The Fullerton Bay Hotel on Monday (Jun 4), D’Arcy shared that current hiring practices in Singapore are surprisingly similar to how it was just a generation ago.
He pointed out that although resume submissions have transitioned from paper mail to digital format, the overall process has never really changed in any significant way – and that has become problematic.
The procedure of resume submission is still not optimised for picking the best person to fill job vacancies, according to D’Arcy, causing it to remain a “highly flawed process”.
He elaborated: “Today, when someone in Singapore is looking at a resume, it’s impossible not to notice the name and the person’s background, the address and what part of the city they live in, whether or not they recognise the brand names of previous employers and schools.”
“And it turns out that that set of things, more than anything else, determines whether or not someone is given an opportunity for an interview.”
A human problem
D’Arcy found that most people are selected for interviews without any real insight into the skills and qualifications they possess for the position they are being hired for, causing severe work-skill mismatches.
“And that is a problem that is not unique to Singapore, it is a human problem,” he said.
As humans, we innately prefer individuals who can relate with ourselves better, leading to hiring processes that include people with similar backgrounds and reject those who differ, producing favouritism when there shouldn’t be.
Without an objective measure, we tend to rely on our “best guess” of what we think a great candidate should be like – a substitute of sorts – and this image of a so-called model job applicant would result in unhealthy judgements, said D’Arcy.
He warned that such bias would spark significant consequences for both employers and job seekers.
Finding the best person for open roles would usher in “incredible” opportunity to make businesses and organisations grow, but poor selection by employers has caused this to rarely happen, he noted.
“For those businesses, they don’t grow as fast, they don’t become as profitable as they could be.”
For job seekers, they would not receive as much opportunity from recruiters to market themselves as there should be, depriving them of chances to show how qualified they are and ironically eliminating the best candidates.
Nonetheless, efforts to refine recruitment methods to make them more efficient and balanced are already in the works and the future still looks bright for employers and job seekers, according to D’Arcy.
He said foreseeable change over the the next few years would entail organisations increasing their use of data to understand if people have the skills and qualifications for certain roles.
In addition, assessments are being formulated by organisations to screen talent and evaluate if candidates have the capabilities, personality traits, integrity and skills that the job requires.
However, D’Arcy observed the biggest change in the development of job-specific assessments. He said: “Over the last year, we’ve seen other organisations investing a lot in creating libraries of tests that measure whether someone has specific knowledge for a job.”
“Now organisations can understand someone’s capabilities, their personalities, the sort of work they would be good at, whether they would fit in the environment and have the specific skills for the role they are applying for.”
Take companies hiring tech professionals for example, which are shifting from looking at resumes to finding out if their candidates have relevant experiences such as participation in coding competitions and challenging them to write code on the spot.
“Similarly, there is focus on measuring someone’s ability in a clear and even way. This has allowed employers to open up to more candidates who have learnt skills in non-traditional ways or were self-taught,” he said.
Resumes not obsolete yet
Despite the ongoing changes in recruitment procedures, resumes remain the primary source of information about candidates and are thus unlikely to become obsolete in the near future. Assessments would probably remain supplementary to the hiring process.
Which means that writing resumes would continue to be a cause for headache for job seekers, especially those entering the workforce for the first time.
D’Arcy’s advice: Invest the extra effort to stand out and be recognisable even in the face of biased hiring.
“Today, getting the first opportunity is one of the most difficult moments in your career. Because people look for those who have done the job already,” he explained.
“For those early in their career, demonstrate that you have skills or qualifications to take that first job or have some sort of proxy or experience through internship, apprenticeship and volunteer work to show that you are able to do the job.”
He added that anything that can be done to study and learn relevant skills is also crucial, regardless of whether the learning was done through traditional paths or newer methods such as online education.
Job seekers are encouraged to prepare and build the right set of skills to move fluidly through their careers. Being tech-savvy would also be a bonus given the push towards the mixing of traditional skills and tech skills for “almost every role” across industries.
D’Arcy suggested that job applicants should take time to customise their resumes for every job being applied to and include details that prove that they have the skills and experience which are relevant and invaluable to the job.
He said: “The most important thing about creating a resume is knowing that a resume will be reviewed very quickly, so you would want to figure out the most important things to communicate.”
“Make sure they are prominent, repeated and impossible to miss, so that when someone reviews your resume, they can very quickly see the things that are really special and the things you can uniquely bring to the job.”