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'Blind' job applications; Victoria's big plan to stamp out discrimination of job-seekers.

The Victorian Government is piloting an Australian first to overcome hiring bias: ditching the “ASL” that comes with all job applications.

For anyone who didn’t spend an embarrassing chunk of their early teen years in MSN chat rooms, ASL was that seedy abbreviation for “age, sex, location” people would ask each other.

It went a little like this: “Hello.” “Hiya, ASL?” “14/f/Sydney, u?” “20/m/Brisbane” “ok gtg bye.”

As far as I know these days are thankfully over. But the top of your CV is essentially a more eloquent version of “ASL” and just like in the quest to make new chat room buddies, those small personal details can make or break your job application. And in the latter case, they clearly should not.

So we’re stoked the Victorian Government has announced an 18-month blind job applications trial to balance the playing field by disregarding the age, sex, race or address of people applying for work at major government departments, agencies and some private sector companies.

The move to stamp out deliberate discrimination and subconscious bias involves de-identifying the name, gender, age and location of job-seekers during the application process — because as everyone knows, landing the interview is the hardest hurdle.

Research conducted by the Australian National University illustrated the discrimination job applicants from culturally diverse backgrounds deal with, leading some to ‘anglicise’ their name.

The study found that to get as many interviews as somebody with the same qualifications and experience but with an Anglo-sounding name, an Indigenous person must submit 35 per cent more applications, a Chinese or Middle Eastern person must send off about two-thirds more and an Italian must send off an extra 12 per cent.

It’s shameful as well as illogical, considering research  from the Diversity Council of Australia shows workplace diversity leads to greater productivity and innovation.

The Victorian Government program was launched by Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott, who launched the program, said it was an important step towards equal opportunity in the workforce.

Victorian MP Robin Scott with his wife Shaojie. Image via robinscottmp.com.au
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“I believe in an Australia where someone’s age, background, postcode, gender or wealth doesn’t determine your chance for a fair go," Mr Scott said.

“We want employers from across the public and private sector to sign up.”

He also shared a personal story with Fairfax Media: his wife, Shaojie, used to sometimes use the name Jade Scott when applying for jobs. On the occasions she did, she had a marked rise in responses.

"We're not talking about overt bigotry or racism; this is not people who are going to a Reclaim Australia rally," he said.

"This is a much more subtle process, where we make assumptions about people based on limited information."

What you do with your hands in a job interview is actually important. Post continues after video...

The pilot will be developed over the next three months and $200,000 will also be allocated to NGOs and the private sector to provide training. Agencies involved include Department of Premier and Cabinet, Department of Treasury and Finance, WorkSafe, Victoria Police, Australia Post, Westpac, the Transport Accident Commission and VicRoads.

So here's to the Victorian Government for working to ensure job applications are about your skills, not the colour of your skin or whether you have boobs -- which, sadly, is revolutionary.

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