SINGAPORE: How would you feel if you were asked to include your height and weight in a job application form? Well, this happened to one job seeker when she applied for a position in the financial industry. She felt it odd enough to speak to Channel NewsAsia about it.
Amanda (not her real name), who was seeking a managerial post in a well-known bank, said: “The first thought that hit me was that it was quite weird to fill in my height and weight.
“Definitely it was the first time when I submitted an application form for a job that required me to put in those personal physical details. I thought it was quite strange, and I don’t know how that will affect my chances of getting the job.
“To put in your height and weight… it may be used to profile a candidate even before (he or she has) a chance to speak with the employer (he or she is) hoping to work for. So it may not be good. If I am a super heavy, 200kg person, I may not be comfortable putting that down. At the back of my mind, I would be thinking it may affect my chance of securing an interview.”
The bank involved was CIMB, which is headquartered in Malaysia with branches across ASEAN, the Asia Pacific and beyond.
A multi-national recruitment firm said employers asking for the physical attributes of a potential hire is almost unheard of. Ms Joanne Chua, an associate director at Robert Walters, said: “This is the first time I’m hearing of that and I must say that it’s really quite rare and uncommon.
“It’s really about skills-based hiring, rather than hiring based on physical attributes. So this is something we strongly discourage, along with other factors asking about race, religion, gender, date of birth, marital status and so on and so forth.”
Singapore’s workplace anti-discrimination watchdog says employers should recruit and select employees on the basis of merit, such as skills, experience or ability to perform the job.
The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) adds that employers should also apply relevant and objective selection criteria consistently, and ensure that such criteria are related to job requirements.
If employers would like to request for information on an applicant’s physical attributes such as height and weight, they should justify why such information is relevant to the job.
Ms Chua agreed: “For example, if you are looking to hire somebody for a role which requires physical labour, then putting down the physical attributes will help in identifying the right talent and candidates.
“But we advise our clients to provide reasons in the job advertisement, rather than letting the applicants find out for themselves when they are filling up an application form.”
Complaints relating to physical attributes are rare. TAFEP says it receives only about five each year. Last year, the alliance received a total of 475 complaints on workplace discrimination. The most common complaint was about fair opportunities for Singaporeans. This makes up more than half of all complaints. This is followed by issues of age (1 in 5) and language and race (1 in 6).
TAFEP encourages a fair working environment through engagement and understanding instead of punitive measures and litigation. It encourages companies to pledge their commitment to fair employment practices. The number of companies doing so has grown steadily over the years, from over 280 signatories in 2006 to over 3,000 currently.
When contacted, a CIMB bank spokesperson said it adopted the group-level application form many years ago, and while the fields for a candidate’s height and weight are there to be filled out, CIMB hires based on suitability for the job. It added that it does not discriminate against any potential candidates, and that the forms will change from July 2 when the Personal Data Protection Act kicks in.