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Bill promises to eliminate qualification bias in job applications

The Employment (Application Requirements) Bill, designed to eliminate unnecessary requirements from job applications, has undergone a second reading in the House of Commons.

First introduced in June 2021, the bill aims to level the playing field for all candidates by ensuring minimum qualifications and work experience are not a default requirement for a job application.

Instead, employers would have to prove that any qualifications or experience are necessary to do the job. It would also mean that companies would be prohibited from discriminating against a candidate due to a lack of qualifications.

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John Mayes, legal director of Randstad UK, said overly detailed job adverts are excluding too many candidates from the hiring pool.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Over-specifying a job advert can put off excellent candidates who won’t apply unless they meet all the criteria, even though they’re just as suitable as the successful applicants. We know that this is especially true of female candidates who tend to apply for roles only if they can fulfil all the criteria.

"Over-speccing unnecessarily narrows your choice of talent, and doesn't encourage the diversity of applicants that might otherwise add something a bit different to your organisation. As such, this is a positive move. That said, I don't think this is going to have a massive impact. And there are many more pressing issues the government should be addressing to fix the nation's labour market such as tackling the skills shortage."

Research from recruitment firm Morgan McKinley in January 2022 found 65% of employers globally lost out on their preferred candidates due to the hiring process being too long. 

Jill Cotton, career trends expert at Glassdoor, said the new bill would make companies consider new candidates.

She told HR magazine: "The proposed amendment to the Employment (Application Requirements) Bill will open up new opportunities for candidates coming from non-traditional career paths or from different industries. The UK’s labour shortage isn’t going away anytime soon, meaning job hunters will continue to have the upper hand.

"Employers should be encouraged to embed training and development opportunities that will allow them to embrace a wider variety of applicants. Finding a job you love shouldn’t be an impossible task – removing barriers for "unnecessary qualifications and work experience" will help both job seekers and employers navigate the labour market of the future.

Some employers have opted to remove qualification requirements for certain roles, implement a scoring system or competency testing instead an attempt to rid the recruitment process of educational bias.

Khyati Sundaram, CEO of ethical hiring experts Applied, added: "We have reams of research showing that experience and qualifications are poor indicators of success. So rather than debate the necessity of these flawed proxies, we should instead be focusing purely and empirically on candidates’ ability to thrive in the role at hand. For this, we need a new, more fair and accurate marker of success: skills. Stripping applications of employment and academic histories and testing for role-relevant skills instead is three times more predictive of candidate performance than CVs.

"A skills-based approach is the fairest way to recruit. It’s the only way to ensure that candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds get a fair chance to succeed, regardless of the opportunities and experiences they’ve previously had access to. It’s also the best solution for skills and staffing shortages, where plenty of talent could be better placed with companies who are struggling, rather than in the sector they have experience in."