A personality test just for the job? Here’s what employers are actually allowed to ask you

This story was first published in The Conversation.

You may have heard of job seekers being asked to take a ‘personality test’ as part of an application, or you have gone through the process yourself.

Questions can range from the innocuous to the highly personal, with some applicants reporting being asked about their political views in such tests.

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The Guardian Australia recently reported that a job seeker was asked to take a personality test that assessed ‘zeal’ and ‘spirituality’.

So, what can and can’t potential employers ask in a personality test?

Asking questions about a person’s age, gender, race, sexual orientation, political opinion, or disability is unlawful if the employer makes a decision based on the answer.

But it’s not always easy to prove that the employer actually made a decision based on your answer.

Suppose an employer asks an applicant with a physical disability what changes he would need in the workplace to accommodate his disability and then does not hire him because of the costs involved.

A court could see this as discrimination based on disability.

Anti-discrimination law: It’s complicated

Obvious examples like this are unlikely as discrimination in the workplace has been illegal for four decades; savvy employers know what not to do.

But what if a recruiter asks if the candidate sees themselves as “alive” or “energetic”? Could this question be used to determine age and then used to refuse an older applicant the job?

This could Be age discrimination, but it’s not easy to prove.

And if someone finds out they didn’t get hired even though they had the right skills, but are over 55 and don’t describe themselves as “energetic,” how are they ever going to prove that age played a role in the hiring decision?

No wonder people are skeptical about providing information – they don’t know why employers want this information or what they will do with it.

Asking questions about a person’s age, gender, race, sexual orientation, political opinion, or disability is unlawful if the employer makes a decision based on the answer. But it’s not always easy to prove. Recognition: Pattanaphong Khuankaew / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Anti-discrimination laws require applicants to show that the reason they were not hired was their disability or age. If the employer has not told them or given it in writing, this is very difficult.

In the absence of direct evidence, the candidate must ask the court to conclude that the reason he was not hired was because of his disability or age.

This is a costly affair, especially when lawyers are involved. Even if the candidate wins, compensation payments are not lucky. It is not surprising that so many discrimination claims are settled or dismissed.

Watch more about Australia’s labor shortage in the video below

Australia’s labor shortage.

Australia’s labor shortage.

The Woolworths case

In Queensland, employers are prohibited from asking any person a question that could constitute discrimination.

This was a problem for Woolworths in 2014 when a man applying for a job at a petrol station was asked to provide his gender, date of birth and documentary evidence of his work permit in Australia.

He filed a complaint and the case went to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Court.

Woolworths said it needed his date of birth to streamline recruitment to determine if he could work at his liquor stores and salary.

The tribunal found “that Woolworths’ conduct in requiring a job applicant to provide date of birth and sex on its online application form violated Section 9 of the Anti-Discrimination Act”.

Woolworths could have collected this information in other ways, such as asking if he was over 18 and requiring him to provide proof of age when hired.

Woolworths was ordered to pay the man $5,000.

The court also noted that by then it had already taken steps to amend the online application form, which had addressed all of its concerns.

This case was not about personality testing, but it shows that employers should be aware of why they are looking for personal data.

The decision in the Woolworths case came about a year after the man applied for the job, showing how slow and arduous court proceedings can be. Most wouldn’t bother trying.

It’s about how information is used

Collecting statistical data on a workforce can be helpful in combating discrimination, followed by action when inequalities are identified and these actions are monitored.

Most employers are required to collect data on the gender composition of their workforce and report annually to the workplace equality body.

If the data shows a shortage of women in certain jobs, they can take note and actively recruit women or encourage women to seek promotion.

This will not be sex discrimination as long as the employer can demonstrate that its strategy is aimed at increasing equality.

Dominique Allen is an Associate Professor at Monash University

Watch: Mother and daughter are thrown through the air after detaching from a roller coaster car.

Watch: Mother and daughter are thrown through the air after detaching from a roller coaster car.

https://7news.com.au/business/workplace-matters/a-personality-test-just-for-a-job-heres-what-employers-are-actually-allowed-to-ask-you-c-7930425 A personality test just for the job? Here’s what employers are actually allowed to ask you

James Brien

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