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An interview with a twist

I think I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s never had the jitters at a job interview. There you are facing a panel of stern HR people, your head a hodgepodge of “correct answers” to their potential general knowledge questions, your CV read, reread and proofread to perfection, your clothes striking the right balance of professionalism and comfort…

And then you’re requested to remove your top and/or to raise your pants to thigh level.

Yes, the job you’re interviewing for involves a uniform. What gives, right?

This was what a batch of women recently experienced when they attended walk-in interviews organized by Malindo Air. Headquartered in Malaysia, the name Malindo is derived from the names Malaysia and Indonesia, reflecting a cooperative pact between the two countries.

Held on March 11 in Kuala Lumpur, the interviews included a “strip and scan” segment. According to women who spoke to the Malaysian press, they were asked to remove their tops so that airline personnel could check for scars, pimples or tattoos that might show through the airline’s transparent uniform. Those who wore pants were asked to roll or lift them up to thigh level for the same reason.

The Malindo Air uniform comprises a sarong with a high slit and gauzy white tops that are either high-necked or worn with a corset underneath in the style of the traditional “kebaya” top, similar to those worn by female flight attendants for Malaysia and Singapore airlines. The only difference is that Malindo uses see-through material –hence their requirement for the body to be free of blemish.

Unsurprisingly, this caused an uproar, prompting the airline to issue the following statement: “Grooming checks for visible marks are conducted privately by female supervisors in a professional manner and is part of the interviewing process. Herein candidates are briefed ahead and consent from each candidate is required prior to proceeding to ensure there no prominent marks will be visible while wearing the uniform.”

Malindo’s PR officer was also reported as saying that the airline wanted attendants to look presentable, and even contended that this was a standard operating procedure, which employees of other airlines flatly denied. Needless to say, some women who were uncomfortable with this requirement walked out.

To play the devil’s advocate, one could say that the airline did provide due notice to interviewees about this bizarre provision and as such, those uncomfortable with proceeding, had the option of opting out. Similarly, if you knowingly interview for an airline that openly features bikinis as uniforms, like VietJet, then you are understood to consent to such procedures. (Although how this airline sidesteps health and safety-at-work regulations bewilders me. Just the thought alone of these ladies serving coffee or tea during turbulence makes me grimace. But I digress).

Yet, the regular female in me feels that no matter how you choose to spin it, this simply smacks of sexism and somewhat perverse job prerequisites.

In this age, when flying is as much a necessary evil as it is stressful, shouldn’t you be employing flight attendants who are as capable of calming nervous flyers as they are of kneeing inebriated passengers who misbehave on flights? OK, maybe the latter is taking it too far, but you get my drift.

What about attendants who are keen observers or attuned to certain nuances? Like the Alaska Airlines attendant who helped rescue a teenager from her human trafficker after noticing that she “looked like she had been through pure hell”. A tattoo or a scar or a pimple wouldn’t have hindered what I’d think is a necessary innate ability. What’s more, the attendant did this wearing a regular black skirt suit.

I also understand that certain service sector careers require a certain level of grooming and deportment, but if there is indeed a passenger who takes affront to a tattoo that is visible UNDER someone’s top, I’d argue that the problem lies with the passenger, not the tattooed. For, shouldn’t you be deciding between the chicken and the beef instead of checking out other people’s body art?

In response to the news reports, some people wrote off the issue as a storm in a teacup. Perhaps they see it as one of the hazards of a job that in some parts of the world still sets some pretty sexist benchmarks: job specifications sometimes include ideal weight and body measurements.

But a strip and scan such as this is stretching it a wee bit don’t you think? Well, at least some women saw the light, and headed for the nearest exit.

Author: Brenda Haas

Editor: Anne Thomas

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Date

18.04.2017 | 14:11

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