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Unbias Yourself

Unbias Yourself

Here in the Twin Cities, there are a lot of amazing discussions, groups, and initiatives with the aim of making our tech community more diverse. The tide is rising here in Minneapolis and we are getting national attention for it. This very public purposefulness for diversity is a great first step, but the execution is where this really gets interesting. What needs to be addressed is something called “unconscious bias” in hiring.

It happens well before an interview, in the early stages of gathering potential applicants. A job is posted and resumes come in. Some are more qualified than others, but someone (HR, recruiter, hiring manager) is determining which resume is getting that first request to interview. The resume is a problematic device for accurately representing an individual, we’ve heard it over and over in hiring think-pieces. Unconscious bias when looking at a resume comes in at least these forms: Gender, Race, Age, and Pedigree/Tenure. By now we should be familiar with the biases towards these human aspects, so how can a company overcome this? There are many solutions popping up every day.

Especially here in the Twin Cities, we have great diversity initiatives. The nuance here is how to effectively and fairly hire without bias. How do we really put these initiatives into practice? Herein enter some great social technology for blind hiring. These software products scrape away identity on resumes or Linkedin Profiles. There are apps like Blendoor (blendoor.com), marketed as merit-based hiring applications. They hid pictures, names, and details that give away age and gender and nationality. Their About section puts it nicely: “Our goal is to highlight the information that’s most relevant to a candidate being a “good fit” independent of race, gender, ability, military history or sexual orientation.” Blendoor was founded by a Stanford Engineer and MIT Sloan MBA” (and, if you’re wondering, an African American woman). All Things Considered did a really nice interview with her.

Another software, called interviewing.io, is in the works from a very smart developer-turned recruiter-turned innovator named Aline Lerner. She has created a blindfold for the phone-interviewing process and included the ability to code-test at the same time. Essentially, she has created a way to modulate voice (while still sounding very professional) in real time. Both parties log in to interviewing.io and the candidate can solve coding problems while the interviewer provides feedback. The focus is on the coding and basic communication, “where engineers can be judged on their merits, above all else.”  While it is not used today in traditional interviewing practices today, this type of software can easily be adapted (and hopefully will be!) into large and small companies alike.

At some point, however, these blindfolds must come off. Managers will meet the candidates, and the hope is that those small, unconscious biases are already dispelled. Is blind hiring a good fix for our diversity problem? While it is far from perfect, I believe it is an effort worth playing out. If you are proudly representing a Minneapolis company that sees the benefits of a diverse workforce, consider joining the Minnesota Technology Diversity Pledge: https://www.mntechdiversity.com/