Ending Hiring Bias

By Leah Stone

We’ve often heard the old adage “You should never judge a book by its cover.” However, one of the most necessary processes in life does just that. When seeking employment, most companies require that you complete an application or submit a resume which is nothing more than an overview of your skills and accomplishments. Unfortunately, this preliminary step can lead to forms of hiring biases on the basis of race associations, political and social affiliations, gender and age, that snatch from you the opportunity to prove that you can do the job, even when you are otherwise qualified. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, the unemployment rate of African Americans was almost double that of every other ethnicity except Hispanics. Though diversity efforts are on the rise, a startling 57 percent of employees still believe their companies should be more diverse, while companies say they aren’t working to implement these efforts because they are “too busy” (41 percent) or it is “too costly” (18 percent) per the Society for Human Resource Management.

In addition to these attitudes leading to an increase in the potential for hiring bias, the phenomenon of social media has forever changed hiring practices. The Pew Research Center cites 86 percent of Internet users between 18-49 use some type of social networking site and hiring managers are using this information to their advantage.

Melissa Davis, CEO and founder of Elev8 Hire Solutions, believes that social media is truly impacting hiring. “In the past, it was frowned upon to put a picture on your resume for fear of profiling, but today so much more profiling is happening subconsciously.”

From the information that candidates are sharing on their social media profiles, hiring managers may be able to draw premature  conclusions prior to ever meeting a person.

While it is apparent that strides need to be made to change the potential of hiring bias, where do we begin? Enter GapJumpers, a technology platform that is changing the way to think about hiring.

In 2012, Heidi Walker, business evangelist and founding team member at GapJumpers, was a human resource professional who was looking to get back into the workforce. Despite having vast experience, she was having a difficult time securing interviews.

“Resumes work for an outdated model of what success is supposed to look like, a linear path, but the modern workforce doesn’t really follow this type of path,” she says.

With people discovering later in life what their passions are and training or retraining for them, they are often faced with not having the ideal background for a job they are qualified for on a skill basis.

“When you can get rid of the resume process, you allow the candidate to select themselves,” Walker says.

GapJumpers works by using software to pair potential candidates with hiring companies through a blind audition process. During the blind audition, the candidate is given a task or assignment to complete and submit to show their thought process and skills without a potential employer having any information on their demographic characteristics.

“By using a work sample and trusting the candidates’ talents versus using a resume, you remove the bias from the very first stage of the hiring process,” Walker explains.

Since 2014, the momentum for GapJumpers has been building with previously underemployed minorities seeing real gains.

“We see that women who have been on a career break, African-American males who may have a community college background and others that typically don’t perform as well in traditional hiring, ace our job challenges.”

GapJumpers is not just a win for candidates, but also employers, like Google and Dolby, who are citing saving more than 40 hours of hiring screening time with this process. The company has built a successful base of clients, but is currently working to expand in the southeast region, particularly the Atlanta area, over the next few months.

“We are working to expand in a variety of areas, but particularly tech, and Atlanta is a prime area that should be scoring higher on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics surveys.”

Davis, who specializes in boutique IT hiring focused on the application side of technology, concurs.

“There are far more positions than resources because there is a crunch on tech right now and the Atlanta startup market is really blossoming.”

Davis finds that her clients are always looking for diversity in hiring for tech roles and thinks that companies like GapJumpers could be incredibly valuable because you’re hiring for talent and raw capabilities versus any bias that you may have created along the hiring process.

Implementing this type of process broadly will require a change in the mindset of human resource professionals, but over time will allow for positions to be filled with the properly skilled candidate and not just the right look.  AT


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