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Gender parity

GapJumpers: Using blind auditions to eliminate bias

GapJumpers is a hiring website, but one with a unique twist — blind auditions — that is helping erase gender and minority biases that too often creep into hiring and promotion decisions in both the legal and corporate world.

Through the use of blind auditions, GapJumpers blocks these implicit biases to improve diversity and the depth of talent. In fact, the company says they’ve seen an average 60% increase in diverse candidates in the employment pipeline through the use of blind auditions.

Natalie Runyon of Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law and director, Global Operations and Strategy for Thomson Reuters Legal, sat down with Petar Vujosevic, the company’s COO and co-founder, to ask him about how his company’s technology works and how it is helping lower the barriers for women and minorities in hiring:

Natalie Runyon: Could you tell us about GapJumpers and how it works?

PetarVujosevic_GapJumpers
Petar Vujosevic of GapJumpers

Petar Vujosevic: GapJumpers, as a company, creates tools to help our clients make more objective talent decisions. Over the life cycle of an employee, there are a couple of important moments that can influence a career, for worse or for better. We can bracket them into: hiring, firing, promotion and retention. Those are the kinds of things that an employee would encounter, along the way from being an intern to being a CEO.

Most companies, at present, don’t always have processes in place that allow them to make the most objective decisions. There’s a lot of human element in it, which gives rise to things like unconscious bias as a structural barrier when it comes to applicants being screened out or in, or as we also see when it comes to promotion, internally at a company.  The result is oftentimes that sometimes more men get promoted as compared to their counterparts who are women.

We are looking at academic research, research around unconscious biases, around heuristics, around decision-making. We are trying to figure out how to build software-based tools that can scale across organizations, so that an organization can make better, more objective decisions. The first tool that we created is the Blind Skills Audition, which focuses on the first line of decisions that companies face: Who do we call in for interviews? Who not to? So it’s the hiring process that we are currently focused on.

Natalie Runyon
Natalie Runyon

Natalie Runyon: So, how do these blind auditions work?

Petar Vujosevic: The Blind Audition works as a kind of case-cracking process. Normally, what happens when somebody applies to a company is that they’ll send in their resume. Based on that resume, a recruiter or somebody else will make a decision to say: we are going to call this person in or not, because they look like a good fit.

Now, when you use the Blind Skills Audition, you actually are interpreting that decision differently and you don’t look at anybody’s resume — that’s the blind part. Instead, you actively ask applicants to show proof of their abilities to actually perform the job and to demonstrate that they have the requisite qualities in certain key deal-breaker skills that are important for that particular role.

That is then translated by our software into an actual challenge that applicants need to take and are ranked on, anonymously. Then companies can make a decision based on purely quality metrics as to whom they call in, or not.

Natalie Runyon: How are you objectively measuring that success?

Petar Vujosevic: I can break it down into two parts. One is how do we measure the quality of the submission of the applicant? And two, how do we measure the impact?

When we look at the quality of the submission of the applicant, we use software and a natural language process whereby when we create these challenges. To do that, we often ask the hiring managers, who often have a lot of intuitive knowledge of what a good employee should be and what he or she should be producing in terms of work. We can then extract that knowledge and create a challenge that will highlight what types of quality points a good answer should be producing. And because the answers are always presented in a digital format — whether that is a PowerPoint document, a Word document, a text document, or in the case of engineers, actual code or design documents — our software is able to screen that answer and see if it measures up to the standards that the hiring team has set. Anybody that doesn’t meet the requirements of the challenge submission and doesn’t hit the quality bars that have been set up won’t be passed on to the hiring team to actually get reviewed.

The way we measure impact is: We work a lot with our clients and with their data. We usually get access to their current data, in terms of how many applicants are they attracting, the diversity breakdown of those applicants, etc., so we can establish a baseline.

Then we run the actual Blind Skills Audition and are able to show what the impact improvement is after they introduced our tool into their screening process. That is how we are able to quantify impact and more importantly, give evidence not just to the hiring team, but also to the hiring managers and to senior management, who usually like to just see numbers.

Natalie Runyon: What’s been your experience so far with clients that have gone through this process?

Petar Vujosevic: What companies are actively looking for is things that work. Most companies will go through a cycle: They will first start with the low-hanging fruit, which is training. Maybe they’ll institute an unconscious bias training or they will try and get their managers to be better at interviewing, to see if that helps them get more diverse applicants through the funnel.

So companies that we work with have tried a lot of solutions, but are not getting any results, despite heavy investment of time and resources. That’s when they start looking around and saying, okay what else is out there that can help us in spite of the human element? That’s the stage where GapJumpers comes in — companies have tried different things, it hasn’t worked, yet they still have these ambitious goals.

Natalie Runyon: Lastly, what lessons have you learned going through this? Is there anything that surprised you?

Petar Vujosevic: The number one thing that we’ve learned is that companies need to be ready. We cannot help any company that is not really ready to look at diversity. An organization needs to be ready to say: We are looking at structural ways of improving our entire HR process in order for us to get the best qualified talent in without having preferential treatment for some particular talent. If an organization is not ready for that, then all the technology in the world is not going to help.

GapJumpers sees the biggest part of its work is to change management. We often tell our clients: Don’t ask us how much it costs. Don’t ask us about our features. Ask yourselves whether this is just a call you are making out of courtesy because somebody higher up said, “Hey, we need to do something about diversity.” Or is this an outreach to us because you as a company have made a conscious decision that you need to do better.

That has been the biggest lesson for us.

View the story as it originally it appeared on the Legal Executive Institute blog


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Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion at Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters Legal

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