Pitchfest Winner to Highlight Hiring Bias
Stephanie Lampkin says that when it comes to hiring a diverse and inclusive workforce, “companies may be investing in marketing to say they care about it, but if you peel it back you see they haven’t done much.”
Enter Blendoor, which impressed the judges of the first-ever Pitchfest competition during last month’s HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas so much with its inclusive recruiting and people-analytics software that it beat out 29 other start-ups vying for the top prize.
Lampkin is the CEO and founder of the three-year-old company that currently employs seven workers in its San Francisco headquarters. Her team created the app that aggregates diverse talent from multiple sources to broaden a company’s talent search and then uses blind reviews and analytics to mitigate unconscious bias from source to hire.
As the inaugural Pitchfest winner, Blendoor was awarded the opportunity to present at the conference’s “The Next Great HR Tech Company” session, won booth space at the 2019 event and received a $25,000 prize donated by the Randstad Innovation Fund.
“We’ve already used half of the prize money on developers,” Lampkin says, adding that the company will soon release its next version.
(A $5,000 prize was awarded by the fund to Talvista for being named the best diversity solution at Pitchfest.)
Diversity in hiring is a topic Lampkin knows well. Even with a degree in management science and engineering from Stanford and an MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation from MIT, she encountered difficulties trying to find work in Silicon Valley after graduation.
So when she learned through that experience that many tech companies were having trouble sourcing qualified female and minority candidates, she set out to create a solution.
Through the Blendoor app, recruiters are able to connect to candidates who are sourced from strategic partnerships with universities and groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers. The candidates are presented to the recruiters without a name, photo or any age-identifying information (such as a college graduation date).
“We are tapping into those member databases and we’re hoping to become the largest depository of diverse talent,” she says. “We see an opportunity to unearth signals correlated with future performance, which don’t necessarily reflect historical data, and we’re bullish on how effective we’ll be for candidate job-matching given that we have such a diverse dataset.”
Once the candidates are presented to a client, Blendoor integrates with the company’s HR systems to track candidates based on demographics to identify where and how bias happens.
“This transparency drives accountability within organizations, teams and even individual hiring managers,” she says.
Lampkin says Salesforce will begin using the app this fall for its Futureforce recruiting strategy. It will also promote the app to potential candidates on college campuses to improve its own employer branding while also capturing more comprehensive data around the source of diverse candidates.
Meanwhile, AOL solicited Blendoor to implement an internal matching system for incoming interns this past summer. The most attractive feature of the app, according to AOL’s Technology and Talent Integration Leader Alicia Anderson, is the ability to match candidates with hiring managers based on pre-populated structured data rather than traditional resumes and job descriptions.
In addition to measuring bias in hiring, Lampkin says, Blendoor also provides metrics that demonstrate the ROI of diversity and inclusion initiatives, adding that those metrics can be monumental when trying to convince a skeptical C-suite.
“Executive buy-in is usually the challenge” when it comes to implementing D&I initiatives like diverse hiring programs, Lampkin says. “The heads of D&I are always really passionate, but the C-suite or board doesn’t often match that passion, and you need that level of buy-in.”
One of the newest features Blendoor is currently beta testing is called BlendScore, a diversity and inclusion rating of companies based on demographics of the company’s leadership team, retention statistics and strategies, recruiting practices, bias and social-impact initiatives.
“We want it to be sort of the U.S. News and World Report ranking on diverse hiring,” she says, adding that it creates “a competitive landscape” for companies looking to hire a diverse and inclusive workforce.
“We want highly qualified candidates to go into interviews and have that score [for a company] so they can ask recruiters about it,” she says.
Given the prevalence of news headlines about race and diversity issues, Lampkin says, the timing for Blendoor seems optimal.
“I’m really excited about the way things are trending as people become more aware of bias,” she says.