Do job interviews reinforce bias? This startup has an alternative approach in mind

by Andreas Rekdal
December 7, 2016

Although corporate America’s struggle to hire and promote a more diverse workforce has been a longstanding topic of discussion, efforts to address the problem have brought underwhelming results. Even Facebook, in all its command of data and demographic information, has fallen significantly short of its targets to boost the diversity of its own talent pool.

Stella Ashaolu, a former management consultant and the founder of WeSolv, thinks a big part of the problem is the methods companies use to find the "right" people.

“Companies, for as long as we all can remember, have been using resumes and behavioral interviews to identify and select talent,” she said. “Studies show that you can only correlate about eight percent of a person’s performance to their behavioral interview. Yet companies continue to rely on them.”

Instead of weeding out bad candidates, said Ashaolu, interviews often end up weeding out qualified candidates because of unconscious biases on behalf of the interviewer, company or process, ultimately counteracting a company's well-intentioned diversity recruiting efforts.

"People tend to hire people who are like themselves," she said.

Her solution, WeSolv, is a Chicago-based tech startup that helps companies seek out more diverse talent. Part social network and part recruiting platform, the company lets MBA students connect with each other and form teams to work on group projects posted by potential employers, who in turn get to see various skill sets and perspectives in action. 

These projects are a win-win for everyone involved, Ashaolu said. Employers get new insights on the challenges they face while broadening their pool of potential new candidates. Students, on their end, get to know a new industry and boost their resumes with relevant work experience.

The idea for WeSolv came from Ashaolu’s own experience in entering the workforce.

“Being a diverse candidate, having gone through my MBA experience about five years back, I saw that this was something that was extremely difficult for me to navigate,” she said. “Being able to work on projects and getting real experience was what allowed me to showcase that I was capable and had the skillset. It also helped cut through some of the obstacles and biases that I had previously experienced through the interview process.”

The promise of WeSolv’s solution, said Ashaolu, is that it allows candidates to provide tangible examples of what they can bring to an organization — regardless of what opportunities they may or may not have had earlier in their careers.

“We give students an opportunity to showcase their skill sets and lead with their work products instead of just the resume or the behavioral interview,” she said. “If I created this great work product, regardless of what I look like or your perception of me, you are now evaluating me in light of that.”

WeSolv’s user base includes students from all of the country’s top 25 MBA programs. Although 70 percent of users are members of an underrepresented minority group, the platform is open to all MBA candidates.

Over time, the company is also looking to expand its services to cover students in other professional graduate programs as well as undergraduates. 

Images via WeSolv.

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