What's in a name? This founder built a platform to combat racial bias in the hiring process

by Michael Hines
September 20, 2017

There are plenty of resume tricks you can use to win favor with a recruiter: using action verbs, highlighting results over responsibilities, basic spell check. 

Changing your name shouldn't have to be one of them. 

Shaniqua Davis knows this first hand. 

“What I’ve found is that when I use the name ‘Shawn Davis,’ the response rate has been greater,” Davis said. “When I use the name ‘Shaniqua,’ I almost always get a rejection letter. I once applied to the same job using both names. Shawn got an interview request and Shaniqua didn’t.”

Davis is the founder of Noirefy, a platform that connects diverse talent to opportunities in the corporate world through referrals. The startup is an attempt to combat discrimination in the hiring process, a reality Davis unfortuantely knows all too well. 

Diversity is a hot-button issue in tech, and for good reason: there’s not enough of it. While many Chicago startups are working to address this within their companies, Davis found more immediate action was necessary. She also saw the need for a structured solution.

Davis is a member of a few self-organized groups pushing for more diversity in tech. In these groups members would often share job opportunities in their companies. These often large groups communicated mostly using messaging apps, which made it easy for job opportunities to get lost in the shuffle.

Noirefy solves this problem by creating a single place for people from diverse backgrounds to connect and share job opportunities. The industry-agnostic platform is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree, and companies pay to post jobs to the site. But what the startup hopes will truly set it apart is its focus on referrals.

“Our referral model takes the pressure off of companies who are having trouble finding diverse candidates,” Davis said. “Our members start to passively recruit by finding people within their network.”

Noirefy’s goal is to help companies harness the power of referrals, which are a top source of hires and also lead to increased employee retention, while at the same time expanding beyond the networks of current employees. This is important for companies with diversity issues as people tend to refer those they know.

Davis describes the site’s referral model as a win-win, with members able to cash in on referral bonuses and companies becoming more diverse through passive and organic means.

Noirefy’s beta launched in January, and the company plans to continue beta testing through year’s end. At the time of this writing, the site has over 2,000 candidates on the platform and partnerships with five companies. The team is made up of five people and its office is in the Loop. Noirefy was a member of 1871’s spring 2017 WiSTEM cohort.

 

Image via Noirefy.

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