Tackling Bias in Hiring Practices (The AI Way) | Josh Brenner


Josh Brenner, CEO of AI-driven marketplace, Hired, discusses current staffing challenges, how to hire underrepresented talent, best practices for onboarding employees and why more thought needs to be given to job posting descriptions.


Josh Brenner HIRED

Josh Brenner

CEO of Hired


Hopefully, it takes five years, but maybe five to 10 years, all hiring will be efficient, transparent, and equitable. And so, we’re going to we’re not really going to rest until we until we may help make that happen.

Ceci Amador [00:00:27] Hello and welcome to the future of our podcast by Allwork.Space. I’m familiar with it. And today I’m looking forward to chatting with Josh Brenner, CEO of Hired – an A.I. Driven Marketplace, about staffing challenges, how to hire underrepresented talent and why companies need to revamp their onboarding offices. Josh, welcome.

Josh Brenner [00:00:51] Thank you so much for having me.

Ceci Amador [00:00:52] So we’re excited to have you here. And like we were chatting just a few minutes ago, I find that there’s so much to talk about in the hiring industry, particularly right now. There’s a lot going on about the great resignation, the skills gap, hiring remote workers, onboarding process that’s for remote workers and how they need to change. So, I’m really excited about chatting with you. But before we dove into it, I want you to tell us a little bit about your background, how you landed in the hiring industry, and what are some of the things that we’re most passionate about hiring.

Josh Brenner [00:01:28] I think I’ve joined the hiring industry and gotten into the space at the perfect time. My background is primarily in B2B software and really leveraging technology in different ways to help companies, help businesses be more successful. I’ve worked in several large Fortune 500 companies to help them from product management perspective, build out there their platforms, and then also created a few marketplaces and found that the marketplace dynamics, especially as you investigate the hiring space, present unique opportunities to help both companies and candidates in these cases sort of achieve their goals in different ways. So as soon as I found out about kind of the work that I was doing before I joined, I knew it was I knew it was a place that I wanted to take the company to the next level. So, it’s been incredibly exciting and obviously challenging with some of the changes that have gone over the past 18 months.

Ceci Amador [00:02:35] I bet. So, tell us a little bit about the work that hired some. How is it different than traditional job searching platforms and sites?

Josh Brenner [00:02:45] So hired is, like you had mentioned, that A.I. driven hiring marketplace. So, we help companies build their teams by providing them with access to a pool of prevented candidates. We focus specifically on the tech vertical and we also we also have sales are the sales vertical as well as it relates to technology. But what we found is that companies today have a couple of different methodologies that they can use to hire most companies, use inbound channels where you can candidates can apply for a job. But the challenge with that is they end up getting high, high-end candidates. So, candidates that are looking for work, but not always the highest quality or the or the relevancy to what they’re looking for. And then on the other side, companies do outreach to candidates, as if you think about sort of outbound marketing companies use outbound recruiting to go find candidates that are that local, that have the perfect profile for what they’re looking for. But most places that that you can do that, you get very low response rates. So, you never really hear back from the candidates. And so, what we do is we provide access to a candidate pool for companies that are those that have this combination of both quality and intent.

Ceci Amador [00:04:13] OK, so what I’m hearing is that part of your value proposition is that it’s ai-driven. So sourcing is easier, and you sort of guarantee that companies will hear back from candidates, and I don’t want to put you on the spot right here. And I think that leveraging technology is amazing and something that everyone wants to use to their advantage. But with hiring, there have been some reports that I simply confirm existing biases. So, it makes it harder to hire underrepresented talent. And I know that’s important to hire. I know you’re getting ready to launch diversity goals. So, I want to ask how do you ensure that the technology that you’re using is not biased and that you’re not falling into that kind of endless, vicious circle of confirmation biases that already exist?

Josh Brenner [00:05:15] Yeah, that’s a great question and something that obviously our team takes very seriously and has been a big focus of our as we started to move more and more into the. The diversity hiring space, if you will, something that that that our team that our team is sort of very, very focused on. So first I would say that we train our algorithms to be fair, we try to use as little information sort of about the specific details that are within the job description. We find that a lot of companies, although there have been improvements in these areas over time, sometimes there’s no words and sentences that that can introduce bias and into the job description. So, we try to just look at it are very, very data centric way. When we do our matching, when we look at our when we look at our product functionality itself, one of the things that we found as we started exploring getting into the diversity hiring space in a broader way beyond our bias reduction filters that we have, that we’ve already had salary bias reduction filters where we actually send alerts to companies if they’re making an offer to a similar type of profile at a different salary to avoid any kind of bias. But we found that companies wanted more. Companies wanted to proactively be able to find underrepresented talent.

Josh Brenner [00:06:53] And this is since it’s something that was so important to both our clients and our candidates that are that are underrepresented candidates that are looking for opportunities. We wanted to make sure that we were creating a solution with our diversity goals feature that focused on first party data. So, what that what I mean by that is that candidates are of reporting their demographic data and we’re only surfacing up underrepresented talent within our product when it is self-reported. We find that a lot of other companies have tried to get a lot of breath out there and try to get a lot of coverage. But they use inference and AI to infer gender, race. And that’s something that we feel is not really an appropriate thing to do. So that’s an important part of our fairness and our making sure that there’s no bias introduced into the process as well.

Ceci Amador [00:07:51] That’s great, especially because I agree that companies are prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion right now. And I do think that remote work or the possibility of remote work opens the talent pool a whole lot in the sense that it makes it easier for underrepresented talent to also find work and be successful at it. And this is like for mothers, caregivers, people with disabilities that have otherwise some troubles getting to and from an office. So, I think that’s great. Going back to what you were saying, I find it interesting when you said that there were some words in job descriptions that had some inherent bias in them. Can you explain a little bit more about that? I had never heard that. And it’s really baffling because that’s where I want to think. It’s mostly subconscious bias that’s coming across in job postings.

Josh Brenner [00:08:44] Yeah, it’s one hundred percent unconscious bias. Right. And there is a slew of companies that have come out with different trainings and technologies to help companies combat this unconscious bias. One, one of the things that we’ve done, which I mentioned before, is this this bias reduction filter that companies can turn on to blur the names and the faces and other information that may be that may sort of have bias associated with them out of their usage of the hired platform.

Josh Brenner [00:09:19] The job description thing is interesting. And it’s and it’s and it’s something that you may not you may not expect it. Harvard did a study that that showed that job ads that had stereotypical masculine words like dominant and competitive were discouraging women from applying. This is just one example, but there are a lot of different word choices that are that are used by companies that may sound strong and great as part of the job description, but may be causing for various reasons, different people with different backgrounds, underrepresented candidates from feeling like that they won’t have a chance of being successful and during the interview process. And so, it avoids them taking that step to apply or to try and engage in the conversation.

Ceci Amador [00:10:14] All of that just creates the ongoing circle of hiring the same people. And it’s not necessarily because companies aren’t interested in hiring underrepresented talent, but if these things are popping up and discouraging people that it just seems like we need help.

Ceci Amador [00:10:32] Everyone needs help apparently in that area and so you were talking about your diversity filter and beyond, doing things like that and being more conscious about the word choice and truly being very careful with job descriptions and all of that, what are some of the strategies that companies can implement to attract underrepresented talent to their companies?

Josh Brenner [00:11:00] Sure, yeah. There’s a there’s a lot of things that we help work with our clients to put in place for them. The first one, I would say is a big one right now for multiple reasons but offering remote flexibility. I think you alluded to it a little bit and some of your commentary is huge for and for increasing diversity and bringing in a more underrepresented group of employees for a couple of different reasons. First, at this point, ninety three percent of hired, the candidates that we have on the platform are open to remote and some in some capacity. And what we found is that the candidates that are open to a remote skew higher in underrepresented groups. And we found that as companies open their searches to remote, they are able

Josh Brenner [00:11:53] to bring in more underrepresented talent, which is obviously important to them. You think about sort of not that not everyone is able to afford or wants to live in a big city hub. And so, as you start to open the geographic constraints, you start to open the opportunities to a broader set of potential employees you think about. You mentioned a little bit about, you know, working mothers or people with disabilities. Some people can’t physically come into an office. An office may have physical hurdles like stairs and elevator, also just with working moms and working around the schedule for coming in for an in-person interview, maybe challenging. So, the remote flexibility is a key one.

Josh Brenner [00:12:44] Also around something that we do a lot of is partnering with diverse organizations and helping our clients get involved with these diverse organizations that that have that try to put on a pedestal, if you will, different groups of underrepresented talent. We work, for example, hired. We work with a lot of them, but to that we’re really excited about right now and have had strong partnerships with our one is one called blacks in technology and another one called tech area. They’re just focused on setting up the candidates from that underrepresented group with the best opportunities. And that’s we make sure that we’re always bringing those type of candidates onto the platform and helping our clients get involved in different and different types of events with them, specifically with these types of organizations. But just in general are really, important. Something that we’re seeing a lot of excitement behind right now, different specifically like career fairs, coding challenges that employers can put out there and allow a wider pool of candidates to start showing off their skills. We recently had a candidate focused quarterly summit where we talked about salary disparity and helping arm candidates to really understand what they’re worth. And so, companies really like partnering with us and those type of events so that so that they can kind of appeal to a broader a broader audience, just broadening your broadening your toolset, especially now in such a competitive market that we’re in.

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    Josh Brenner [00:14:26] We talked about we started the call talking a little bit about how it’s been such an interesting time to be in this industry. Right. And so, I like to I like to say that we’re in this perfect storm. We ended twenty. There was still a lot of uncertainty, but things were starting to open a little bit and twenty, twenty-one hit. And there was just this pent-up demand for tech talent. And companies were realizing they needed to just keep moving on if they were going to stay competitive and keep investing in digital transformations. And then we see that sort of pent-up demand in conjunction with the great resignation, right. Where candidates are, or employees and people are starting to use the time. They’re in covid to reflect a lot on what they’re looking for in job, what they expect out of a company. And so, the short summary is that companies need to make sure that they’re armed with the right tools in their hiring toolkit. And there are several specific, you know, when you’re looking specifically for underrepresented. Talent, there are a couple of different tools that I think companies should be looking at hired as one of them with our new Diversity Goals feature, we’re focused on more mid-level, mid to senior level engineers. There’s another company that that we that we really think does a great job called Canvas, which is really a complementary platform to hired that focuses on candidates that are more early in their career. And so, we think the combination of those two platforms really allows you to kind of get your pick of candidates, underrepresented candidates from different sort of career parts of their career off it.

    Ceci Amador [00:16:24] And there are a couple of things that I want to address here. One, you mentioned that ninety three percent of candidates in the higher platform are open to remote work and that that number skews higher for underrepresented talent. Have you seen an increase in the number of companies hiring underrepresented talent since the start of the pandemic and if they embrace remote work?

    Josh Brenner [00:16:46] Yeah, absolutely. It has become it has become the number one thing that our clients ask us about. And it’s not only I think in the beginning, over last summer when there were when there were all these social injustice issues and sort of that shine the light, I would say further on the disparity in the workplace and companies have you know, there was a concern, I think, that companies were only going to be kind of this was going to be a lip service and that this was this would kind of just be something that gets talked about and not acted on. We’ve seen that could be completely the opposite of reality, where companies are taking it very seriously. In no part of part of what we want to talk about is the onboarding process, but all the way from sourcing to onboarding and being able to retain employees as well. Diversity and inclusion have become the number one topic of interest across all our companies. And they’re walking the walk as well, which is exciting for us to say.

    Ceci Amador [00:17:58] That’s the I think that’s extremely important, walking the walk to talk more like it. And then the other thing that I find interesting is some events where your kind of helping underrepresented talent be more confident about themselves and what they want from a company and asking for their salaries. Do you believe that, or have you seen talent underrepresented, become more confident when they’re in the interview process, when it’s time for them to kind of like lay out what they expect or what they want, or is that something that they still struggle with?

    Josh Brenner [00:18:30] I think it’s we’re seeing improvements in it. I think it’s a combination of a couple things. I would say. One, there’s just so much information available out there. Right. About salaries. And there’s a lot of different tools, including hired has salary calculators, calculator type products that we put out for candidates so that they can really start to understand their worth as they’re going through the onboarding process of signing up for hired. We give them visibility with the information that we have about their background, letting them know what our product, our platform thinks that that that they could command in the market. We you know, I think a lot of it comes down to how much research candidates are willing to put in and how much effort candidates are willing to put in, which is, you know, that’ll change how they’re how confident they are. The other thing, though, is that, you know, Beyonce salary is one thing.

    Josh Brenner [00:19:35] And I think this great resignation is causing sort of employees to be in the more of the position of power, candidates to be in the position of power. And so, they can command higher salaries and make sure that they’re being paid more, more fairly the market rate and not take opportunities or offers that they that they feel are not actually in line with what’s fair based on based on the market.

    Ceci Amador [00:20:05] I agree. And I think that’s why the service industry is particularly going through a sort of a crisis now, because people are just not willing to take low salaries, even if it means that they’re going to be out of the job. So, I think it’s a movement. That’s it. And I like that. It’s kind of like giving employees power and empowering them to have more control over what they want their careers and how they move forward,

    Josh Brenner [00:20:31] In addition to just salaries and compensation, which is obviously one part of a rewards. Package, if you will. There’s these evolving expectations of what employees and candidates are looking for in their employers. And so, there’s different types of benefits that matter more now that we’re sort of on the up in this in this hybrid remote first type environment, whether it’s a home office stipend or childcare support, or they only want to have an asynchronous type of work schedule. And so, we’re seeing a lot of teams rethinking a lot of their corporate policies as well, benefit packages, and that and how that impacts their messaging and job descriptions and the perks that that matter to people in this in this climate.

    Ceci Amador [00:21:21] Yeah, I agree. I think it was about time. I feel like for too long of a time, perks and benefits packages were kind of like a one size fits all and everyone gets the same perks and benefits. And I can see why that was the way it was. But it just doesn’t really apply anymore. Like a single millennial worker will need different perks and benefits than a working parent or someone that needs to take care of an elderly family member. So, I think it’s important that companies start to personal life a little better or at least give more choice, kind of like kind of like a robust package and say, OK, so you can have your pick within the options and then going back to what companies need to be doing. And you mentioned this already is the onboarding process. And so, if somebody says I’ve had to change because the companies that the few that were hiring last year, they had to do so remotely. And that has an impact part of digital transformation efforts. It seems that the onboarding process is still not where it needs to be for a lot of companies, especially in the remote and hybrid setting. So, what do you think companies need to do or how can that ongoing process be revamped or improved upon?

    Josh Brenner [00:22:35] Yeah, I think one of the key things that we’ve seen, especially in this remote world, is, you know, in the previous office-based cultures, you see people coming in on that first day, they would maybe get this warm welcome, see all the smiling faces. And so, what we work closely with our companies, and we try to do ourselves is create a sense of community from day one. And so, we think that some important tips are that people and people, people, operations team should plan to send an orientation schedule and overview of benefits ahead of time for the person to review. So, they feel like when before they start, they have a good plan in place for first starting to get integrated and on board into the company. And it also just it also just gives a sense of that the company is organized and takes the onboarding seriously. Obviously, it is responsible for making sure that they have all their laptops, monitors, all the equipment that’s going to set them up for success. We also think that companies should invest in a welcome box. That one that is something that we’re constantly iterating on and getting feedback on with our own. Our own onboarding is we want people to have swag, to be representing the company, even if they’re not in the office, get a welcome email from their hiring manager and Newar, other members across the team to send them warm welcomes. If you have companies have an internal communication platform or something like that to make sure that on their first day they’re getting a warm welcome from everyone across the company and then making sure that they once they get past that first day of understanding, this is kind of how the company works at a high level, making sure that the manager, the hiring manager takes it down to the next level of granularity so that that the person feels like, OK, I know what I need to do to be set up for success here. And we think that we think that those are some key tips that have helped us and helped a lot of our clients start to start to be more successful with onboarding virtually.

    Ceci Amador [00:24:53] And Josh was about to run out of time here. So, before we finish our conversation, I want to ask you, what are some of the trends or driving forces that you think will shape the hiring industry now until like five years from now?

    Josh Brenner [00:25:07] Sure. I think we’re going to still see this this trend of employees and candidates being in a position of power in terms of choosing what type of work style works for them. How do they how do they want to communicate? What type of what type of companies that they want to be involved in? Things like what type of social stances companies are taking are more and more important to talk to Candida. Today, there’s a skills gap, obviously, digital skills are very, very hot in demand right now. We see that not slowing down at all. We see that companies are hungry for top tech talent and they’re carrying less and less about if they’re based in one of the major tech hubs. We’re even seeing companies start to go outside of countries and in ways that they never really were before. So, we’re really excited about that trend. And we think transparency is a key one as well. So hired and hired our vision is simple. And I think it talks to sort of where we think things are going. We want to we want to be in a world where all hiring is equitable, transparent, and efficient.

    Ceci Amador [00:26:38] That’s amazing. And Josh, if someone wanted to be a candidate in the hired platform or if a company wants to learn more about your product work and they find more information,

    Josh Brenner [00:26:49] Just go to hire dotcom for candidates, both for candidates and companies. You can go in and set up your account on your own. And the great thing about hired is that we not only have self completely self-service platform, but we have people that are that are behind the scenes to help, to help on both sides, both on the candidates, to help them be more successful and companies to help them be more successful in achieving their hiring goals.

    Ceci Amador [00:27:20] Amazing. Thank you again, Josh, for taking the time to chat with us today.

    Josh Brenner [00:27:23] Thanks so much for having me. It was great chatting with you.

    Ceci Amador [00:27:26] And thank you, everyone for tuning in to the Future of Work podcast by Allwork.Space. Remember that new episodes are released every Thursday and you can tune in on Allwork.Space Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcasts and YouTube

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