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Blendoor battles bias in hiring

The “aha” moment came after eight interviews for an analytical lead position at a major tech company.

Stephanie Lampkin thought she was a good fit. She began coding at age 13, and came armed with an engineering degree from Stanford, five years at Microsoft, and a recent MBA from MIT Sloan. At the end, she says the recruiter told her “you’re not quite technical enough, and we’ll reach out if a sales or marketing position opens up.”

“I can’t say I was irate. It was almost funny,” Lampkin, MBA ’13, says. So she launched Blendoor to combat unconscious bias in hiring.

Blendoor is a mobile app that connects women, underrepresented minorities, and veterans with technology companies seeking qualified, diverse job candidates. The app uses a Tinder-like interface to present job searchers with opportunities and recruiters with nameless, faceless profiles, essentially a blind audition.

While minority employment is stronger at some major technology companies than others, women make up no more than 24 percent of the technology workforce in any one of the leading companies. And whites and men dominate the leadership jobs at those companies.

As far back as 2004, a study asked “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” and found a 50 percent higher response to resumes with white-sounding names.

Lampkin is careful to use the phrase “unconscious bias,” and notes the response from technology companies to the Blendoor app has been enormously positive.

“Every company I’ve talked to is on board with the idea,” Lampkin says. “Even though companies are our revenue source, we still have a huge responsibility to create a product that gets the caliber of candidates companies can’t find on their own.”

Blendoor is currently conducting a pilot with 19 companies and 500 prospective job candidates in finance, sales, and product management. Recruiters and hiring managers see resumes, qualifications, and background, but not pictures or names, proven in numerous studies to impact unconscious bias in hiring.

“By hiding name and photo, we are basically showing recruiters how well a candidate meets the requirements of the role, and create opportunities for people who may have otherwise been overlooked because they didn’t look the part,” Lampkin says. Once a match is made, recruiters can contact the applicant and continue the conversation.

Blendoor has raised $100,000, half in direct investment and half in prizes at pitch competitions, and is looking to raise $1 million by the end of March, coinciding with a full launch and publicity campaign.

Lampkin believes Blendoor can have applications beyond technology hiring.

“I’m positioning this as what I think can be unconscious bias technology that can be applied to investors, people looking for apartments,” she says. “Time and time again we see people being discriminated against because of the way their name sounds or the color of their skin.”

“It’s not necessarily overt racism; it’s the way we’re wired as human beings,” she says. “I don’t know if that rewiring will happen any time soon.”

For more info Zach Church Editorial & Digital Media Director (617) 324-0804