Sure, there are issues with diversity hiring, especially in the technology industry, but there are a host of other challenges facing the recruitment industry these days. With a demographic shift, an aging workforce, more remote and outsourced work, and millennials joining the workforce in droves, finding talent and finding jobs has become a much more complex endeavor. Traditional recruitment methods are becoming outdated as online profiles replace résumés, mobile first jobsearch becomes the norm, and referrals become more commonplace.
We sat down with three recruitment platform heads—Tani Brown, director of operations at Jopwell; Don Charlton, CEO/founder of Jazz.co (formerly The Resumator); and Stephanie Lampkin, CEO/founder of Blendoor—to talk about these trends.—Lynne d Johnson
EBONY: First, can you each explain the mission of your recruiting platform in terms of what makes it unique? Basically, what’s your elevator pitch?
Tani Brown: Jopwell is a tech-enabled, minority-focused recruitment and hiring platform that helps companies from various industries and sizes connect and communicate with minority candidates for internships, entry level and experienced hiring opportunities.
Stephanie Lampkin: Blendoor is a mobile job-matching app that facilitates diversity recruiting in tech companies by circumventing unconscious bias.
Don Charlton: Jazz is a modern software platform that bridges the gap between recruiting and performance to help companies build a high performance workforce through effective recruiting and effective employee coaching.
EBONY: Earlier this year, Manpower reported that there is a talent shortage. How does your platform help solve that problem?
DC: Moore’s Law is actually at play in the broader workforce. We are moving from skilled labor to technology-enabled workers, and people are able to learn how to use technology. The problem is, you can build technology innovation companies that aren’t even software much faster than you can migrate an entire workforce from having everyday, non-technical jobs to then being able to take on some of these new positions in technology-enabled businesses.
SL: There’s definitely levels to it, from early childhood education to how K-12 schools prepare students for the information age. How Blendoor is addressing one layer is understanding that there are inherent biases in recruiting practices and pattern matching often times where underrepresented groups are not only judged based on their potential but on which schools they’ve attended and which communities they come from. We hope to do as much as we can to take out that inherent bias and allow employers an opportunity to do a better job at branding themselves as diverse and inclusive environments.
EBONY: Jopwell is building a direct pipeline from colleges to employers. How’s that working?
TB: Jopwell was built around the key barriers that we feel contribute to having a lack of diversity in your application pool. We differentiate ourselves by addressing the marketing gap in which companies are unable to really communicate the breadth of roles and opportunities within their organizations to a minority demographic. In addition to that, there’s a limited pipeline and a lack of resources. When an employer cites lack of pipeline as an issue, we want them to say that they can point to the pipeline that Jopwell is building. So we’ve partnered with campus ambassadors, minority affinity groups and professional organizations to build that pipeline of talent that companies are looking for.
EBONY: Right, but on the other side, unemployment is high and workers are having difficulty just finding regular jobs. Why can’t they?
TB: Nearly half of all recruiters say the biggest challenge they face in diversity recruiting type programs is just the lack of candidates with the right experience, which assumes that there are not candidates out there with the right experience. And we believe that there are and that technology should make it easier to find and connect with these candidates.
SL: I think there’s also a disconnect between a lot of the traditional training programs that look to match and pair candidates who come from nontraditional backgrounds. If these programs give people the types of skills for the types of jobs that employers are looking to fill, I think that will help. WIth Blendoor, I want to build a Netflix for career development, where based on your activities with the app, we will then give you recommendations for career development tools that can better align you with the types of jobs that you tend to like.
EBONY: Don, is there a role that Jazz.co plays in this?
DC: There are two things driving these gaps. The first is that Moore’s law is moving technology and what work looks like much faster than how fast we’re re-educating our workforce. And the second one is that the glut of people who have become educated and are looking for similar roles has gone up so significantly that that too has outpaced the growth of our workforce.
What we are trying to do is increase the retention rate of high-performing people in companies. We’re trying to build the platform that works against that natural reduce, reduce, retention framework. We’re building a solution that will ensure you’re finding the right people in the first place by recruiting based on performance potential, and then have the right coaching and engagement tools so that person feels like company success equals career success. The company is going to perform better, the employee is going to perform better, and the economy will perform better because there are high-performing people in each position.
EBONY: So now to the elephant in the room: can you guys speak to the challenges of being an African-American-led company in the tech industry?
DC: People always ask me about the challenges of raising money in tech, but I’ve raised $18 million. To build a successful software company, you need a lot of capital. It’s really about how much money we get to climb up that hill. We don’t get enough opportunities to make the big mistakes.
Let’s start talking about Black failure in tech. We’re talking about a guy who had $3 million. I know White guys who had $150 million and got nothing out of it. It’s about equal access to that capital.
On the diversity in tech issue, there are also cultural competencies that exist in the African-American community. We are proud of those people who have broken through barriers in other industries. Why leave a broken barrier to go to the floor at a startup? That’s a big challenge. Then, you are sacrificing your lifestyle if you’re going to be in tech. None of your co-workers are going to look like you. You have to make considerable sacrifices to be in tech, and if you’re a minority, you’re sacrificing many other aspects of your personal life if you’ve never been the only person in a room who looks like you.
SL: Uniquely, being an African-American woman in tech in San Francisco, I’m often underestimated for my capabilities to lead and execute. There is value in that I’m technical. I see a glaze over people’s eyes when I tell them I actually built the app. I think a lot of African Americans come to the Valley with great ideas but no technical prowess. I know a lot of minority founders in other verticals who are also struggling to get cash, and honestly, it’s because they don’t see people like us.
The tokenism effect is in play as well. Tristan Walker just got $24 million for Bevel, and if some of that money were spread more evenly amongst some really talented startups in the Valley, we’d be able to see more traction and opportunities in the space. It’s going to take more standouts to drive that behavior.
TB: Our staff is representative of the user base that we assist. At some point in our lives, we’ve all pretty much been that only minority in the room. I think what we’ve learned is how to use it as a strength. We are all in this very unique position where we can either complain or not only use our strength, but teach companies how to utilize technology to also use the strength of a candidate pool that they are overlooking.
In 2040, the majority of the workforce is going to be made up of people of color, and it is our collective goal to show these companies that employers need to reimagine the way they hire and recruit. While it is a challenge, I believe there are enough of us to help make these changes.
Lynne d Johnson has been writing about music since the early 1990s, tech since the late ’90s, and the intersection of music and technology since the early 2000s. She currently writes, teaches and consults companies on how to better engage with their audiences. Follow her on Twitter @lynneluvah.