Interviewing Platform Masks Your Voice To Eliminate Unconscious Bias
A startup is working to give all candidates an equal opportunity in their approach to job interviews
The hiring landscape has undergone a sensitized transformation in recent times, encouraging employers to hire individuals from all walks of life. While the changes in practice have given rise to a more diverse office space, there’s still a way to go before the playing field can be considered leveled. As humans, we come to the table with preconceptions that lie deep below the surface, so much so that we may not even be aware of our own. The only time they really come out is when we interact with people of dissimilar backgrounds, which to this day can mean that marginalized communities have less of a chance at landing a job.
To counter issues of recruiters experiencing a bias when presented with a specific gender or ethnicity, Interviewing.io emerged to set employment standards straight once and for all. Where it differs from likeminded platforms is simple: apps such as Blendoor hide a candidate’s name, age, employment history, criminal background and even their photo, but a brief chat can reveal those nuances in minutes. As an alternative, Interviewing.io masks the voice during the interview process, meaning qualities like sex and accent are impossible to pick up.
One study revealed that certain female job applicant’s vocal tone leads recruiters to deem them less competent; things like ‘vocal fry,’ a low-pitched ‘creaky sounding’ manner of speech shared among many young American women hurts their chances of acceptance. But why force aspirants to alter their natural mannerisms when it’s the employers’ misconception from the start that harms their odds?
In her years as a recruiter, co-founder Aline Lerner was responsible for vetting candidates for companies such as Airbnb, Dropbox, Lyft and Udacity, among others. It was there she began to notice a discrepancy between the filtering and hiring of potential workers; across the board, Lerner observed how many applicants were dismissed as a result of the university they attended or their lack of experience at other major tech companies prior to ever getting a chance to showcase their technical abilities.
As a woman in tech herself, Lerner noted that she didn’t feel particularly isolated or discriminated against, but that didn’t mean those practices were invisible or non-existent. “The closest I came was when I went to MIT and people said to me, ‘do you think you got in because you are a girl?’ [To which I responded] ‘I would have preferred to get the things I got based on merit, not gender.’”
Because of the co-founder’s familiarity in the tech space, Interviewing.io entered the market primarily to fill the hiring gaps within that particular vertical. It started out with a virtual whiteboard wherein a coding challenge was presented to the candidate to resolve. Names and other identifiers were wholly removed, initially being replaced with superhero names to bolster their acceptance, however it quickly proved to be a problematic fix.
“Not only would we have run into copyright issues, but most end in ‘man’, and that’s not what we are trying to do,” says Lerner.
Instead, Interviewing.io now uses gender neutral animal names to represent both interviewer and interviewee. And while Koala and Giraffe can exchange walls of text comfortably, the real magic happens when they decide to voice chat.
The company’s voice changing software is realized through a blend of Twilio’s cloud communications technology and Interviewing.io’s own proprietary voice software, which can make men sound like women, women sound like men, or both sound androgenous. “We let companies choose what they want. Generally, we haven’t found any trend as to which is better.” Still, voices aren’t completely unrecognizable, and employers will be able to discern your grammatical skills and awkwardness of course based on your natural, non-robotic inflection.
With all said and done, Lerner wishes to underscore the fact that she isn’t advocating for bling hiring: “The way we filter candidates at the very top of the funnel is broken. We want people who are good to show what they can do… You want someone who is going to be happy, share your vision and get along with you while spending 8, 10 or 12 hours a day. Filtering people [by merit] before complicated issues of fit is much more valuable than where they went to school or worked before, or what their name is.”
Hiring in modern day is a complex process, and though accounting for elements like past experience and identity is the conventional route for employee acquisition, searching for those who have an easy time conveying their ideas, fit in on a cultural level with the brand in terms of their values and how they view the world, and actually demonstrate proficiency in their required role are far more important than skin color, gender, age and/or behaviors. Interviewing.io is an attempt to give those things a shot – you might be surprised when you give people a shot.
Image: Businesswoman Interviewing Male Candidate For Job via Shutterstock