At JobFit, our goal is to eliminate implicit bias in the hiring process and empower employees to refer qualified people of diverse backgrounds. I want to tell you of the story of why I made this my goal and why I founded JobFit.
It’s been about a year and a half since I first conceived of the idea. We are a partially anonymous job-matching marketplace for job seekers and employees who want to leverage their referral bonus. JobFit gives job seekers the opportunity to apply to jobs without the obstacles of prejudice and the intrinsic limitations of resumes. For employees, our platform gives direct access to a pool of diverse and qualified job contenders, while also giving them the chance to capitalize on valuable referral bonuses.
Not long ago, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area after working several years overseas in Shenzhen, China and Hong Kong. I transitioned back for family and personal reasons without a job lined up. Even with 7 years of Product Management experience in the software technology industry, and even as a Bay Area native, I knew my search for a new job was going to be a challenging and anxious one.
I re-educated myself with the local talent market, taking 3 part-time bootcamps for software development, product management, and data science—all of this while searching for a job. To say I didn’t get much sleep was an understatement.
6 months into the job hunt and 2.5 finished boot camp programs later, nothing resonated more true than the cliché “it’s who you know, not what you know”. But what happens when you have a small relevant network or you have exhausted your whole network, particularly when like me, you are in transition via relocation? And if you don't have a network, submitting hundreds of resumes per month hoping your resume will be read is the other only option—but not having a paycheck hurts and hoping is not a good strategy for career advancement.
I discovered I was not alone in this pain. Friends with 10+ years of relevant work experience in Europe or APAC who like me returned to major US cities also struggled on the job hunt, only to get entry level jobs after a year or more of anxiety and instability. I began to wonder why all of us had the same issue, and I came to this conclusion: the value of our non-traditional experiences—such as living overseas, having skills in a different industry, practical knowledge of navigating culturally diverse workplaces—was not being effectively communicated, and understandably so. How can you fully encapsulate your experience in a single sheet of paper, particularly when your background is not linear or traditional? How do you convey the important lessons that you learned living overseas or working in a different industry to the person reading your resume, when chances are the person evaluating you is a recruiter or member of HR that has lived in the same area and worked in the same industry for their whole professional life?
Relocation is not the only type of non-linear transition that have these pain points.
Non-linear transitions also include movement:
The miscommunication experienced during non-linear transitions falls under one root cause: implicit bias.
While implicit bias often directly refers to racial and gender biases, the Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity gives a more general definition: "implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.”
Each individual has a story, and when the story is told in piecemeal, it is human nature for the reader to fill in the gaps with his own personal experience. Unfortunately, the assumptions that are made often form an inaccurate story that is used against the storyteller. This is especially true in the job application process. For example, an applicant who just moved to the city from a different country or even state is written off as out of touch; a mother coming back from maternity leave is viewed as undependable; an individual who has transitioned between different industries is seen as unfocused or unspecialized. These are only a few common examples of how the resume as the principal vehicle of communicating worth in the job seeking process results in the dismissal of unique and great talent.
A resume is a collection of bullet points of information about your previous work experience and education. Inherently, it doesn't give much context to accurately evaluate suitability for the targeted position. The resume very indirectly explains how your previous work experiences relate to the immediate needs of the new job. This leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. Even with a cover letter, the recruitment team has no choice but to fill in the gaps and interpret your fit for the job using their own experience as context. With just a resume to help evaluate a candidate, there is a lot of potential for implicit biases against work history, personal history, and more seriously, against race, gender, nationality, religion...
As a job seeker, I found two things are needed to overcome these obstacles:
I started creating pitches for fit. Usually they elaborated on:
After I discovered my fit, I would take that pitch and find someone in the company who would listen to it. This way I knew how my story would be interpreted, ensuring the recognition of my potential value-add. I found immediate success with this process.
At this point, I was in the second half of coding bootcamp. I started a passion project to automate my pitch-creating process, making it easier to create more pitches that were company specific. I shared my program with friends who were also looking for jobs. Helping people solve their pain points in the job seeking process became a personal obsession, which brought me to the creation of JobFit.
JobFit marketplace teaches transitioning job seekers to create company specific pitches, and connects them to employees in the company who can appreciate their pitches to refer and advocate for their candidacy. Employees looking to access a pool of qualified candidates outside of their social networks can join JobFit as well.
Every interaction between an employee and job seeker is only based on the pitch for fit, initially. There are no pictures, names, resumes, or identifiable information until the employee has completed their assessment of the pitch. If there are any parts of the pitch that are unclear, employees can ask questions within JobFit to clarify.
At JobFit, we deliberately reflect on each aspect of the referral process with the intention of limiting implicit bias. We aim to create a fairer job seeking environment for job hunters, and also establish a means to cultivate diversity in the workplace, which is appropriate given the current political and social climate. We believe that non-traditional, non-linear experiences can add significantly to a candidate’s value as an employee, and that a more diverse workplace is not only beneficial to a team, but essential to the healthy growth of a company. I will discuss this in more detail in weekly posts, specifically outlining roles of job seekers and employee referrers in JobFit. I’ll also cover how human resources, internal recruiters, and hiring managers can play a role in JobFit as well.