Business

Boston startup thinks it can take a bite out of bias in hiring

A Boston startup thinks it has a clever way around bias in hiring.
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A Boston startup thinks it has a clever way around bias in hiring.

Study after study has revealed a dark truth about hiring: Job candidates with white-sounding names are much more likely to grab recruiters’ attention than those with black-sounding names and ones associated with other minorities.

A Boston startup thinks it has a clever way around the problem. Skillist this week launched a new job application platform that strips out applicants’ names and other identifying information, and substitutes a more complete portrait of a candidate for the old-school résumé.

“It was made for a time where jobs were static, education was static,” said chief executive Ananth Kasturiraman. “Now, people are learning in a lot of different ways. Skills are transferrable. It’s just not relevant.”

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Kasturiraman and Caroline Fay started Skillist while he was a student and she was on staff at Harvard Business School. The company was a finalist in the MassChallenge competition, and has since received $550,000 in funding, led by Flybridge Capital Partners. The company has also gotten money from the antipoverty group the Robin Hood Foundation.

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The founders believe employers miss out on talent from minority communities and from non-traditional backgrounds because of unconscious bias. It takes a completely different approach to the job application process; instead of submitting their job histories and academic qualifications, candidates are instructed to write narrative descriptions of how they learned the skills that are most relevant for the job they’re applying for.

After a candidate submits an application for an opening listed on Skillist, the company doesn’t reveal that person’s identity until the employer has indicated an interest in that applicant.

So far, Skillist only has a few job opening listings on its site. It has, however, signed up several clients, including online retailer Wayfair and Harvard Business School.

It is also trying to recruit more applicants to put their qualifications on its system, by working with career-building organizations Year Up and the local work-force organization Duet.

Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com.`