Behind the product: How a diversity of experience created Greenhouse Inclusion
8 mins, 14 secs read time
Sonder: n. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, and worries—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
We believe a culture of belonging sets the foundation for people from diverse backgrounds to be their most authentic selves and do their best work. It’s why our solutions are designed to address unconscious bias throughout every stage of the hiring process. And with research showing bias and a lack of diversity is detrimental to businesses, companies everywhere are beginning to strengthen DE&I at every level.
Embracing DE&I at every stage of hiring
Our technology enables companies to operationalize diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) hiring practices in their organizations, created in partnership with Paradigm. As the industry’s first holistic tech solution that meaningfully incorporates DE&I into our product, we help companies scale these practices throughout every stage of their hiring process.
Below, we showcase the individuals who helped bring our very first DE&I products to market in 2018. Learn more about their stories and motivation for enacting positive change on behalf of the companies we serve.
Alex Powell is the Director of Product Management at Greenhouse, closely shaping the Inclusion product and driving its purpose. For Alex, this solution is more than a way to address a business challenge.
“As someone who often has to be explicit about their identity, I’m often in a situation where I am unintentionally passing," said Alex. "Because of this, I’ve been in situations where I am exposed to modern prejudices that are often masked."
As we become more aware of unconscious bias that may be present, Alex said, we can become better at overcoming them. "It's important for me to correct microaggressions or moments of bias when I see them happening. Having the tools to enable this process is key for companies looking to build diverse, equitable and inclusive teams."
Greenhouse was the first to bring out a holistic technological solution to address bias in hiring. And DE&I remains a top priority for the future of our product offering.
Alex Powell, Director of Product Management at Greenhouse
Using more inclusive language
Alexa Lytle, a former User Experience Researcher at Greenhouse, also played an important role in developing our DE&I product offering. Alexa was tasked with figuring out whether the feature set resonated from a values perspective and validate the ways in which it would be an integral part of our customers' DE&I initiatives.
Alexa's academic experience as a teaching assistant instilled a passion for upholding inclusive and fair practices, especially in the workplace. “I was a student and later a teaching assistant for a college sociology class led by Professor Sherryl Kleinman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The class opened my eyes to how externalized and internalized sexism is in our society," said Alexa.
"One of the topics that really stuck with me was women’s inequality in the workplace. The same qualities that women had historically been knocked down for, men had been praised for."
When I learned my Greenhouse team would be infusing DE&I throughout our product that would reinforce fair judgement of qualities for all people, regardless of their identity, I was elated.
Alexa Lytle, former User Experience Researcher at Greenhouse
Alexa also learned how exclusionary and harmful our daily language can be. "For example, I now use 'y’all' instead of 'you guys' to address a group of people," said Alexa. "It’s more inclusive and it doesn’t reinforce a society in which males are the more ubiquitous gender – a little change that I think can collectively have a big impact. I decided that using inclusive terms in our workplace and getting others to do the same would be part of my legacy at Greenhouse.”
Recognizing lived experiences
Greenhouse President and Co-founder, Jon Stross, has always prioritized the importance of seeing other's perspectives and recognizing each person's lived experience.
“For me, the origin of our DE&I product offerings goes back to when I met my wife," said Jon. "I was continually surprised by how she, a woman of color, perceived the same situations so wildly differently than I did." If Jon described a work situation, for example, his wife's conclusions of who the stars were and who was struggling were sometimes different from his own perception.
"She might tactfully point out an employee who didn’t self-promote was actually a superstar who I wasn’t noticing or advocating for enough. It’s been quite humbling to continuously realize that my biases are far more profound than I recognized – and I realized how the right technology could help individuals support a more inclusive perspective."
Among the many elements of our offering at Greenhouse that strengthens DE&I, Jon pointed out that requiring notes on scorecard ratings (given to candidates after each interview), is a good example of how the interviewer can better recognize the lived experiences of the people they're interviewing while reducing bias.
Jon realized that he had previously been making an overall judgement about a candidate and then backing into the rating. "When I was forced to articulate the evidence I collected per attribute, I realized I couldn’t. This led me to start interviewing more thoroughly to truly gather evidence about each of the attributes I was responsible for."
Making a person aware of their bias enables them to embrace a more inclusive mindset and ultimately strengthens DE&I across the entire hiring process.
Jon Stross, President and Co-founder of Greenhouse
Former Greenhouse Senior Product Designer Caroline Cheung believes that the best ideas come from collaborating with a diverse team. Caroline finds purpose in creating a space where everyone shares the same knowledge of the problem, feels comfortable sharing their ideas and voting on the best ones while avoiding groupthink.
The DE&I product offering from Greenhouse helps create an equal playing field for candidates of all backgrounds by prompting recruiters be more transparent and objective in their assessment.
Caroline Cheung, former Senior Product Designer at Greenhouse
Many businesses are starting to realize that “culture fit” as standard interview criteria introduces a great deal of “similar to me” bias – and are changing their approach to culture interviews to determine how an individual’s experience, traits and unique personality can add to an existing company culture. Greenhouse has gone a step further by making "culture add" interviews an intrinsic part of our structured hiring process.
“The first time I conducted a culture add interview at Greenhouse, I was paired with a male-identifying colleague from another department," said Caroline. They were in the same room and followed the same set of questions before individually submitted our scorecards after the interview.
"I felt confident giving a "strong yes," thinking my colleague must have given a positive rating as well. It turned out he gave a “thumbs down” in his scorecard which made for an interesting discussion between us – I saw a lot of positive qualities in the candidate, while my colleague saw the exact opposite." The important part of this process is that both team members had the autonomy to submit their answers separately, enabling them to embrace different opinions without influencing each other.
"This experience made me realize how two people can perceive the same experience so differently due to our own biases," said Caroline, "and perhaps my assessment was reflective of how much of myself I saw in the candidate which doesn’t always translate to how qualified they are for the role. This helps everyone remain objective."
Nitya Bhaskar, a former Product Marketing Manager at Greenhouse, also helped bring the original DE&I product offering to market. With a background in tech, Nitya has witnessed the industry grapple with the question of how to meaningfully impact change when it comes to DE&I.
“There are plenty of reasons why companies might choose to make diversity a priority, from building a stronger business, to 'doing the right thing,' to avoiding negative PR backlash," said Nitya. "But to me, the most important outcome of these initiatives is representation."
"In my experience as an Indian American, it can be difficult to navigate the cloudy realm in which your status as a minority is subtly enforced in different ways," said Nitya. She explained that even companies with the best intentions can stumble when it comes to creating an inclusive environment – and that rapidly becomes apparent when organizations let imbalance in this area spiral into larger problems within a company. "I'm passionate about diversity and inclusion and in particular – and the ability to have an ongoing dialogue to broaden my perspective."
I value company leaders who genuinely care about DE&I and who continuously work towards building a culture in which every person can thrive.
Nitya Bhaskar, former Product Marketing Manager at Greenhouse
Nitya explained that in a work setting, promoting representation directly influences her career. "Representation enables the growth of foundational relationships and guidance from mentors who can share their perspective on experiences similar to mine," said Nitya. "I find that increased representation can create a virtuous cycle, giving people from underrepresented backgrounds access to role models that they can lean on and learn from.”
Greenhouse is committed to strengthening DE&I
Ensuring that our customers have the tools to support DE&I throughout their hiring process will only continue to occupy our interest and passion as a technology company in the talent space.