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How blind skills challenges can close the skills gap

Sharon Florentine | Sept. 22, 2016
Blind skills challenges are one way to remove both overt and unconscious bias from the technical hiring process.

Janiuk never expected to land a job through CodeFights. Rather her intent was to sharpen her coding skills to be better prepared for a job search. CodeFights pits programmers against corporate bots, debugging tests and logic problems to test their abilities and technical savvy. But it turns out, her skills placed her in an elite group - only 5 percent of users who'd successfully beaten the bots -- and before she knew it, fielded requests for four interviews.

"I didn't actually know I could get a job through the platform. I'd gone in just to make sure I was staying current on my skills. I got an email after I finished the challenges saying only 5 percent of users had done what I did - beaten the corporate bots. The best thing is its skills first; you go in, code, beat the challenges and that's the first thing companies see. It really boosted my confidence and certainty that I'd chosen the right direction for myself," Janiuk says.

Biases don't go away on Day 1

While blind skills challenges are one way to remove overt and unconscious biases from the screening and hiring process, they're just the tip of the iceberg. Biases and discrimination don't stop once a candidate is hired, so while it's laudable that companies are taking this step, there's more to be done, says CODE2040's Monterroso.

"Technical competencies and behavioral competencies are related. Even if you believe you're screening solely for tech skills, you have to understand how you see candidates. If there's a person with whom you have a social connection or are in the same racial, gender or economic group, you're giving off 'signals' that lead you to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to solving these problems; if they don't have that social 'in' with you, you're going to have broad skepticism as to whether or not they can do the work," Monterroso says.

For companies to overcome this, it'll take more than just blind hiring challenges, but it's a good first step, she says. "If you can educate your HR and hiring teams to understand at the top of the funnel what you're looking for, and that tech competencies and behavioral competencies are totally related, then you can better address the technical requirements you need. It all comes down to educating your workforce on the issues at hand," says Monterroso.

 

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