An innovation in Diversity Recruiting!

Raymahl Sutton, CEO & Founder of Applyable, Inc.

Since I facilitate the module on Best Practices in Diversity Recruiting for the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST Certification Program, I am always on the lookout for innovations in this space. And last month at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s first annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference, I found one; Raymahl Sutton, Founder of Applyable Inc., a panelist in one of the sessions I attended. His points were so compelling that I later I met him in some shared office space of a Raleigh Think Tank facility to discuss his venture to address implicit bias in hiring.

Stan: Raymahl, thank you for sharing your story at last month’s event. So was that the catalyst for forming this company?

Raymahl: Yes! After I graduated from NC State with my degree in Polymer & Color Chemistry, I circulated my resume with no bites for 9 months. A recruiter I scheduled a meeting with reviewed my resume and suggested I change my first name of Raymahl on the resume to Ray, and within 2 months I had an offer. I then realized that there could truly be implicit bias in resume review including impact of ethnic sounding or non Anglo-Saxon names.

Stan: So what was your journey after starting work in the pharmaceutical industry?

Raymahl: Yes, I had seven successful professional years. But then in 2015, I saw a television special about issues with diversity hiring in Silicon Valley on CNN, and I felt that this was an issue that needed to be addressed and that I could do something about it.

Stan: So what happened next?

Raymahl: In my little bit of spare time, I researched issues in implicit bias in the recruiting process – how things like names, colleges attended, previous companies worked for, etc., can introduce bias in applicant evaluation, and even trump key skills or ability to succeed in the position. I then took some computer programming courses so I could prepare myself to design software that could evaluate resumes while removing these biasing factors. Eventually I left my Project Manager position so I could full time launch my new company, Applyable.

Is your recruiting process helping or impeding building a successful diverse workforce?

Stan: How will the Applyable system work?

Raymahl: First, when companies post their jobs on our site and applicants submit their information and responses to screening questions, our system creates a decluttered resume that removes names, ties to gender, ethnicity, age etc. Second, our system evaluates the decluttered resume to present the hiring companies a strong diverse list of qualified candidates to interview. The names, schools, etc can then be provided later, but now we’ve neutralized the human error of the unconscious mind in these preliminary stages.

Stan: So what is next for Applyable? Are you looking for clients?

Raymahl: Right now we are in a pilot program with the county and city of Durham, North Carolina and working on creating an early adopter program with several smaller and medium size enterprises to collect more user feedback and fine tune our solution for a broader launch. I’ll eventually be seeking some venture capital for this next step in growth once we prove our value.

Stan: How can my readers learn more about your work and keep up with your progress?

Raymahl: Yes, they can check out my website, And of course I can be emailed at [email protected] or called at 910-284-1304. My web site is a great place to start since it explains the business case for a diverse workforce, human error and the cost of bad hiring, and more about the Applyable approach.

Stan: Raymahl, thank you for your time. You are indeed addressing a huge business need with your venture, and I look forward to following up as you prepare to launch on a larger scale.

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Please also read my earlier two-part blog series on implicit or unconscious bias:

Seven Biases in the Workplace – Let’s Be Brutally Honest About It!

More About Unconscious Bias – A Guest Blog by John Luecke

Seven Excuses for HR Leaders not doing the Strategic

So what is YOUR excuse for not doing the strategic?

OK, as an HR consultant who focuses on diversity and career development programs for corporate clients, it is time for me to vent. I so often hear human resources professionals I network with discuss how important their roles are in terms of the strategic success of their companies. One key area that often gets discussed is talent retention, engagement and development. As the number of baby boomers retiring is larger than new talent coming out of school, HR practitioners are worried about a labor shortage and retaining their top talent.

But then when it comes time to invest in cost effective low-effort initiatives to retain their talent, I hear excuse after excuse after excuse.

Here are my top 7:

1) I can’t focus on that now, we are in the middle of … (you name it – annual enrollment period, annual performance review cycle, etc.) Every month there is a different urgent item or a fire to put out. HR leaders need to make time to focus on the strategic.

2) I cannot get any budget for it. Yes, you do need to show a dollars and cents business case for any investment you make, and HR needs to be better with the financials. Especially for programs that reduces employee turnover, a strong business case with excellent return on investment is quite simple to make.
3) We are in the middle of a merger or acquisition. I get this one a lot. Business does not stop simply because you are integrating a new company into an existing one. Mergers and acquisitions are almost typical in business these days. In fact, a merger may be the ideal time to introduce some new programs that can bring both teams together. Read my previous blog on diversity, career development and mergers & acquisitions.

4) We just got new senior leadership. Another one I hear far too often. Again, business does not stop because new leadership is coming in. Instead of sitting on your hands and doing nothing, perhaps starting a new project that engages employees and improves morale will impress your new executive!

5) We just invested in a whole new HR system so can’t do anything else. Actually a good solution may be able to fold in well with a new HR system and may actually enhance it and drive additional employee usage. Be creative and keep your mind open about this.

6) We don’t use outside consultants. Often creative innovative solutions can be delivered by consultants far more cost effectively than hiring additional staff or overburdening your team. Plus if you are overwhelmed timewise (see excuse 1), a consultant can provide much needed help and focus.

7) This is not important to our strategy. Well – this is one excuse that can be accepted. If something does not tie to your strategy, you probably do not want to do it!