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

Leaders Must Exercise Courage to Lead Inclusively, Guest Blog by Cecilia Orellana-Rojas, Ph.D.

Today more than ever, we need business leaders who assert their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the community.

Researchers at Harvard Business School and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business have documented an emerging trend of CEO activism. This activism is propelled by the nation’s increasing political polarization and the expectations of millennial employees, who want their leaders to lead successfully in business while promoting company values externally. Millennials yearn for authenticity and refuse to check their values at the doors of their organization. When company values such as diversity and equality are transgressed in the larger society, they expect their leaders to step up and uphold these values in the community.

Courage as a Trait of Inclusive Leaders

What are the traits inclusive leaders must have to lead successfully in today’s environment? Deloitte Australia undertook a study to identify six signature traits of inclusive leaders. Drawing from the experience of best-in-class leaders in diverse sectors across the world and subject-matter experts, the study identified courage as one of these signature traits. A highly inclusive leader is committed to lead with courage by speaking up and challenging the status quo while recognizing his or her personal limitations.

As a leadership trait, I find courage serves as an anchor to ground leaders in going beyond the old conventional wisdom of staying neutral on social or political issues. Today, we are experiencing moments that challenge leaders at all levels. Moments where courage is a most important trait, from my perspective, as we must speak up and challenge conditions that endanger inclusion in our workplaces and communities.

In the Star Wars movie “The Force Awakens,” General Leia Organa courageously leads a diverse team to defeat the evil Kylo Ren (see my blog on Leadership Lessons from Star Wars)

Leading with Courage

Amidst events that have shocked and impacted the nation, we see clear examples of courageous leadership across industries. In 2017, Gregory L. Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, made a public statement regarding his decision to remove and relocate confederate statues after the events in Charlottesville. “The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history,” he said. “But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres.”

The same year, after the president’s decision to end DACA, more than 400 business leaders signed an open letter urging the president and Congress to protect Dreamers. Among them were the CEOs of Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Best Buy, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. As Tim Cook, CEO at Apple tweeted, “250 of my Apple coworkers are #Dreamers. I stand with them. They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values.” (Note from Stan – I featured Tim Cook in my blog about significant business impact of Tim Cook coming out as a gay man.)

CEOs are now wading into controversial issues. In 2016, PayPal’s CEO Dan Schulman took a stand against North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill by pulling the company’s plans for a global operations center that would have employed 400 in Charlotte. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Schulman said that “with the passage of the bill, it really goes against the values of our company and we just couldn’t proceed forward.” Other companies with operations in Charlotte also expressed opposition to the bill including Bank of America and American Airlines.

Most recently, twelve CEOs of major companies spoke out against the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy, which has resulted in the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents. Money reported that CEOs from Google, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Chobani, and Cisco condemned the policy as “heartless, cruel, and immoral.”

In all these instances of courageous leadership, there is one common thread that supports the leader’s action – alignment with core values of the organization and our nation. We see leaders as the linchpin for inclusion at all levels, including the larger society. With courage, business leaders today are taking personal risk to raise their voice involving social issues that affect us all and providing a venue to resolve these issues.

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Cecilia Orellana-Rojas, Ph.D., is vice president of strategy and research for the National Diversity Council. She coordinates the NDC’s DiversityFIRST certification program, of which I am a faculty member. I enjoy working with Cecilia and her deep understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the business and educational world, as well as the intersection of inclusion and leadership.