How We Hire At Avo
Stef Olafsdottir

Stef Olafsdottir

August 13, 2020

How We Hire At Avo

Every application is reviewed blind to ensure fairness.

Avo is committed to hiring talent of diverse backgrounds because not only does the data now demonstrate the business validity of having an inclusive workplace, but because it’s the right thing to do. 

With Systematic Structures Against Bias

It is one of my deep passions to combat the unconscious bias that most of us have (I recommend taking the Harvard managed test for unconscious bias). Unfortunately, as Iris Bohnet discusses in In What Works: Gender Equality by Design, it’s difficult to rewire our brains. She even refers to research showing how we subject ourselves to our pendulum swinging backwards whenever we try to educate ourselves (much like we think we deserve a break from being unbiased after the hard work of learning how not to be biased). Instead, the most efficient tool to combat bias is to structure hiring and compensation processes so we remove any opportunity to act on bias. 

When we looked into how we could make this a reality for hiring at Avo, we found Applied. It’s a  platform designed following best practices to prevent the opportunity for unconscious bias. Instead of focusing on the person’s background, the Applied process asks the candidate to reflect on situations related to the role, and enables a structured, unbiased review of the person’s potential and ability.

How We Use Applied At Avo

These questions outline situations that may come up – directly or indirectly related to the role. Some of the situations are complicated, and this is a great opportunity to shed a light on how aligned Avo and the candidate are in how to handle them. The answers are then anonymized and randomized for a blind review.. It means that each answer is reviewed individually, without us knowing anything about the candidate, or their other answers.  

When hiring for Growth Marketing we asked what recent campaign for a technical product stood out to them. When hiring for Product Designer we ask how to respond to a customer feature request or inconsiderate feedback from someone in a leadership position. When hiring for Infrastructure Developer we ask how they’d address a design issue in the core data model.  

It’s our job as founders to find highly skilled individuals for each and every role. It’s hard to adequately account for one’s own biases, even when acknowledged and worked against. And as a data scientist, I believe in a systematic solution. That’s why Avo chose Applied’s blind process as a way to ensure fairness throughout the process, which is really important to me, personally. 

Working against bias is more than addressing the obvious gender and race discrimination we face in the tech industry. It’s also a matter of making sure our culture is accessible to anyone who does good work, and good work will be celebrated no matter who does it. There are also those who feel like they might not fit a stereo-type of the industry, or those who live far away from tech-centric cities. And even still, some feel like they may have never been given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills. 

We find that with this process, we’re able to really get a sense of the person’s fit for the role; removing any bias we might have had, consciously or subconsciously, on the person’s age, gender, sexuality, race, nationality, location, or background. 

What ultimately matters is we’re able to hire the right people, fast, and that the people we want to work with are willing to go through this process with us. 

What do the applicants think? 

The feedback we’ve received so far has been outstanding. 9 out of 10 would recommend this process – and that includes a lot of people we could not hire. To exemplify, here are a few anonymous quotes from people who have gone through this process:

"I wish more companies assessed their candidates this way. I hope this eliminates bias."

“Just applied, I LOVED that application process"

"That fact y'all are actually testing their knowledge is amazing and not just judging a book by the cover, or wellperson by a piece of paper (resume!). I like the alternative approach of blind question-answer review and screening for hiring bias!"

"I totally enjoyed this application process compared to other application formats. I'm reflecting and thinking based on the given scenarios. I have learned a lot and I love it."

We find this dive into our candidates’ problem-solving skills, which ultimately is what we’re hiring them for, has been a huge success. Aligning on ability seems fairer than judging someone based on what they look like or the logos on their CVs. And we found that the people we’ve met in our hiring process love that we let their work stand for itself; regardless of their background, where they’re from, or what they’ve done in the past. 

My personal goal for 2020 was to maintain a gender balance in Avo through our 2020 hiring. Now we’ve succeeded in making sure more than 50% of our team is female identifying. This is a rare feat, which I’m proud of. I also understand that this means it’s time to set more aggressive goals. It is imperative to my co-founder, Solvi, and myself, to continue to build inclusive culture at Avo.

– Stefania Olafsdottir
Avo CEO and co-founder

What are you waiting for, we are hiring for two roles! 

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