ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is how a hiring process normally works - a hiring manager posts an opening, describes the ideal candidate and then come the resumes. After doing some interviews, the manager has to make a gut decision. Who's the best person for the job? Well, research shows that more often than not managers pick someone whose background is similar to theirs. Brenda Salinas of Texas Standard, a program produced by our member stations in the state, introduces us to someone who thinks that he knows how to get around that problem.
BRENDA SALINAS: Petar Vujosevic was just a regular guy who saw a big problem with the way the hiring system works.
PETAR VUJOSEVIC: There is definitely room to improve how we view talent, how we screen talent, how we engage with talent and how we end up interviewing talent.
SALINAS: By talent he means all the gifted young people he knew that weren't getting job interviews at technology companies because they didn't fit a certain idea of what a good job candidate looks like. They didn't graduate from college, they taught themselves to code or they had a strong accent. Vujosevic thought they could get interviews if there was a way to show what they could do without revealing who they were.
VUJOSEVIC: Right now we are able to do blind auditions for software engineering roles, design roles, marketing roles, communication roles and allow candidates that might on paper not be a good fit, prove that they actually are.
SALINAS: So Vujosevic created a website called GapJumpers where employers post a job along with some sort of challenge, like create a webpage or write a social media strategy. To apply for the job, you just take on the challenge. Vujosevic compares it to his favorite singing competition, NBC's "The Voice."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VOICE")
ADAM LEVINE: What - who just came out there?
CHRISTINA AGUILERA: What's that mean?
BLAKE SHELTON: Yeah.
AGUILERA: I want to know.
SALINAS: Four celebrity judges sit in red super villain chairs with their backs turned to the stage, and then someone things.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VOICE")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) I feel good.
SALINAS: The judges hit a button and turn their chair around. That's the first time they see who's performing, but they've already decided I pick you for my team. It's a blind audition. And that's kind of how GapJumpers works. Jeremiah Reyes is in charge of hiring at Dolby Laboratories. He wanted to spend less time sorting through applications and getting more qualified candidates, including people with nontraditional backgrounds. Last month, a Dolby hiring manager was shocked to discover his favorite candidate came from a community college.
JEREMIAH REYES: Now, the one that we did select, even in our, you know, debrief, you know, he basically said, wow, I think if I just saw his resume on my desk, I don't know if I would've selected him. And so it was one of those aha moments for him that this is a really interesting tool.
SALINAS: Sara Ines Calderon is looking for a job as a developer. I met up with her at her birthday party to ask how the job search was going.
SARA INES CALDERON: I have had experiences where, you know, someone told me flat out we think you could bring a feminine touch to the office. You know, I've been interviewed by people who are literally playing by their phones or leaning back in their seats, putting their feet up on the chair.
SALINAS: Calderon learned to code at an intense boot camp for Latinos. She says the men in her class have had an easier time getting jobs than the women even though they learned the same skills.
CALDERON: I think, overall, when I do go interview, I kind of have I guess what some people would term flamboyant taste in colors and patterns. I do tend to wear very, like, loud and dangly and big earrings. And I have gone in, like, bright green sports coats and things like that, but I still think are professional. They're just colorful.
SALINAS: Calderon was excited to try GapJumpers out, but was disappointed that none of the listings were in her hometown of Austin. She hopes that'll change because she'd like employers to see her work first without noticing that the fingers typing away at a laptop are covered in Frida Kahlo nail decals. For NPR News, I'm Brenda Salinas.