About a year ago I published an article in VentureBeat about fixing the gender gap at Google, and other top internet companies, by hosting anonymous, online competitions to fill open roles within their organization. A year later I'm happy to report the successes of our job competition continue to positively impact our business today. Not only is our female winner making an excellent team member, but she's one of the brightest on my staff to date.

This all started with our decision to fill a need within our organization. We had to fill a client-services executive role, and we had no quick fixes available. Instead of running the traditional application process, and collecting a pile of resumes and cover letters, we decided to host an anonymous, open ended questionnaire, and choose a winner based on merit. The idea was that if we could eliminate any potential for bias, and judge applicants solely on their abilities, we should be able to find the best person for the position in a quick and easy way.

We started by hosting the questionnaire and posting it on traditional job boards. We received over 100 replies, but since each question required a little time and energy to complete, it was easy to find the 15-20 who took the time to fully answer the questions. It's amazing to see how many people take time to actually apply for a position thoughtfully, and how many just push out basic resumes. By hosting thought provoking questions, the most serious applicants separated themselves from the pack.

By the third week we had winnowed down our list to four finalists that we were ready to call for an in-person meeting. All of these applicants had demonstrated a superb understanding for our business and the sector at large, immense creativity and enthusiasm, and upstanding professionalism. Three of the four finalists we had chosen were women. Of those women, one was African-American and another was Asian-American.

I want to take a moment to note that of course it would be naive to think that all contests like this will produce the same results, however, I think it's safe to say that this practice is a step in the right direction. While there is still a significant difference in the number of male vs. female engineering graduates, and while every company might not have these resources at their disposal, I believe it's safe to say that it's worth a shot. If gender bias really can start just from seeing an applicant's name, it's a good bet that anonymizing this process is a start to eliminating those prejudices.

The tech field is known for disrupting outdated ideals in the business world and this is no different. I'm happy to say that not only did we find the right person for the job in the moment, but that we couldn't imagine a more perfect fit for our organization. Whether or not we would've made the same choice under a different scenario remains under question, but I can confidently tell you that we couldn't be happier to have Melody on our team.

Published on: Jun 16, 2015