Most people who work for Uber don't really work for Uber -- the ridesharing service insists its hundreds of thousands of drivers are independent contractors, not employees, no matter how many of them may disagree. That fact notwithstanding, Uber actually does quite a bit of honest-to-God hiring.

Already, the company has more than 5,000 employees, and Uber expects to house an additional 2,300 in its upcoming Oakland, California campus alone. Keeping up with all of that hiring is no easy task, and that is why among its Silicon Valley peers, Uber is one of the companies that is most willing to try new tools for hiring.

As a reporter covering tech diversity, I'm often approached by companies that tout innovative solutions that companies can use to improve their hiring methods, and quite often, Uber is among the companies mentioned as a client for these hiring solution startups.

Creating New Talent

Just last week, the company entered into a partnership with Ironhack, a coding school based in Miami, to offer $100,000 in scholarships for Uber drivers and riders who are interested in learning how to code. The money will be able to provide two students with full scholarships and an additional 50 students will receive partial scholarships. For Uber, this partnership could serve as a potential pipeline of talent. For the company's drivers and customers, it presents an opportunity to steer into a tech career.

"For the next generation of professionals, it'll be fundamental to move up the value chain," says Ariel Quinones, co-founder of Ironhack. "And what better way of moving up the value chain than by being the creator, the designer, the architect of those applications and technologies that are becoming the disrupting forces?"

The deadline for the scholarship application is Dec. 21.

Discovering Talent

Beyond coding bootcamps, Uber also keeps games as a tool in its recruiting repertoire. No, really.

Uber is a client of CodeFights, a service used by programmers to refine their skills and face off against their fellow developers. Coders take to the website to compete against others and prove who is the better engineer. It's the equivalent of professional soccer players playing soccer as a form of leisure, says CodeFights CEO Tigran Sloyan. But it's also an excellent way of spotting talent.

When coders aren't facing off against other humans, they can use CodeFights to take on bots for companies that are looking for new programmers. These bots are based on the skills of coders who already work for a company, so they serve as a litmus test for spotting potential talent. Coders face off against the bots in a demo-like experience where they must prove that they are as skilled, or more skillful, than a simulated programmer. If a coder can beat a company's bot, they are deemed worthy of consideration. CodeFights will ask the engineer if they would like their information shared with Uber for a potential hire.

"CodeFights gives Uber exposure to the hundreds of thousands of skilled developers on the platform and allows them to remove any biases associated with recruitment through blind hiring," says Sloyan, whose company charges its clients a 15 percent equivalent of an engineer's salary whenever a hire is made. "This allows them to judge the candidates only by skill versus gender, race, age, pedigree, etc."

Similarly, Uber also uses HackerRank, another website where engineers strut their skills. HackerRank connects Uber with candidates then presents the candidates with coding challenges that are used to vet their quality as engineers. "Uber is an innovative company, so they have the blessing and the curse of getting tons of applications when they post jobs," says Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and CEO of HackerRank. "We're helping them quickly assess skill up front and identify the best candidates by using customized coding challenges at the first step of the interview."

Finding Diverse Talent

Uber is also working with startups designed specifically to help tech companies when it comes to identifying diverse talent. It is a client of Door of Clubs, a Boston startup that features more than 2,000 career-focused clubs at universities across the U.S. that companies like Uber can contact through the service. These can be clubs such as UC San Diego's Academic Connection of Engineers or the Society of Women Engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"They've used us to get to certain diverse clubs, engage with their members, and get that access to get students interested in Uber," says Door of Clubs CEO and co-founder Pranam Lipinski.

Taking Proven Talent

Beyond coders, Uber is innovative with recruiting for business-side talent. The company, for example, is a client of Hired, which is a tool that has become popular among Silicon Valley companies that are looking to poach candidates from their rivals, to put it bluntly.

Whereas a headhunter agency might offer a company with one or two candidates, Hired instead serves as a marketplace where companies can find a large number of candidates that fit the criteria they are looking for. These candidates are junior through senior-level professionals who are looking to advance their careers and move on to other companies discreetly. The startup vets the candidates on its service and then routes them to companies that could be a good fit. The tool can be especially useful when it comes to overcoming geography as a limitation in hiring. Hired can connect Uber with candidates beyond the Bay Area who are qualified and would be willing to relocate.

"It says a lot about them being an innovative company," says Courtney Montpas, Hired's vice president of global accounts. "They are finding and using the best tools possible to find the best talent."

Uber also works with Vettery, which is a rival of Hired's. Vettery, headquartered in New York, connects Uber with a pool of candidates who have been pre-vetted (hence the name) for being up to par with the company's requisites.

"To hire the best candidates, you need to reach out to candidates through a variety of channels," says Vettery co-founder Brett Adcock. "Vettery is always seeking out new, underrepresented pools of talent that employers may have a tough time reaching."

Published on: Dec 20, 2016