Study after study continue to prove the value of workplace diversity. Diverse work teams are more innovative, generate more revenue, and make better decisions. They are also more productive and have lower turnover.
Smart companies understand this, and have implemented diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in recruiting and hiring. Given all of that, one would think that discriminatory hiring practices are increasingly and for the most part a thing of the past.
Yet the experience of many minority job candidates belies that presumption. Forbes has reported that, “There is a wealth of research and evidence that suggests that people with more ‘ethnic-sounding’ names experience bias during the hiring process and are less likely to be called back for roles they are qualified for compared to their counterparts.”
While outright racism still exists, it is (thankfully) becoming more rare. The ongoing issues with “name discrimination” today are more often the result of unconscious bias. Once past the hurdle of that initial screen, minority candidates get the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and experience.
After experiencing this type of discrimination, one enterprising woman decided to create a solution. In her words on her website, “I believe that skill and experience should be the scale in which job applicants are judged by. Not race, gender, age, religion, sexuality, or disability status.”
Here’s the story of Abyan Nur and her company, Faceless Pro.
Tom: Hello everybody, welcome to another founders interview on “Webbiquity.” Today I’m joined by Abyan Nur, founder and CEO at Faceless Pro. I met Abyan recently at a BETA Minnesota event. She’s got a fascinating story, so I’m excited to have her here today to share that. Hi, Abyan, how are you doing today?
Abyan: Good. Thank you for having me.
Tom: You’re involved with BETA. Many of the apps there are convenience-based. Even in the HR space, a lot of them are about making the application process go faster, or employee scheduling, or making it easier for employees to coordinate on projects (apps like Branch, or When I Work, or Structural), that sort of thing.
Now, your application is something very different, very important. But it’s got a much bigger purpose than convenience. So I want to let you tell the story.
Bias in hiring hurts both sides. Qualified candidates are denied the opportunity even to interview for opportunities of interest, and hiring companies may not be getting the very best talent if they are excluding candidates based on factors that have absolutely nothing to do with the job seeker’s skills or talents.
Though companies want to attract a diverse talent pool, the best intentions sometimes break down at the individual level. “According to research, employers want to hire people they feel like they can hang out with, or even date!,” notes Abyan.
Beyond that, adds Abyan, “Racism exists, discrimination exists, and then there are unconscious biases we all have. And because of that, it might not be racism or discrimination against a certain type of person, it’s just unconscious bias. Or there’s concern over whether this person will fit in with our workspace.”
Faceless Pro is a job board that masks all personal information from resumes, including name, race, age, gender, and address. It’s designed to help candidates get the best opportunity to compete for interesting roles, and help employers make recruiting decisions based on skills and experience rather than personal, intrinsic factors. It’s built to prevent discrimination in hiring, even due to unconscious bias.
According to Abyan, “Faceless Pro is for both job seekers and employers, though employers pay for the service. It’s a win-win situation because companies get to hire the best candidate for the job, and prospective employees, who may have been discriminated against in the past, get more opportunities to be interviewed.”
Year founded: The idea came in 2017, but the year founded is actually 2021.
Funding rounds: Self-funded to date.
Company size: Thanks to Twin Cities Startup Week, we have more than 500 job seekers signed up, four paying customers, 10 near-term employer prospects in the pipeline.
Tom: You’ve already touched on this, but what inspired you to tackle this problem?
Abyan: Back in 2017, when I was looking for a job, I was using a famous platform that we all use, and I applied to about two dozen jobs. I only heard back from three; I was overqualified for all of them and one I didn’t even apply for, they just found my resume online.
I knew there was something wrong with that because out of almost two dozen jobs that I applied for, only two got back to me. So, I changed my name on the job platform to Abby Tucker and used the same resume, reapplied, and almost instantly, every single one of them wanted to interview me.
I think unconscious bias, racism, discrimination, plus a lot of politics in the media at the time, all influenced that. And that’s where Faceless Pro comes from. So it was a good thing that it happened, in a way.
Tom: I’m sorry that happened. But you’ve built something positive out of that experience. As you’ve gotten started, begun getting out and talking to people about this, landed your first paying clients, what have been the best tactics or channels to get the word out and generate interest?
Abyan: Getting candidates on board is easier than getting employers onto the platform. For a year and a half, I’ve been contacting Minnesota companies and telling them, “We’re here to help you find the best candidates by masking their personal information, so you get the most qualified hires without bias in the process.” And we haven’t had much success, until recently.
It’s one of those things that just blew my mind. I honestly thought, with all the stuff that’s going on, a lot more companies would be on board. But they’re not. So, one thing I have been doing the past two months is contacting companies using the same platforms or the same avenues that I have been for the past year and a half.
But this time, instead of saying, “Faceless Pro is blah, blah, whatever,” what I’m saying now is, “We would like to help you with your DEI goals.” And we’re actually getting a lot more responses now compared to before, which is again crazy. So yeah, we’re using social media, cold calling, cold emailing, and LinkedIn—a lot.
Tom: I realize you’re still fairly early in your entrepreneurial journey, but if you would, finish this sentence: Knowing what I know now, if I were starting over today, what I would do differently is…
Abyan: I would have started networking a lot faster. You know, I might have an idea but networking within different companies and getting to know a lot of people would have helped me along the way. What I did is I stayed silent until I got the product out, and then I started going to these networking events and started meeting people.
I should have been doing that along the way. So that’s one thing I would have done. Also keeping my job, I should have never quit too early.
Tom: Oh, no! Well, hopefully, this post helps it to take off.
Abyan: I hope so. I feel like it is going up. So yes, in the next year or so, we’ll definitely be at a better place.
Tom: Excellent. And just spring boarding off that last question, what advice would you offer to an entrepreneur like yourself just starting out today?
Abyan: Honestly, before you start working on whatever the business is, first and foremost, learn as much as you can about the industry. And secondly, again, networking because in today’s world it’s not about what we know, it’s about who we know. It’s always been like that, honestly. So getting those two things done right away would be amazing for them.
Tom: Fantastic. Thank you, Abyan. Great discussion. Final question, where can people connect with you and learn more about Faceless Pro?
Tom: Excellent. Well, thank you Abyan, really enjoyed the discussion today. And have a great week.
Abyan: Thank you. You too.
Enjoy this post? Check out every founder interview on Webbiquity, the B2B marketing blog, so far.