Behind the product: How a diversity of experience created greenhouse inclusion

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Sonder: n. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, and worries—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Everyone has a story.

The world of work - and let’s be honest, the world in general - looks very different from a year ago. Our differences are bringing us together in a way that is challenging societal norms and workplace behaviors that don’t serve underrepresented groups. And the research shows bias and a lack of diversity is detrimental to businesses.

Welcome to the era of inclusivity.

I’ve only been working here at Greenhouse for four months, and in that time I’ve had a crash course in the way our working lives are evolving. Greenhouse itself is a company which is intrinsically interested in empowering other companies, and its own employees, to think and act with fairness, inclusion and kindness at the forefront of all we say, do and create.

Today, we announced a new technology that will enable companies to operationalize Diversity & Inclusion (D&I;) hiring practices in their organizations - Greenhouse Inclusion created in partnership with Paradigm. The entire team at Greenhouse is incredibly proud of the product we’ve developed, the industry’s first holistic tech solution which helps companies scale inclusive practices throughout every aspect of the hiring process.

The goal to build more diverse teams is an admirable one. One that is good for business from a financial perspective, and good for society on a fundamental level. And the team that made Greenhouse Inclusion possible is one consisting of diverse backgrounds and opinions, and a multitude of various life experiences and perspectives.

I’m privileged to share their stories with you.

Unintentionally Passing and Purposefully Working Towards Change

Alexander Powell is Greenhouse’s Product Manager for Inclusion, closely shaping the product and driving its purpose. For Alex, this solution is more than a way to address a business challenge.

“As someone who often has to be explicit about their identity, I’m often in a situation where I am unintentionally passing. Because of this, I’ve been in situations where I am exposed to modern prejudices that are often masked. It has also put me in a position to correct on microaggressions or moments of bias where folks aren’t cognizant of how the things they say and do can impact other people. This has helped shape how I perceive people’s feedback (seeking whatever unconscious bias may be present) and also, perhaps to a fault, has always made me aware that people can be coding their language.”

I asked Alex, how do you think Greenhouse Inclusion will change hiring? The workplace? D&I;? The world, even? The answer is a beacon for the entire Talent industry and for the future of work.

“Honestly, hopefully it changes it all for the better. We’re the first to bring out a holistic technological solution to address bias in hiring; we’re the de facto leaders and we need to set the right path for this. With leadership comes great responsibility, and I hope the market starts paying attention - and that topics around D&I; continue to remain in the zeitgeist - and not play out as just a passing ‘fad.’”

Hey Y’all; A Small Change with Big Impact

Alexa Lytle is a User Experience Researcher, and played an important role in developing Greenhouse Inclusion. Alexa was tasked with figuring out whether the feature set conceptually made sense and resonated from a value perspective to validate whether it would be an integral part of client’s own D&I; initiatives.

Her academic experience as a teaching assistant instilled a passion for upholding inclusive and fair practices, especially in the workplace.

“In college, I was a student, and then later a Teaching Assistant for a Sociology course called, “Sex and Gender in Society” with Professor Sherryl Kleinman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It opened my eyes to sexisim in society - both externalized and internalized. One of the topics that really stuck with me was women’s inequality in the workplace, a reality that might soon become my own. I realized that the same qualities that women had historically been knocked down for, men had been praised for. For example, when it came to emotional intelligence - where women had been seen as “too emotional to make a decision,” men had been seen as being “thoughtful decision makers.” When it came to informed confidence - where women had been seen as “too pushy,” men had been seen as “decisive leaders.”

When I learned my Greenhouse team would be working on a Diversity and Inclusion module that would reinforce fair judgement of qualities for all people, regardless of their identity, I became elated.”

Alexa’s Greenhouse legacy:

“It was as a student in that same class, and in teaching it, that I also learned how exclusionary and harmful our daily language can be. Simple example: I use “y’all” instead of “you guys” to address a group of people. It’s inclusive - it doesn’t refuse to acknowledge anyone who doesn’t identify as a man like “you guys” does - it doesn’t reinforce a society in which men are privileged over women. It’s a little change that I think can collectively have a big impact. Using the term in our workplace and getting others to do the same, that’s my legacy at Greenhouse.”

Family First: A Difference of Opinion Highlights an Industry Need

Our Co-Founder and Head of Product, Jon Stross, has always prioritized families - he was the first product manager for BabyCenter after all. The origins of the Greenhouse Inclusion product is a family affair for him.

“For me, the origin of this product goes back to when I met my wife. I was continually surprised by how she, a woman of color, perceived the same situation so wildly differently than I did. An example in the work context was a discussion about my team at the time. I’d regularly describe what was happening with each person and her conclusions of who the stars were and who was struggling were different than mine. She would tactfully point out it was the woman who didn’t self-promote who was the superstar; the team member I wasn’t noticing or advocating for enough. It’s been quite humbling to continuously realize that my biases are far more profound than I recognized.”

Everyone can play favorites, and that goes for Greenhouse Inclusion features. One element in particular is exceptionally important to Jon.

“Requiring notes on scorecard ratings. Months ago, when the idea was suggested, I started forcing myself to leave a note for each attribute that I was rating. I was shocked at how big a behavior change it created. I realized that I had previously been making an overall judgement about a candidate and then backing into the ratings. When I was forced to articulate the evidence I collected per attribute, I realized I couldn’t. This led me to start interviewing more thoroughly to truly gather evidence about each of the attributes I was responsible for. This was the feature that showed me the promise of this product. A subtle change in the scorecard can make someone aware of their bias and act differently … especially me.”

Adding Objectivity to the Culture

Senior Product Designer Caroline Cheung tries to find the best solution to the problem at hand, and in her opinion the best ideas come from collaborating with a team of diverse skills and experiences. She finds purpose in creating a space where everyone shares the same knowledge of the problem, feels comfortable sharing their ideas and voting on the best ones while avoiding groupthink.

“I’m excited that Greenhouse Inclusion similarly helps create an equal playing field for candidates of all backgrounds, by prompting recruiters to set expectations prior to interviews, and to be more objective in their assessment.”

Many businesses are realizing that “culture fit” is an interview criteria that introduces a great deal of “similar to me” bias. Many companies, including Greenhouse, are changing their approach to culture interviews to determine how an individual’s experience, traits, and unique personality can add to an existing company culture.

The first time I conducted a Culture Add interview at Greenhouse, I was paired with a male colleague from another department. We were in the same room, following the same set of questions, heard the same responses from the candidate, and individually submitted our scorecards after the interview. I felt confident giving a "strong yes", thinking my colleague must have given a positive rating as well. It turned out he gave a “thumbs down” in his scorecard which made for an interesting discussion between us – I saw a lot of positive qualities in them, while my colleague saw the exact opposite.

This experience made me realize how two people can perceive the same experience so differently due to our own biases, and perhaps my assessment was reflective of how much of myself I saw in the candidate which doesn’t always translate to how qualified they are for the role. This has led me to believe that being prompted to justify our decisions with relevant examples helps us be more objective in our thought process.”

Representation is an Expectation

Nitya Bhaskar is a Product Marketing Manager who works to craft the story behind the product and bring it to market. Her career has been in tech, so she’s witnessed the industry grappling with the question of how to meaningfully impact change when it comes to diversity and inclusion. For her, it comes down to one important factor.

“There are plenty of reasons why companies might choose to make diversity a priority; from building a stronger business, to 'doing the right thing', to avoiding negative PR backlash. But to me personally, the most important outcome of these initiatives is representation.

When I think about the type of environment I want to live and work in, representation is an expectation. In my experience as an Indian American, it can be difficult to navigate the cloudy realm in which your status as a minority is subtly enforced in different ways. Even companies with the best intentions can stumble when it comes to creating an inclusive environment, and we can see from the news and the world around us, that it rapidly becomes apparent when organizations let imbalance in this area spiral into larger systemic problems.

I'm passionate about diversity and inclusion, and in particular, being able to have ongoing dialogues with other people and continually broaden my perspective. I really value company leaders who genuinely care about diversity and inclusion, and who continuously work towards building a culture in which every person can succeed and thrive.

This is so impactful to me in a work setting because promoting that representation directly influences my career, which is built on foundational relationships and guidance from mentors who can share their perspective on experiences similar to mine. I find that increased representation can create a virtuous cycle, giving people from underrepresented backgrounds access to role models that they can lean on and learn from.”

In the last year, business and workplace issues surrounding D&I; have been propelled into the public eye thanks to the #MeToo movement and the deluge of whistleblowers in the tech industry and beyond. This topic will only continue to occupy our interest and passion as a technology company in the Talent space. It’s just the beginning.

Greenhouse Inclusion was developed in the hopes of creating a more balanced work environment. Because the goal of creating a more inclusive world is one we can all support.

To learn more about Greenhouse Inclusion, visit

Dinah Alobeid

Dinah Alobeid

is Director of Content and Communications at Greenhouse. She helps shape and share the Greenhouse brand story and keeps its audiences informed on company news and industry knowledge. Dinah has 12 years of communications experience in the technology field and prior to Greenhouse, she built and ran the communications team at Brandwatch. She's an avid writer, dancer, foodie and book nerd. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.