Our roadmap to support Black software engineers
Unfolding events across the country have laid bare the racial injustice that has pervaded our culture for centuries. We stand unequivocally with the Black community in the fight against racial injustice and oppression. Black lives matter.
Hiring is the on-ramp to new job opportunities and wealth creation. When anyone lands a six-figure software engineering job, the impact for themselves, their family, and their community is significant and long-lasting. But hiring faces the same access gaps and systemic biases found across our society, making it especially hard for Black software engineers to access jobs in the technology sector, and enjoy the economic empowerment those jobs create.
Karat was founded on the vision of bringing greater fairness and access to the hiring process. We focus on a crucial moment in that process, the interview. We are proud to have a culture of celebrating diversity, inclusion, and fairness. Our team has expressed its passion over the years by being thoughtful about how interviews are created and conducted, hosting diversity and inclusion events like Real Talk, and conducting workshops and interview practice for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
While supporting diversity in tech is a core value for Karat, we recognize that our work thus far for the Black community has just been one step in a longer journey. We must do more. Our efforts for the Black community must have the same focus and energy as our core strategic priorities, complete with budgets, goals, and accountability.
Today, we are sharing our roadmap across three targeted areas: access, bias, and inclusion. As a solutions company, deeply understanding customer problems and learning how to fix them is in our DNA. As we continue to listen and learn, we will refine our approach to achieve a greater positive impact for the Black community.
On average, only 5% of software engineering candidates in the tech industry who apply through company career sites are invited to interview. Candidates who lack robust professional networks are often excluded, and this disproportionately impacts Black candidates.
Compounding the problem, our work with HBCUs revealed that more than 60% of computer science students at those schools had no direct exposure to technical interviews prior to entering the job market. This lack of familiarity with the process can exclude many otherwise qualified candidates from getting top jobs. Moreover, when early-career Black engineers are invited to interview, the pressure can be enormous and a barrier in and of itself. As one computer science student from Howard University recently shared with us: “We don’t have the luxury to fail.”
To address these challenges, we will provide $1 million worth of technical interview practice for Black software engineers over the next year.
We will kick off a new practice interview initiative next month, starting with 500 software engineers in partnership with the National Society of Black Engineers, INROADS, and InternHacks. Each engineer will receive a remote mock interview with a professional Karat Interview Engineer. After every interview, we will provide feedback to help engineers prepare for their upcoming job opportunities, and we will seek feedback from these developers on how we can better support them through this program.
The learning from this first wave of interviews and partnerships will help inform how best to scale our program. Our aim is to provide access to thousands more Black engineers on their journeys toward high-paying software engineering jobs.
We know there is significant, persistent discrimination against Black candidates throughout the hiring process.
Our mission is grounded in reducing bias by delivering fair interviews. To date, we have approached that mission through a highly structured process that includes rigorously testing interview questions for bias, separating the evaluation from the final recommendation, and quality controlling our interviews.
But bias is not just relegated to how companies evaluate candidates. Bias also exists in what companies evaluate. Traditional technical interviews typically focus on what candidates already know how to do, but less on their potential and what they are capable of learning and improving upon. This approach adversely impacts engineers who did not have access to job experiences and learning resources earlier in their lives.
We will build novel interview formats that reveal what the industry often overlooks. We will develop dynamic interview components that control for an engineer’s prior work experience to better factor in potential and learning trajectory, especially for early-career jobs (0-6 years of work experience). We will partner with our clients to incorporate these new interview formats into their recruiting process and we will measure the impact on hiring.
Over the past few weeks, we have reflected on our purpose at Karat. We dedicated our last three company all-hands meetings to this conversation. We grieved as a community. We took time off work to read, listen, and talk about systemic racism and how we can effect change. We have been overwhelmed and inspired by the voices of Karateers (our employees) and by our community of Interview Engineers who are asking how they can help.
We are keenly aware that there are not enough Black voices at our table driving these efforts. If we are building the hiring systems of the future, it is imperative that people of color are included in everything we do.
We will examine and baseline our own processes and structures, from hiring and interviewing to promotion, development, and compensation. Doing so will help us to set quantifiable hiring and employee experience goals that further grow our Black community, from leadership to internship.
Over the coming months, we will be sharing more of our learnings and progress against this roadmap. We know that there are many people across the industry who are as passionate as we are, and we look forward to engaging and learning with new and existing partners, clients, and leaders on this journey.
We welcome input and engagement directly if you have interest and ideas that can help us to become a greater platform for change as we support the Black community.