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  • Writer's pictureGunjan Syal

Unbiased Hiring: Jahanzaib Ansari - CEO, Knockri

Honoring Equity-builders During The Black History Month

Last year, I shared a window into my recent professional journey from transforming one client enterprise at a time, to an ecosystem-wide innovation focus. During this journey, I had the honour of meeting and working with leaders that inspire ecosystem growth for a long-term positive impact to the society. These leaders enable positive changes with every initiative they champion and every decision they make. This is a deeper commitment based on strategic investments and consistent leadership. Their goal is to enable long-term profitable solutions, with real positive impact to the society. These solutions are designed to enable well-being and sustainable lives for the next seven generations in our communities, with a focus on equity-building.

One of these inspiring leaders is Jahanzaib Ansari, Co-Founder and CEO at Knockri. Knockri is an explainable AI-powered solution with a core mission to align diversity and talent acquisition processes. Jahanzaib and I met to discuss the responsible innovation behind Knockri.

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Jahanzaib shared the story behind Knockri, stemming from his own personal struggles through the hiring process with an ethic name. Jahanzaib and his co-founder, Maaz, came to the realization that the talented professionals are often faced with disadvantages due to uncautious and other biases in the hiring process. They decided to address it with Knockri. Buried in this part of the conversation is a key ingredient that enables innovation: the need for authenticity as a leader to recognize and address their own strengths as well as weaknesses.

Jahanzaib: " know your strengths and your weaknesses, and your teams'. So it really creates a very cohesive environment."

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Jahanzaib: "We define success as how many candidates we can screen in a fair and just manner, because our goal is to ensure each and every person applying has a fair shot at the job."

Knockri's success derives from an explainable AI algorithm that screens all candidates fairly. The focus is to bridge gaps between the candidate and the hiring teams, while subsequently removing bias to ensure that the organizations get access to the best talent. Jahanzaib shared how the landscape has changed in the recent years and what drove change towards such solutions, well before the pandemic.

Jahanzaib and I also discussed the huge transformation currently underway in the HR environment. Great resignation and other recent events have contributed to this transformation. The innovations such as Knockri are rapidly building a more inclusive world, with a focus on the candidate experience. Solutions such as Knockri help companies reduce their talent acquisition costs and build a positive ROI culture that supports multivariant solutions.

As Jahanzaib mentioned, viewing technology as an enabler has allowed Knockri to become a positive revenue business case for social good. One thing that I have seen throughout my career is the need for a wide range of perspectives in the organizations and among specific teams.

Your customers will end up looking exactly like your employees. Solutions developed by non-diverse teams lead to limited markets and missed opportunities in the long-run.

If you're not targeting the right groups for your employee base, then how can you expect to work with customers who come from those same background. Groupthink leads to a different type of pandemic among the teams and organizations.

Jahanzaib and I also discussed accountabilities in addressing hiring bias. Jahanzaib explains why traditional hiring assessments have been inadvertently penalizing minority candidates. We also discussed what makes Knockri an ethical solution that supports leaders who want to take charge of actively addressing bias in their recruitment processes. Knockri does not train its algorithms on human-entered ratings and historic datasets, because that can bring in bias.

It is common to use aggregated data as a foundation for impactful business decisions, such as recruiting. Data is an incredibly powerful and useful tool. A focus on data alone is how we lost touch with the real human behind the user as a society, while also inadvertently creating blindspots in our businesses. Jahanzaib and I both agreed that a commitment to be unbiased begins at the highest levels within the organizations - at the boards and C-Suite levels. This is what we need to bridge the human with business, technology and data in the post-pandemic world.

Jahanzaib: "It comes down to utilizing ethically built technology as an enabler for the positive change."

I really enjoyed this authentic, humble and open conversation with Jahanzaib about his past and present with Knockri. So, what's next for the company? An entirely unbiased full-scale recruitment lifecycle!

It is important to assess both the short and long-term impacts the technology will have on the society, collectives and individuals; both directly and indirectly.

This is an important aspect of responsible innovation we practice at GoEmerald and transform this with every disruptive technology use case we enable in partnership with our clients. With an incredibly strong values-driven foundation, I can not wait for the next stage in Knockri's growth.

Until next time, wishing you many unbiased hiring experiences, no matter on which side of the table you are situated.

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At a personal level, I deeply connected with Jahanzaib as a leader and Knockri’s mission. Similar to most minority females with senior++ experience, I've had my name and resume travel down the enterprise org levels, instead of up during recruitment cycles. The leadership level at which women begin the recruiting conversations automatically adds a glass ceiling towards the roles available for exploration at that firm.

It took a while for me to realize that I was raising executive-level items at incorrect levels within an organization, with a lack of direct access to execs. The incentives to bubble up these enterprise-wide discussions, while crediting the source, often do not exist in organizations. People of colour are also more likely to be delegated down when seeking executive mentorship and sponsorship. This creates an uncautious double-bind situation for the minorities. I'm thankful for many allies and mentors who supported my strategies over time to create impact and helped me grow as a professional. If you have a personal story that involves allies, reach out and I would love to celebrate you and the leaders involved.

Tech for good such as Knockri have the potential to make a huge impact and generate value for everyone involved in the hiring process. As we honour the Black History Month, it is important to create an equitable vision for the future of work in our tech-driven society. This is not only responsible but also a profitable strategy for businesses and society as a whole. Let’s collaborate to improve the hiring experience for the next generation of leaders (ooooh... I’m sensing a web3 inspiration coming on!…)

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Video Transcript (autogenerated, unverified)

Welcome to another episode of transformation to innovation hi everyone my name is gunjan from goemerald and transfer this and today i'm so excited to have jahanzaib from Knockri with me hi jahanzaib how are you hi there gunjan thank you so much for having me i'm doing great uh and i'm really excited to be on the show here today thank you so much i'm sure there's a lot of stuff that's happening in your world exciting stuff looking forward to diving into it but first would you mind introducing yourself and knockri as well absolutely absolutely so my name is jahanzaib and i'm the co-founder and ceo of Knockri and what we've built is an ai powered video assessment that eliminates bias from the hiring process and ensures organizations get the best fit talent for the job interview absolutely and you've found so much success right in the in the last few years and since you started this journey it's uh what inspired you actually to create Knockri let's get into that first yeah no that's a great question um because i landed on this not like a a uh like a person that came from hr how we got started off is that i was applying to jobs and i wouldn't hear back from a lot of employers as you know as you all hear i have a long ethnic name just jahanzaib ansari and my co-founder maaz is like why don't you just you know anglicize your name right and as i was applying to jobs you know i wasn't here back a lot and as we anglicized it we went from jason jordan jacob and literally in four to six weeks i got a job wow and so yeah with with that changed name and so with that experience we just felt like like there's so many people that have great talent have great skills but are being overlooked and that there has to be a better solution so i came together with maaz who's my uh co-founder um for my last business as well and whom who yeah whom i've known since like grade nine wow that's amazing yeah and faizal ahmed who is our machine learning scientist and our cto and his father and my father used to work together so we came together as a team uh and we brought on an and uh an industrial organizational psychologist which is pretty much like the correlation of like work performance um somebody who can measure that in a in a very like scientific manner right uh to create mockery that is amazing and what a journey right uh working with your childhood friends and it's almost like a family yeah i mean you know it is uh it absolutely is you know you you you you know each other so well right at this point and you know your your strengths and your weaknesses and vice versa so it really creates a very cohesive environment amazing absolutely so in that environment how do you define success and what is driving your success currently right because a lot of things have changed in the last year and a half you founded Knockri well before pandemic so what's the difference yeah creep endemic post pandemic what's happening now yeah so so so we started we started knocking about four years ago now and you know we've been like championing a more inclusive and like diverse workforce for the past four years however uh with the brutal murder of like george floyd last summer uh and obviously covet as well it has significantly accelerated the adoption of digital assessments such as Knockri and has really put diversity at the forefront of every organization i mean if you take a look even five ten years ago a chief diversity officer was so seldom at a lot of these companies and now it's a huge mandate that has been coming down from the chief executive officer so um you know uh the adoption of the technology has significantly accelerated absolutely so how would you define success inside naukri using that metric that's a it's a great question so we define success as how many candidates can we screen in a fair and just manner because our whole goal is to make sure that each and every single person has a fair shot applying to a job like whether it's gender like race ethnicity sexuality uh etc and that each and every like single person can apply to a job and and feel comfortable uh and and so the we internally like weigh our success in how many candidates we are we are essentially assessing and and how how much we've increased like gender and racial diversity in short list of those candidates for these customers right some of the other like success is a is a is a tactical operational standpoint so the vp of talent acquisition who we work with extremely closely wants their time and cost right to be uh at a minimal as well right so and we can automate that significantly we've done that with several customers right and uh personally speaking i've been having a time of my life working remotely about other people but there's something about even doing interviews remotely that i think a lot of people would appreciate right and we both live in toronto and we have suffered through the traffic so imagine looking for a job and spending time sitting in traffic probably twice as much time sitting in traffic rather than being focused on that conversation with your prospective employer i think there's an roi right there even for the job seeker absolutely absolutely and i think the other piece is that um you know like like that candidate experience is so important right uh and we really make sure that it is an experience that the candidates love um because obviously we want to make sure um that you know nobody feels like um they've been left in this black hole and they don't have this agency to like show themselves and like have a like person-to-person conversation and we want to like really um you know with with mockery what we're able to accomplish is that um a hiring manager or a department head or or let's say like the group head can actually like record their videos as part of the candidate experience so the candidate actually like gets to see each and every single person in their journey uh of of of applying the job absolutely so focuses on skills and capabilities as opposed to your ethnicity your name all of those things which are making us unique but at the same time get get in the way of us getting the job absolutely absolutely so one other thing that i noticed Jahanzaib is when you go to Knockri's website the first thing that you see are words systemic bias hurts and then there's a rolodex of stakeholders so who are the key stakeholders in this business we already talked about candidates we talked about the the recruiting partners right and the firms that you're working with like the vp of talent who would be the other people that are impacted by your business positively yeah so i would say that um it would be twofold right so there are there are are are obviously like the candidates right that are very positively impacted uh and then like secondly it's going to be the organizations right and i'll give you a a a a very like um easy example we worked with the canadian department of national defense amazing and we actually helped them surface 20 like more female candidates in candidates that had disabilities wow scoring in their highest um sorry like scoring their top 20 percent quartile wow and so giving like candidates who get overlooked giving them this agency is such a significant piece for us for satisfaction of our company [Music] and our technology and it's also like scientifically known that more gender and like racially diverse companies tend to perform financially better anyways right so we're helping the candidates that get overlooked and on top of that helping the organizations with improving their bottom line and this is a time for transformation right so if you don't have diversity inside your company you're not going to have perspectives uh one thing that i personally like to say is your customers will end up looking exactly like your employees so if you're not targeting the right group for your employee base then how can you expect to work with customers who come from those same backgrounds right absolutely absolutely no that makes a lot of sense having those like perspectives are so important because it it just like really allows you to cater to like multi-variant right uh uh you know solutions uh and it's you know which which are very hard to um you know are very hard to just come from like one type of a office group absolutely absolutely because group think is very uh pandemic in its own right in that way yeah so one of the questions i wanted to ask you is we put a lot of this responsibility to improve bias and reduce bias on employers right is there something that these other stakeholders or employees um or job seekers should be doing to help with that is there a role for them well well um job seekers are unfortunately at the mercy of the employers right so like job seekers that they can't do much however at an organization level uh the organization can do several things right like companies that we work with a lot of them have unconscious bias training in effect a lot of them are are you know creating like talent pipelines from you know from from like minority groups um and on top of that you you you know utilizing like technology as an enabler so and that is extremely important is to view like technology as an enabler for like positive change and in our case utilizing ethically built technology for like positive change right and and just internally um i think this obviously has to come down from the c-suite but creating this awareness uh and also you know generating you know communication is so important uh just you know as a um as part of any transformation and then obviously like once a tool is adopted just you know reinforcement of that is is is so critical to the long-term success yeah absolutely change management is huge right otherwise your stakeholders will go right back to what they were doing before you introduced any kind of change thing i want to focus on as well you mentioned ethically built technology as an enabler would you please explain a bit more about how you ensure that at nacre yeah absolutely uh so firstly um there is a lot of transformation going on in hr and i'll and i'm gonna give you a brief background actually is when we take a look at the talent assessment landscape there are like three major types of assessments there's a personality one a cognitive based one and a behavioral one and what Knockri is is focusing is on behavioral and and why we're focusing on like behavioral is that personality has no correlation to success predictors on a specific job role so if you if you categorize like somebody as a personality in the hiring process in the pre-selection process right there's no scientific correlation to like success predictor on a job role wow uh in the case of a cognitive assessment there's a high level of correlation however it is known to create the highest amount of subgroup differences which means that some candidates from lower socioeconomic statuses have not been exposed to those type of assessments and they do poorly so a lot of organizations for the past 10 20 30 decades have been utilizing cognitive assessments and by default it's been kicking out minority candidates and what else always ends up happening especially in the in the us that it's the latinx community and it's the african-american community and so with a behavioral assessment is where you know when you take a look at all the research from an io psychology standpoint uh it has the least amount of subgroup differences so we are eliminating adverse impact utilizing behavioral assessments right and it has the highest correlation of like success predictors so that's just the on the assessment side and and what we've done is that like we have objectively taken that science right and like and and like have kind of fed that into Knockri so we are not utilizing any human performance as in human ratings right because because we know that training it on human data can actually like bring in bias you know the algorithm right so uh so making sure that you're objectively trained a model uh without human evaluation is so important right for you to build it out in a extremely ethical manner that is amazing thank you so much for explaining that even with an example it's uh goes to show how we can even keep some of these things in mind right we even look to our historic behavior and say well how can i be more efficient but are you leaving anything out because you don't know what you don't know and you've got your blinders on busy with whatever you've always yeah so that's amazing how are you continuing to innovate inside Knockri and continuing to disrupt the market yeah uh that's a great question so i mean i i would say we are like still at the tip of the iceberg right as you can imagine at the end of the day like we are just a like screening tool right and there's so much systemic bias in the entire hiring process right so we are essentially like taking notary and we we are moving from like talent assessment to actually like providing a tool for the actual in-person interview and then and then moving on to onto talent management right because a lot of organizations come with us and they say okay great like you've helped us like bringing in diverse talent at the early stages right however uh we don't have a lot of executive leadership like that is diverse and and and so we want to create a process like that is internally objective as well right um and so obviously like we are transitioning into the whole life cycle of the employee uh as we innovate further that is amazing i'm so looking forward to seeing what you come up with over there and uh looking forward to it in the news as well thank you so much jahanzaib this has been amazing it's been amazing to have this conversation learned so much and you're welcome and thank you so much for having me um you know hope you have a have a fantastic day


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