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This Startup Makes Hiring Less Biased With AI

by Muriel Vega

“You’re only as good as the team you build.” When asked for advice, leaders often attribute the success of their companies to the team around them and prioritizing hiring  top talent that aligns with their goals.

But once a growing company starts creating hierarchy, it can become harder for HR to hire the right kind of quality talent with those same standards.

A.J. Richichi initially started thinking about this issue within the sports industry. He wanted to help NFL and MLB teams predict which college athletes were going to become successful at the next level — who was real professional star material.

“I turned to psychology, data science, and my background in artificial intelligence to find some correlation between the success of college athletes and the success of pro athletes,” says Richichi.

With this goal in mind, he founded Sentio, a platform that accurately measures the mental makeup and personality of an athlete to help predict their success at the pro level. They gathered a ton of data and raised a small round of funding from family and friends, including one of the owners of the Colorado Rockies

Shortly after, he started to see the potential of the technology for much wider applications beyond sports.

“We transitioned the technology into the business world, where we could use it to help hiring managers, just like sports scouts, predict what candidates were going to be successful at their specific company,” says Richichi. The algorithm uses the company’s top performers as a baseline to find more prospective employees with similar characteristics.

The process itself is simple: the HR manager sends a nine-question survey to top employees, which they can complete via mobile device or desktop. Once the platform receives the responses, it automatically breaks them down into data sets based on sentence structure, punctuation, emoticons, and more using artificial intelligence.

Then the comprehensive personality assessment is used to build a success profile.

“We figure out what your top performers have in common and use that as a benchmark for all future hiring,” says Richichi.

Normally, consultants are brought in for this type of work, and can cost upwards of $500 per candidate, according to Richichi. Sentio offers a much more affordable service for smaller or mid-sized growing companies.

Richichi explains that this platform also integrates into their clients’ diversity and inclusion missions, as it serves to reduce unconscious biases in the hiring process. The hiring manager can send an initial survey to a candidate before setting up an interview to determine whether their benchmark score meets the baseline. The dashboard shows scores with three colors (green, yellow, red) and provides insight to the proximity to the company’s top performers. This may encourage the hiring manager to explore resumes that they would’ve overlooked.

“It’s so early in the process that you don’t have the opportunity to weed out people based off of your own biases. Sentio does a really good job of promoting intellectual and cultural diversity within your success profile,” says Richichi.

He provides the example of his own team, which he calls culturally diverse, but all in line with the company’s core values, work ethic, and passion for Sentio’s product.

The platform works with any of the applicant tracking systems currently available, including Indeed, Monster, Greenhouse, etc. The HR manager can easily upload their information to Sentio to send off the initial assessments.

The Charleston-based startup has clients in multiple markets and industries, from Fortune 500 tech companies to restaurant chains and mechanic shops. They operate on a SaaS model with tiered pricing based on usage.

At the end of 2018, Sentio raised a $750,000 angel round from early-stage investment firm VentureSouth. They are leveraging those funds to continue their rapid customer acquisition through online advertising.

“We’ve been using the same traditional surveys for the last 40-50 years. They’re stagnant. We want to become the thought leader in AI and predictive analytics within the HR tech industry. We are still bridging that gap of people understanding and being comfortable with artificial intelligence, but we can help demystify things.”

“At the end of the day, it’s not magic. It’s science,” he says.

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