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I don't care where you went to school

I care a lot about hiring the right people to join TXI. But I think our version of “right” differs from other companies.

First off, I don’t care what university you went to. Or if you went to university. You can just leave that part off your resume and I will never notice.

What university you went to tells me a couple of things: 1) How well you can answer standardized test questions that research has shown to be biased toward over-represented groups and 2) How much money your family was able to spend for your higher education and/or how indebted you were willing to become for the same experience.

What university you went to tells me nothing about your skills, your curiosity, your passion, your openness to new ideas, your kindness, your dedication, or anything that I vet for when hiring.

“Fancy” Universities

I say this as a person who went to “fancy” universities--NYU (couldn’t hack it, transferred out) and Northwestern, to be precise. Partly that’s because my brain does well with standardized tests, and partly that’s because I’m a US-born white person, a native English speaker, a suburban Midwesterner--all experiences that resonate with the content in standardized tests. I also went to college when Pell Grants were more broadly accessible. Between scholarships and grants and family support and loans, my family and I could make “fancy” university happen. This is an incredible privilege, but those university experiences didn’t make me qualified for the work I do today.

At TXI, we have some fantastic colleagues who graduated from fancy universities. We have some fantastic colleagues who graduated from un-fancy universities, some who attended boot camps, some who didn’t finish college, and some who are self-taught. We have colleagues who went straight from university into a career in tech, and others who produced videos or managed restaurants or worked at detective agencies. (OK, that last one is me. Sadly, it wasn’t as interesting as you’d think.)

Technology vs. Other Work Experience

Where you worked before you came to TXI interests me more than your university experience, but maybe not in the way you’d think. Suppose I see the names of certain large consulting firms, for example. In that case, I might ask you some questions about how you think about work-life balance and how competitive you are with teammates, because you may have internalized some values from a previous employer that won’t work well here. If you’ve worked at certain high-growth start-ups, I might ask you about your approach to inclusion on teams and how you think about support and coaching, because those elements can sometimes get left behind in pursuit of the next big round. Neither of these are disqualifiers by any means--you could very well have found yourself in an environment that didn’t suit you and you’re intentionally looking for a change. But I will ask, because it benefits us both to know that you’re values-aligned with us and will feel like you’re set up for success, as you define it, here.

I’ll ask about your other work experience, too. It tells me a lot if a person was able to grow a single cafe into a small local chain: you take ownership, you have strong business acumen, you understand how to hire and develop people, you have first-hand experience building product-market fit. I have a particular soft spot for former teachers; they have spent their careers learning how best to foster curiosity, nurture growth, and adapt to meet the needs of their students. They’ve dealt with the ever-evolving chaos of a classroom and the bureaucracy of school administration. They have the ability to remain calm through even the most challenging project situations.

Resumes Still Matter

Given all of this, I understand the push for getting rid of resumes entirely. We haven’t made that move because frankly, resumes are both useful (when taken in context) and efficient. They provide concise summaries of people’s professional accomplishments to date (when done well!), which matters because we don’t have time to speak individually to every person who applies for a given role. And as a small company, we often find ourselves seeking someone who not only has the capacity to do something but the experience of having done it before, knowing what works and what doesn’t, where the pitfalls will be. We don’t always have the time and space for someone to learn everything about a role as they go. So seeing a resume that details what you’ve already experienced will help us understand if we think you’ve got the foundation to accomplish what we’re looking for here.

We have, however, evolved our hiring process to be more equitable. First, we don’t have a college degree requirement, for the aforementioned reason that it doesn’t actually mean what you think it means. Second, we have slimmed down hiring to remove our previous “take-home” assignments, which required one-sided unpaid labor from candidates. (Interviews, in contrast, benefit both the employer and the candidate.)

We also include notes in our job descriptions along the lines of, “Don’t hesitate to apply if you don’t have 100% of the specifics listed. If you have relevant experience that you think could make you a great fit for the job, Table XI encourages everybody interested in a role to apply.” This statement counteracts a common behavior where folks from underrepresented groups tend not to apply unless they meet 100% of the criteria in an ad, while folks from overrepresented groups will apply if they meet only some of the qualifications. Speaking of job descriptions, we publish our salary bands there too, so candidates enter negotiations with some compensation expectations already set.

Finally, we use a standard set of interview segments and criteria which, combined with a diverse team of interviewers, gives us what we believe is the most equitable and multi-faceted view of a candidate that we can achieve at our current size and scale.

These processes put us in what we think is a strong position to hire what we think are the right people for TXI: candidates who bring diverse experiences and expertise to solving the toughest problems our clients bring us with curiosity, empathy, ownership, and openness.

Got the right stuff? We're hiring.

Published by Claire Podulka in Culture

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