It’s important for companies to reduce, if not eliminate, bias when hiring - especially in candidate communication.
Diversity hiring starts with writing inclusive job descriptions, which should allow people from diverse backgrounds to apply for the job.
Don't know where to start?
Check out these best practices for using inclusive language in job descriptions, with our inclusive job descriptions examples.
Use gender-neutral language.
Crafting gender-neutral job descriptions can help you reach out to a more inclusive, broad, and balanced selection of applicants.
Unfortunately, gendered words still find their way into many job advertisements.
Research shows that women feel they need to meet 100% of the job requirements before applying, while men often use them after completing only 60% of the requirements.
According to LinkedIn Gender Insights Report, women are more selective when they apply for jobs. They tend to screen themselves out of the conversation and submit fewer job applications than men.
There are millions of highly-qualified female candidates, but you may miss them if your job description has too many male-coded words. And the same happens when you overlook eligible male applicants because you’ve used too many female-coded phrases.
Use gender-neutral words to write job descriptions that appeal to both males and females.
Check out these tips:
1. Use gender-neutral job titles
Job titles are the first thing an applicant sees in your job description, so it's crucial to use gender-neutral job titles to entice candidates to click and read the rest of your job posting.
For example, if you use policeman in your law enforcement job ad, you may deter highly-experienced female police officer candidates from applying to your job advertisement.
2. Use gender-neutral adjectives
Gender bias is not only limited to job titles. It also extends to adjectives used in the company information, responsibilities, qualifications, and requirements.
Using gender-neutral adjectives in job ads helps you reach a broader and more diverse set of candidates.
3. Avoid using “he” or “she.” Instead, use “you,” “they/them,” “people,” or “the candidate.”
You may unconsciously craft your job descriptions, assuming that the position is more appropriate for a male or female.
Using ‘you’ pronoun covers all genders and sexual orientations. It also gives the applicant the impression that they’re being spoken to directly.
In their Freelance Copywriter job posting, Canva uses ‘you’ on its job requirements instead of using him or her:
- You have a good grasp of your local language in terms of sentence construction, spelling, and grammatical structure. And because less than 50% of our community is English-speaking, you consider your output carefully.
- You are meticulous with details, style, and tone, writing with clarity and empathy to deliver what is needed.
- You are quick with ideas, coming up with original template copies that can catch our user’s eye but can still match Canva’s voice and brand guidelines.
Avoid racial bias
Like gender bias, racial bias can be unconsciously implied and often unknowingly when you think about the people you need to hire.
Here are some tips to avoid racial discrimination in your job descriptions to attract diverse candidates.
- According to Ongig, avoid using derogatory terms associated with certain races, ethnicity, and the indigenous group.
- Don't use terms that show bias against immigrants like ‘illegals’ or ‘illegal immigrant’. Instead, use refugee, immigrant, or undocumented immigrant.
- Don’t use ‘English native speaker', since many non-native English speakers can be fluent in this language. Replace it with ‘fluent in English’ or ‘proficient in English.’
Avoid affinity bias
Affinity bias shows when a hiring manager favors a particular job seeker because they have a similar background.
To know and understand the different affinity biases when writing a job posting, read on:
- GPA bias - new graduates are recruited by achieving a grade point average or GPA.
Here’s an example of a GPA bias in a job description for a Data Reporting and Analytics Intern: The requirements include a 3.0+ GPA and a steep grade to achieve, especially for math subjects. In reality, GPA doesn’t fully measure someone’s knowledge.
- College or university bias - some managers may be biased toward candidates from top colleges, especially if they also attended a top university
- Club membership bias - The hiring manager may select the candidate because they belong to the same sorority, memberships, or groups.
- Religious bias - shows when the hiring manager prefers one applicant over the other because they share the same faith or religion
- Location bias - bypassing a candidate because they lived too far away from the job location
Avoid exclusionary language
Your choice of words tells the applicant how inclusive your organization is towards certain underrepresented groups.
Candidates may feel they aren't good enough to apply because of the intimidating language or even feel uncertain of what the position entails.
Adjectives like 'energetic,' 'fast-paced,' or 'who can give 110%' indicate that your company is searching for a young employee who can work long hours.
It could also imply that your company isn't keen on accommodating those with families or that work-life balance isn't necessary.
Your job description should be inclusive of people from all backgrounds: old or young, single or married, or with or without children.
Avoid using buzzwords
During an online discussion exercise, Rutger students were asked to share their biggest concerns about job descriptions. More than 60% of the respondents listed vagueness as their top concern when reading job descriptions.
Some perceived job descriptions as having too much detail, especially those filled with company jargon and buzzwords, dehumanizing the application process.
It's like the organization is trying to recruit a machine instead of a human employee with ideas and the ability to contribute to the culture.
Most industries have jargons that are unique to what they do. And most professionals in those fields learn these terminologies and usage through work experience.
However, job descriptions with jargon tend to exclude potential applicants, such as new graduates or those who reenter the workforce or switch careers.
Examples of jargon, buzzwords, and cliches: ninja, guru, rockstar, game changer, self-starter, wizard, disruptor, disruptor, hacker
In addition, the work benefit ‘‘We offer a positive, fun, and stable work environment” is vague. What does it mean? ‘Fun’ can be interpreted in various ways: it could be ‘beer pong on Thursdays’ or ‘allowing flextime work schedule.’
Focus on actual skills and competencies
Results-based job descriptions help your inclusive hiring efforts because they remove our unconscious biases while writing them.
Instead of posting bullet points of irrelevant qualifications, emphasize the position's daily responsibilities. Sometimes, having a lengthy list of job requirements can scare off candidates, creating the impression that working for your organization could be an ordeal.
In this example from Data Center Technician, job description below, ‘x years’ of experience was removed. Google highlights the actual skills like ‘experience in operating systems and networking protocols’ and ‘computer hardware troubleshooting.’
Consider the specific competencies or accomplishments that come with years of employment and paraphrase the requirements to highlight that.
Clarity helps candidates understand what the role needs and eliminates doubts from both the applicant and the employer.
Describe how you support disabled employees
Avoid language that might discourage qualified disabled candidates from applying and how you support disability in your workplace.
Focus not on the ‘what’ but on the ‘how’ a requirement needs to be accomplished.
For instance, instead of saying ‘must be able to stand for the whole shift,’ replace it with ‘must be able to stay in a stationary position during shift.’
Or, in this example from ‘FT-Receiver/Stocker-Day’ job description, change ‘Minimally must be able to lift 25 pounds without assistance’ to ‘Move equipment weighing up to 50 pounds’.
Write in a conversational tone
A job description written in a conversational tone will encourage more applications.
Write as if you are explaining the job to your friend. Be careful not to sound overly casual because this may lead to candidates doubting if your job is legitimate.
Use straightforward words that are not overly technical. Write in short sentences and paragraphs, with ample spacing to make it more readable, especially on a mobile device:
Aim between eight-grade to tenth-grade reading levels. Use Hemingway Editor App to ensure your job description is readable.
Include salary range
Most job ads don't include the salary range.
However, when you have this information in your job description, you draw in underrepresented job seekers because your organization puts importance on pay equity.
In the minds of the job seekers, you are a trustworthy employer.
Moreover, pay transparency is especially beneficial when hiring women and people of color.
This level of openness indicates your organization's commitment to diversity. In a 2018 study by Glassdoor, salary remains the top factor in what job seekers and employees look for in job ads at 67%.
Include your company’s DE&I statement
Show your commitment to an inclusive workplace by including DEI statements in your job description.
See the example from Accenture:
More than their diversity statement, they are also committed to hiring military and veterans.
They even have military hiring programs dedicated to student veterans, junior military officers, technology apprenticeship programs, and Vetforce.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Johnson have their own DEI mission and vision:
Part of their global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategy is to build a diverse workforce in the future, which stems from understanding and meeting the needs and desires of their varied customers and patients to have a workforce that reflects diversity.
Research shows that inclusive organizations outperform their competitors and generate more revenues. So building an inclusive workplace starts with diversity hiring.
To attract diverse candidates, start by writing and posting inclusive job descriptions that appeal to people of all backgrounds.