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Writing a job description is perhaps the single most important piece of copy that a recruiter or hiring manager has control over. In a short space of text, you need to be able to sell a role, promote your organization, ignite interest, and, crucially, inspire the best talent to apply.
In reality, however, many job descriptions fall far short of this ideal, particularly when it comes to inclusivity. Job ads are often fraught with bias or language that discourages candidates from underrepresented groups from applying. And in a hiring atmosphere where talent and skills are in short supply, companies simply can’t afford to let this slide.
Job descriptions should not just resonate with a particular image of a candidate, but instead be an open opportunity for any worthy applicant to see themselves working in your organization. And no matter what diversity values are espoused from your leadership or brand, if your job descriptions are not inclusive, it’s a clear red flag.
So, let’s remedy this issue!
1. Ensure your job requirements are requirements
Job ads are littered with superfluous role requirements and it can be so damaging when it comes to diversity. In an attempt to find that perfect employee who can do it all, descriptions will list skills, and years or experience quotas that have no real relationship with day-to-day realities of the position. And this can be massively off-putting for talent who will often deselect themselves from proceedings if they can’t match these dizzying and largely irrelevant requirements.
We recently spoke with Christabelle Feeney, Director at Employers For Change, about this and she gave us the example of ‘strong communication skills.’ This is included in almost every job advertisement regardless of legitimate need, and it could be a very alienating phrase for someone who is introspective or identifies as neurodivergent, especially if the role doesn’t actually require this!
You must have clarity on what is truly important for success. We’ve all heard the oft-cited anecdote that men are inclined to apply for a job if they meet 60% of the qualifying criteria, whereas for women, it’s closer to 100%. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot – be truthful about what good looks like for the role.
2. Neutralize your language
Language is probably the area where most change can occur when crafting inclusive job descriptions. According to one of SocialTalent’s DEI experts, Salma El-Wardany: “language informs our behavior.” Words matter. And the ones we use when writing job ads have a huge sway on who applies for a position.
The default argument is around using gender-neutral language – and this is important. Harvard research has shown that words can be masculine and feminine coded, and this can unconsciously impact how people apply. Many recruiters use AI tools, like The Gender Decoder, to identify and remove these biases in job descriptions. And it works – after changing the language in their job postings, T-Mobile increased the number of women in their pipeline by 17%.
However, gender isn’t the only factor to keep in mind when it comes to the language we use. Another rule of thumb is to keep job descriptions free from irrelevant jargon and colloquialisms. English may not be your next star hire’s native tongue – why discourage or confuse them? Keep it simple.
Watch a clip from Holly Fawcett’s insightful course on gendered language in job descriptions, only on the SocialTalent platform:
3. Invest in DEI training
All the best AI in the world can’t make up for recruiters and hiring managers who actually understand the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And if you want to ensure your job descriptions are reliably free from bias and are tailored to attract and include talent from all walks of life, you have to invest in DEI training.
Job descriptions are the first port of call when it comes to creating a truly inclusive candidate experience. So it’s vital that your hiring team has access to up-to-date and consistent training on the matter. Whether it’s about understanding the lived experiences of those from diverse backgrounds, or learning practical techniques to get more people successfully applying to your job adverts, DEI training is a prerequisite.
4. Be open and transparent
Transparency is becoming non-negotiable in so many aspects of the workplace, whether it’s company policy, environmental impact, or DEI numbers. But it seems that job postings are an area that could benefit from a bit more rigor in this regard.
The immediate concern, particularly from the perspective of inclusivity, is disclosing salary ranges. So many job descriptions fail to give any indication on this front, resorting instead to using words like ‘competitive’ to stave off scrutiny. But this only serves to act as a smokescreen. And the danger here is that it plays into biased discussions around what people are worth, rather than paying employees fairly regardless of who they are. HBR has said that pay transparency in a company can help narrow the gender pay gap, foster an engaged workforce, and build trust.
Aside from salary transparency, it’s also important that job descriptions are open and honest in terms of what the role embodies. Don’t over inflate or deceive – be factual about what is required to do this job successfully. SocialTalent’s candidate experience expert, Andrew MacAskill states:
“If you want more diverse shortlists, then think about every line you put in that job advert. Because every extra bullet point reduces the opportunity for the advert to feel like an inclusive invitation to apply.”
Read our article about the importance of pay transparency to learn more.
5. Show your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion
In many cases, job ads are the first impression that potential employees will have of your organization. So it pays to put your best foot forward and demonstrate clearly how committed you are to diversity, equity, and inclusion. And we’re not just talking about a throwaway, ‘we are an accepting organization who doesn’t discriminate’ line at the end of the posting – you must go further than this. Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t use diverse stock imagery if this doesn’t reflect your organization. It’s tokenistic and should be avoided.
- Encourage candidates to apply even if they don’t meet every single requirement.
- Ensure your job ad (and website) is accessible to all. There are plenty of tools that can diagnose this for you.
- Link to your dedicated DEI page so candidates can see your values in action.
- Seek input! Allow ERGs and underrepresented employees to periodically review job descriptions to make sure nothing is being overlooked.
According to a report conducted by Textio, biased language in job descriptions for big tech companies has increased by 70% in the past 3 years. As we endeavor to create more inclusive work environments, it’s important to remember to keep iterating and improving even the most seemingly innocuous processes. Job descriptions hold a lot of power and can be a hugely beneficial and practical component of an effective DEI program – but only if you put in the work.
SocialTalent provides tailored DEI training to create truly inclusive hiring processes. Get in-contact with our team today to learn more.