October 3, 2022

How to make job descriptions inclusive to attract diverse talent

  • The language a hiring manager uses in a job description is important — it can dissuade certain applicants from applying, making your talent pool less diverse. 
  • To make sure you’re casting a wide of a net as possible, hiring managers should make sure their job descriptions are inclusive. 
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion experts share a few top tips, including avoiding gender-charged words and language that discriminates against people with disabilities. 
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As more Americans call for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it’s more important now than ever to make sure your company’s job postings use inclusive language. 

That’s because the words used in a job description can directly or indirectly dissuade certain people from applying, making your pool of candidates skew a particular way. 

From avoiding gender-charged words to elitist language, here’s what diversity, equity, and inclusion experts recommend. 

Stay away from words associated with a certain gender 

Avoid language that could be seen as intimidating, as they’re more likely to dissuade female or non-binary applicants from applying. 

Phrases like, “killer content creator,” “relentless at lead generation,” or “aggressive with analysis” can be problematic, according to Christie Lindor, CEO of Tessi Consulting and author of the forthcoming book, “Why Great People Quit Good Jobs.” 

A more obvious example would be saying the company offers “maternity leave” or “maternity/paternity leave.” Instead, opt for “parental leave.” 

Avoid exclusive or biased language 

Lindor also suggests staying away from language that shows bias toward a certain type of candidate. For example, avoid phrases such as “ideal candidate graduated from a top 10 business school” or “experience in Big 4 firms ideal.”

With those phrases, you may discourage someone from a lower socioeconomic status who could not afford to go to a “top 10 business school” or someone who’s worked at an important firm outside of the geographic area you have in mind. 

Ensure job descriptions are gender neutral

This one should be obvious, but it’s important to steer clear of using “he,” “she” or “he/she” in job descriptions, as not everyone uses those pronouns. A more inclusive solution is to simply use “they.” 

Cheryl Ingram, CEO of Diverse City

“Words matter,” said Cheryl Ingram, CEO of consultancy Diverse City.

Cheryl Ingram

Have a diverse group of colleagues review the job description 

Cheryl Ingram, the CEO of Diverse City (a diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy), said a job description should never publish with just one person looking it over. 

She suggests asking people who aren’t applying for the role to review the application. Does it seem fair? Is there a lot of industry jargon? She also recommends asking job candidates during the interview what specifically about the job description encouraged them to apply. This is a great way to learn more about what language resonates across race, gender, etc.  

Don’t use language that discriminates against people with disabilities

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, job postings must be inclusive of people with disabilities in your job descriptions. 

Instead of writing “Must be able to stand in front of the door to check customers in,” write “Must be able to remain stationary in front of the door to check customers in.” 

In place of writing “Job requires applicant to walk around large headquarters to install equipment,” opt for “Job requires applicant to move around large headquarters to install equipment.” 

Consider hiring a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant or using an online tool to help you weed out problematic language

If you’re not getting enough applicants from diverse backgrounds, your job descriptions might unknowingly be exclusionary or reflect larger issues within your company culture. As a start, you can try using online tools like like the free Gender Decoder tool or a paid service like Textio. For more comprehensive change, consider hiring a consultant to help you assess and change your hiring process. 

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