5 ways employers can make job descriptions more inclusive

More employers are setting clear expectations to ensure a diverse and inclusive work environment - in the composition of their teams, implementing policies, fostering an inclusive culture, and manifesting their support through various channels such as company website, training, social media, etc.

While employers are successfully eliminating forms of discrimination from most areas of their business, one critical function of business which often gets overlooked is “job postings”. Employers largely rely on their HR team or hiring managers to write a job description and often they are not considering their biases.

This is typical because the job description is either viewed as a responsibility of the HR team or is expected to be written by the manager who is hiring for a role. And although your HR team or the hiring manager may be an expert at knowing the job requirements and diversity and inclusion practices, they may not necessarily be experts at writing a neutral, “discrimination proof” job description to attract underrepresented candidates and make them feel welcome to apply. Truth be told there are numerous biased words that can sneak into job postings if you are not looking for them.

This can result in you missing out on talented minority groups such as BIOPIC, LGBTQ2S+ or even women. It can also undermine your efforts to create an inclusive employer brand. So how can you make sure that your job descriptions depict the diverse and inclusive culture you are implementing in your company culture and get the best talent available?

Here are 5 ways to do that:

  1. Eliminate underlying unconscious bias

         According to the research described in an article by Forbes, people seek jobs differently:

  • For instance, only 37.3% of women use LinkedIn as a job search resource as opposed to 50% of men using it.

  • The same research also described that women regard changes in personal life to be a primary reason to leave a job whereas salary was the primary reason for men to change jobs.

  • More women than men say that when they’re looking for a new job, benefits and work-life balance are deal-breakers, whereas more men say the most important non-negotiable is their salary.

These findings indicate that if employers are looking to ensure that their job descriptions appeal to all genders equally, it is imperative to keep in mind the incentives and goals that will encourage all genders to apply. As well as leverage different channels and tools to find specific types of candidates.

  1. Use neutral titles and words

Do you regularly use words such as rockstar, ninja, high-energy etc. in your job description? While these terms instantly connote specific skills/attitudes in one word, such terms often discourage seasoned and experienced professionals from applying for a role. Similarly, many women candidates are not keen to apply for roles that appear to be targeted at male applicants when you use sports or war terms. “Someone who can get our project over the goal post”, “lone wolf”, “Type A”, “crush their deliverables” “digital native” etc.

Choose gender-neutral and descriptive titles like "engineer," "project manager," or "developer" to make sure that your job description does not unintentionally discriminate against any gender or age.

Further examples that create bias:

Replace aggressively pursuing with proactively, energetically, boldly, or firmly. There are numerous words used in everyday language that turn off someone with (or close to someone with) a disability. 

  • “speak” (“communicate” is better)

  • “see” (“identify”, “assess” and “discover” are better)

  • “carry” (“move” is better)

  • “walk” (“traverse” is better)

  • “type” (record, input, write)

Looking for more examples: https://blog.ongig.com/writing-job-descriptions/a-list-of-offensive-exclusionary-words-used-in-job-descriptions/

  1. Eliminate Pronouns

Remove any pronouns such as she or he etc. when writing a job description. Instead use a word like S/he or You, for example, “YOU will be responsible for…”.

  1. Relook at “REQUIRED” skills and qualifications in your job description

Stating a particular major within a degree as a mandatory requirement for your job can greatly limit the number of applicants to one gender or the other. You may be discouraging some highly skilled candidates from applying to your job because of a mandatory degree requirement.

In fact, Glassdoor Economic Research found that the choice of college major can vary by gender, and people often choose a completely different job based on their skill or interest sometimes. By making specific majors mandatory, you may be limiting your candidate pool and missing out on some great potential additions to your team.

  1. Express your commitment to diversity & inclusion explicitly

Job descriptions are an excellent opportunity to strike a deliberate conversation around your organization’s diversity and inclusion policy. Choose to include a blurb encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds, genders, and communities in their job description itself. Ensure you allow for accommodations for people with disabilities to apply and be interviewed. Although this is mandatory in Ontario and Manitoba, other provinces also need to do this.

In addition, make sure to use images and external/internal communication messages to include diverse communities such as LGBTQ2S, BIOPIC, etc. to reaffirm your commitment to diversity and inclusion. This not only encourages candidates who belong to these communities to apply for your role but also attracts potential candidates who wish to work in an inclusive and diverse workplace to apply. People respond positively to images that look like them.

According to the 2021 Impact Report "Wage Inequality in the Workplace", over 83% of survey respondents said that it is important that their employer takes steps to promote diversity and inclusion.

There is no doubt that fostering diversity and inclusion starts with how you describe your positions. It is imperative that your business is perceived as an equal opportunity workplace if you want to attract the right talent in this tight labour market.

Looking for more ways to attract diverse talent?… Check out our white paper on the Talent squeeze

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