The Importance of Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions: Where Do You Stand?


Are your job descriptions inclusive for job seekers?

Recruiters and hiring professionals are the driving force behind equality in the workplace. In recent times, this has become more prevalent, important, and detrimental for both job seekers as well as corporations. Priority #1 is clearly selecting the best candidate for the job. However, what if you found out that you may be unconsciously driving away the best candidates for the job before they even applied? This may in fact be the case with unconscious gender bias in your job descriptions

A recent study from the University of Waterloo and Duke University published a paper that proved that “job ads in predominantly male fields used wording associated with ‘masculine’ characteristics” (Aaron Kay, Danielle Gaucher and Justin Friesen). This led to women not applying for jobs because the gender wording implied that they did not belong there, even if they were qualified for the role. Now, it is a perfect time for companies to take a critical look at their own job descriptions. These ads are the first point of contact between your company and a job seeker, therefore should stand out and welcome all applicants!  

What does this look like? Using words such as “decisive”, “confident”, and “independent” imply a masculine wording. On the other hand, words such as “affectionate”, “compassionate”, and “considerate” lean more towards a feminine language. The study revealed that masculine worded job descriptions significantly deterred women from applying to those jobs regardless of whether the job was stereotypically male, female, or gender neutral. This means that you are decreasing your applicant pool by a significant amount without even realizing it! Companies need to stay mindful of how your language may be perceived by an applicant and use wording that appeals to a broad range of job seekers. 

The most shocking revelation from this study was that gendered wording mostly impacts women. When a job description with female wording was shown to a male subject, this seemed to have no impact on their sense of belonging in the role or the general appeal of the job. 

The saying “perception is reality” comes to be true in this case. Women did not perceive themselves filling roles in masculine gendered job descriptions and therefore were far less likely to apply. Their sense of belongingness to those roles was drastically reduced. These factors only compound upon the well-documented effects of the confidence gap, which holds that women suffer from a significant gap in confidence when compared to men in the workplace.

How can your job descriptions become more inclusive? 

  1. Education. The first step with topics like these is recognize it and educate your team about gender bias in order to solve it. From there, allow your hiring team to recognize and eliminate the bias. Training, seminars, and other team activities are great ideas to bring into your Human Resources department to reduce bias in your job descriptions.  
  2. Eliminate gender wording. For starters, look through your job descriptions for gender wording. Make sure that you deter from relying on masculine language that can lead women to not apply. Try to keep a balance of both masculine and feminine wording. It might even be a good idea to have your own Human Resources employees read the job descriptions and review which wording they identify with. 
  3. Plain is better. Have your speech be plain and simple compared to corporate wording that some candidates may not understand.  An example could even be replacing an industry term such as “KPIs” with Key Performance Indicators. By using confusing words, you are alienating a large group of candidates that have the skills but may not be familiar with exact phrases that you are using with corporate jargon. 
  4. Avoid bias towards young candidates. Many job descriptions are not only biased towards genders, but also ages. Check your job descriptions and ads for wording that reflects ageism such as “fast-paced” or “fast-moving”. By using those words, you are implying that you are interested in young, technologically advanced applicants, when they aren’t the only candidates that may have the perfect skill set. 
  5. No requirement for schooling unless a critical component. By requiring a Bachelor’s Degree or a certain level GPA, you filter out good candidates. While for some jobs it is critical to have a degree requirement, other roles do not need it. When you use an education requirement, you often are being blinded by the candidates that went to trade schools or boot camps that could be just as effective. Companies that require maximum academic criteria are leaning towards economic inequality onto future generations of workers. 
  6. Circumvent excessive or unnecessary requirements. Job ads often purposely reflect much more years of experience than actually needed to perform the job. Sometimes even more years than a certain technology has been around for. Doing so can scare away candidates by increasing privilege and inequality. Instead of having a fixed mindset about what job seekers are able to do, focus on having a growth mindset about their ability to conquer new challenges. 

What these tips will do for your company…

While it seems the whole point of recruiting new talent is to cut down the number of applicants and expedite the process, it is quite the opposite. You should be choosing from a large pool of candidates to find the right fit for the role. The process of decreasing this candidate pool should be done at the assessment step rather than the job advertisement step. If you have a great hiring process, then receiving more applicants is exactly what you want. Hiring excellent candidates requires removing bias from the conversation in general. 

One of the biggest benefits of partnering with an RPO Service Firm like JCSI, is that we do the “weeding out” that you are looking for with our relationship.  By working as a seamless recruitment supplement, we can work hands-on in your company and get an idea of what your culture is. That way, we can match the best-qualified candidates with your culture to ensure a long lasting successful hire. visit to learn more!