5 Essential Tips For Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
What would you do if you realised that the job descriptions you painstakingly architect with your hiring managers were the most significant driver in reducing top, diverse talent from applying to your roles? Here's the thing, if your job descriptions aren't inclusive, you could be missing a more impressive and even more talented pool of candidates who never even apply. Writing job descriptions? Beware of the Buffer Effect When Buffer, a social media platform for businesses, noticed less than 2% of interviews for software developers included women, they decided to take a closer look. Most of the company's job descriptions included the usual tech terms, software proficiencies, and certifications you might expect. So why the failure to attract more female candidates? It came down to one word, HACKERS. Buffer had used the term for years, according to Fast Company. Why? It was a company-approved word to describe the tech-driven team members they like to hire: fast, efficient, tech-savvy, creative-problem solvers. But after working with a consultant, Buffer learned the word 'hacker' in their job descriptions just might be driving away talented female software developers. How you write job descriptions can significantly impact recruiting and influence who applies and who doesn't (which could be top candidates who think they aren't a good fit, even though they are). To ensure you don't make critical and alienating mistakes like Buffer, below are four essential tips to follow:
1. Write gender-neutral job descriptions It's too easy to fall into the trap of using old-school terms to write job descriptions, such as rockstar, salesman, foreman, waitress, etc. Or even using 'his' or 'hers' as a generic term meant to apply to both genders. If you're not paying attention, these common-place terms in job descriptions can turn away top candidates. Why? Gender-polarising words can leave a candidate thinking, 'I guess this job isn't for me,' thanks to these subtle gender references. Use gendered language decoders like this to help write unbiased and gender-neutral job descriptions.
2. Simplify your job descriptions In a recent article, we noted that 72% of hiring managers say they provide clear job descriptions, while only 36% of candidates say the same. It's easy to think that dumping a comprehensive list of required experience, education and training, and a bunch of extras in a job description will help you find the ideal candidate. But far too often, your job descriptions become so narrowly focused only a tiny handful of people will even read the ad and be inspired.
The result: Well-qualified candidates will skip applying because their background is missing something from your wish list. Of course, you want to write detailed job descriptions, but stick to the essential skills - transferable and technical. We found that over 80% of job descriptions ask mostly for transferable skills anyway, so give your reader a break and remember this is an attraction exercise, not a learning one.
3. Avoid corporate language and acronyms Step into your time machine to your first day on the job somewhere. Chances are pretty good that you felt like you were trying to drink from a firehose at some point. Someone's slinging industry jargon you're not familiar with. Every conversation fills with acronyms you don't understand. And you start to feel like there's too big of a learning curve. Does that ever happen to you? If your job descriptions are loaded with unfamiliar corporate speak or acronyms, well-qualified candidates might opt out of applying. Before signing off a job spec, ask yourself: 'Can I still describe this position without acronyms and insider terms?' If the answer is no, you need to go back to the drawing board. And if the answer is yes, do it!
4. Sell your culture, not your policies. Nothing is compelling about including the formal EEO statement: 'We are an equal employment opportunity employer' in a job description. It's against the law to discriminate, so you're not standing out because of this. But you can attract a wider pool of well-qualified candidates if you take the time to describe company culture, inclusion, gender and ethnic diversity more thoughtfully. Besides the pay and benefits package, what company culture and inclusion elements would appeal to a broader pool of candidates? That's a piece you want to include in a job description.
5. But seriously, sell your culture. Instead of spending the job description real estate describing every element of the position and required skills and experience, pair that back to the need-to-know or non-negotiable attributes you're looking for and spend time mentioning some of the primary benefits that support work-life balance. Things like:
Generous holiday and buy-back programmes
Work-from-home and flexible working options
Employee wellness, physical and mental health programmes
Paid maternity and paternity cover
Paid vacation, sick days, mental health days and bereavement leave
Employee assistance and access programmes
Equipment and home setup allowance
Personal L&D budget
Health, life, and disability insurance
You probably can't list every work-life balance benefit in a job description. But you should try and provide a sampling or highlight the top benefits that might interest a candidate. Why? When someone scans a job description, they looking for info to answer two questions:
Do I have the skills, qualifications, and experience for this position?
What's it like to work here? Is this a good fit for me, my family, etc.?
If you can condense your job spec, which is pretty much just your view of how a role should be completed, to really highlight the key non-negotiables for a role, the core skills and behaviours you think would make someone successful in the role and why working within the broader organisation is holistically value-add, you will stand a much greater chance of engaging a workforce that will invest back in you as an employer.
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