When candidates are job searching, the job description will be the first make-or-break decision they have about whether they will apply. In a past blog, we talked about writing a good job description that's easily scannable while "fluff" is left out. But it's not enough to be short and to the point; your job descriptions must also be inclusive to all who might apply. You do not want to risk alienating your perfect hire because you use language that makes them feel left out. Your language should be both professional and inclusive.
Job descriptions should define the job position and the ideal job candidate, but if the language used is biased and exclusive, you're likely to miss out on qualified applicants. When writing an inclusive job description, you want to pay attention to the following key areas:
Gender inclusivity is paramount in job descriptions. You might not even realize that you are using gender-coded language, but becoming aware of what gender-coded words you are using can make a huge difference. If a job description uses words such as "kind," "caring," "polite," these words come across as more "feminine" and have the potential to keep masculine candidates from applying. In contrast, words like "active," "confident," "dominant" are more "masculine" terms and can potentially keep more feminine candidates from applying. By avoiding this language, you can ensure that your job descriptions appeal to all qualified individuals, regardless of gender identity.
To see if your job description is gender-coded, you can utilize Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay's Gender Decorder tool.
When writing a job description, you might not realize the words you are using are implicitly biased against a particular race or ethnicity. For instance, avoid mentioning race or national origin in job descriptions altogether. Also, avoid using phrases like "must have strong English skills," "must-have attended an ivy-league university," or "must present cleanly shaven/neat hairstyles." Using this language could deter those candidates for whom English is not their first language, or could not afford to attend a top-tier school, or discriminate against hair or hairstyles typically associated with black or brown people. By using this language, your job description creates bias against numerous groups of individuals. Alternatively, asking for educated and professional applicants is fine.
Neurodivergent and Disability-Exclusive Language:
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits "discrimination based on disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications." Yet, many companies have continued to exclude disabled workers by complicating simple tasks in job descriptions. If you include overly complex or dense language, you potentially exclude candidates who are perfectly capable of doing the job but struggle with reading or language comprehension. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network in Disability Inclusion (EARN) says “If something is not an essential function to accomplish the job, employers should make this clear or not include it.” Rather than saying “Employee must synthesize documents from multiple sources for c-suite,” say “Employee will combine documents.” Being aware of just how impactful language can be to neurodivergent and disabled individuals can help make significant changes to how you write job descriptions.
Business jargon can be intimidating, even to the most seasoned of job applicants. According to LinkedIn, studies show that jargon and corporate language in job postings deter young applicants from applying--even to entry-level positions. While you and your employees might understand what specific internal speak or acronyms mean, odds are not all individuals will. Even someone with five to ten years of experience in the field might struggle to know what specific jargon or acronyms you are referencing, especially if it is particular to your company or a location or region. By removing particular jargon, acronyms, or technical/regional language, your job description will attract more applicants.
As recruitment experts, we know how important a well-written and inclusive job description is to finding the best talent. You never know what the best candidate will look like, so you want to be sure that anyone who is qualified feels they can and should apply. By paying attention to gender-coded, racial-coded, and disability-exclusive language, as well as business jargon, you are ensuring that your company and hiring managers have access to a more diverse slate of qualified candidates.