How to Write an Inclusive Job Description

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Human Resources, Compliance, Recruitment

Having an inclusive workplace offers benefits like improved employee morale, higher job satisfaction, increased creativity among staff, not to mention it reflects well on your company.

We all know by now that diversity improves business. But how do you attract diverse talent?

Part of it starts with the job description, which is often a candidate's first impression of a business. If you're a company hoping to build a diverse workforce, you need to begin by creating an inclusive job description. 

Being intentional with how you word the job description conveys that you’re the kind of employer that centers equity and inclusion. 

But how do you write an inclusive job description? Let's take a look below with these eight tips.

1. Use Gender-Neutral Language

Job descriptions can often lean heavily toward gendered language without the writer realizing it. Gender coding influences who chooses to apply for a job post and who doesn't. 

To avoid alienating talent right out of the gate, avoid using gendered words like:

  • Rockstar
  • Competitive 
  • Aggressive 
  • Sensitive 
  • Compassion

These gendered words can subtly imply that the job is for an applicant of a specific gender. Regardless of if you ascribe these qualities to one gender or not, the fact remains that they are gendered. 

You don’t want to limit your workforce and face accusations of preferential treatment toward male hires or vice versa. Instead, use titles like “Sales Representative” or “Content Writer.” While they may have less flair, they're much more inclusive than “Competitive Sales Representative."

Likewise, be mindful of the pronouns you're using. If you're hiring a Senior Engineer, language like, “He will observe engineering projects across the field" gives potential candidates the impression the company prefers or is looking for a male applicant. Instead, use audience-centered language like “youor gender-neutral language like “the applicant.”

2. Avoid Racial Bias 

Just like gender bias, you want to be careful not to promote racial prejudice. Avoid and eliminate any racial bias in your job postings by paying attention to the words and phrases you're using. 

For example, you should never mention race or national origin in your job descriptions. Sentences like “must-have strong English-language speaking skills” are enough to deter qualified non-native speakers from applying. 

Equally as important, when you're interviewing or reviewing candidates, ask everyone the same set of interview questions. It will help you avoid racial and gender bias altogether and give interviewees a fair shot at being hired for the position. 

3. Be Mindful of Socioeconomic Bias

Neither Steve Jobs nor Mark Zuckerberg graduated from college. Steve Jobs, for instance, ran out of money and had to drop out after just one semester. Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of the Ivy League school he was attending to grow his innovative social media platform.

It goes without saying that many positions —- for example nurses and paralegals — require formal education and training. But only considering candidates with advanced degrees from prestigious universities can also be a form of socioeconomic bias. It may discourage otherwise qualified applicants who didn't have the opportunity to go to college. 

Depending on the requirements of the position, companies may be missing out on tremendous talent by restricting their recruiting efforts to college graduates only.

4. Reduce “Must-Have" Requirements 

Reducing “must-have” requirements is a great way to create an inclusive job posting. A study conducted by Hewlett Packard found that women usually only apply for jobs where they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men typically apply if they meet 60% of the job requirements. 

Consider the screening qualifications that matter and which skills are flexible. Many times there are skills that the candidate can learn on the job. Including these on the “must-have” list is enough to scare great candidates away. 

If you'd like to mention desired skills that aren't necessarily requirements, use language like “bonus points for” or “familiarity with” to attract applicants with specific skills.

5. Don't Scare Off Experienced Candidates 

You may not realize this, but the language you use is enough to scare away experienced workers. Let's take candidates that are 50 and older, for example. 

They may have years and years of experience in a specific field, but after reading your job description, they will feel like they're not fit for the job.

On the other hand, maybe they know they're fit for the job but don't know if they want to work for your company. 

Avoid using phrases like: 

  • Looking for young and energetic individuals
  • Join our party atmosphere
  • No more than X years of experience
  • Calling out to all recent graduates

This language discriminates against older candidates and is a form of ageism. This kind of language can prevent you from attracting talented individuals with invaluable experience. 

6. Diversity Includes Disabilities Too

An inclusive job description will be welcoming to disabled workers. A few ways to do this is to mention the company can make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. These include flexible hours or remote work. 

Likewise, you want to avoid using discouraging language. Here are a few examples of what ableist language sounds like: 

  • Must be able to lift 50 pounds
  • Must be able to stand for the entire shift
  • You'll need to speak with students about their financial concerns

Ways to make this language more inclusive includes: 

  • Move equipment weighing up to 50 pounds 
  • Must remain in a stationary position during the entire shift
  • You'll need to communicate with students about their financial concerns

Often, there are workarounds in place when hiring workers who might need to perform specific tasks but can do so without their disability being a hindrance. 

7. Use Plain Language 

No one wants to read through tedious corporate language. While candidates may understand the complex descriptions, it may be discouraging for younger crowds who are entry-level candidates. 

Instead, modify the language by cutting out business jargon and focusing on your company's core values and unique benefits. 

8. Emphasize Your Commitment to Inclusion

If you're a company taking steps to become a more inclusive workplace, make this known in the job description. 

You can say something as simple as “an equal opportunity employer.” However, this is a standard blurb that companies put out. It doesn’t always mean they follow through, and candidates don’t read it that way.

For a more powerful effect, consider a statement in your own words.

A Quick Recap

With the above in mind, you're ready to write a quality, inclusive job description and land top talent. It's all about the language you use and being mindful of gender, background, disability, and status. 

Being inclusive starts with the job description—but it doesn’t end there. Your recruitment process also can be more equitable and attract diverse talent. Get in touch with ScoutLogic to learn more.

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