Diversity & InclusionTalent Acquisition

Getting Job Descriptions Right

Best practices for creating inclusive and unbiased job descriptions.

By Debbie Bolla

A major step in ensuring fair hiring practices is taking a hard look at the main place candidates begin their journey: the job description. Certain language can actually deter qualified talent from applying.

“Optimizing job descriptions to ensure more inclusivity is not about SEO and getting a job higher in search results; it’s about ensuring that when people see the job description they actually want to apply because they feel the job/organization is more inclusive,” says John Walters, Director of Talent Services for Sevenstep.

Walters says there are ways to identify gender-coded language and impart a more neutral tone in job descriptions. Take, for example, terms like “rockstar,” “ninja,” and “competitive” can depict a male-dominated culture. Job titles should be specific and recognizable, removing any company jargon while maintaining standard seniority levels. Using candidate-centric language is a good way to avoid including pronouns completely.

Organizations can take it one step further. Leveraging technology like Gender Decoder, Textio, and Talvista, can key in and drill down on language, resulting in an unbiased description.

Walters says there are few other best practices TA leaders should consider.

  • Include a summary of the company and why someone would want to work there, including the employer brand.
  • Touch on culture: Indeed reports that 72% of job seekers say it is extremely or very important to see details about company culture in job descriptions.
  • Limit must-have requirements to less than five: A study from HP found that women typically only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men will typically apply if they only meet 60% of them.
  • Requiring advanced degrees or specific universities can limit underrepresented talent based on socioeconomic status.
  • Be transparent about salary and benefits: 83% of job seekers agree that a company’s benefits and perks have a significant impact on their decision of whether or not they’ll accept a job offer. By including a salary, an organization shows trust in equity and fair pay—the salary is disclosed regardless of gender, race, or other demographic identifiers.
  • Communicate DE&I initiatives: According to Textio, job listings with strong equal opportunity language fill 10% faster on average across all demographic groups.

These best practices will help organizations create job descriptions that feel more inclusive for candidates, but there is other work to be done. Posting on compliance and diversity boards in conjunction with major job boards can cast a wider net. Resume redaction tools like TalVista remove candidate identifying information in order to eliminate any unconscious bias. Ensuring the interview process is structured will also help lead to more fair evaluations.

“The lack of inclusivity, by and large, is unintentional by hiring leaders,” says Walters. “Instituting the above to help improve how you post jobs and how you review and rate candidates can help more diverse candidates into process but unless any of this new technology is complimented by the appropriate level of training and enforcement, that ultimate decision on whether or not to hire a candidate may ultimately still be influenced by those same biases.”

Tags: Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Acquisition

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