8 Tips for Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions

Posted by Muhammad Talha on Sep 20, 2022

Inclusive Job Descriptions - BP

Diversity and inclusion have become an integral part of attracting new talent. In fact, 76% of job seekers consider diversity to be a significant factor when evaluating potential employers. Writing inclusive job descriptions is no longer a choice if your company wants access to a larger talent pool.

Your company’s take on diversity and inclusion is reflected in everything, including how you write your job descriptions. This is your chance to create a great first impression, set yourself apart from your competitors, and build an inclusive workplace.

A myriad of factors go into writing inclusive job descriptions, making it a real challenge. Keep the following tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to building a diverse workforce.

1. Steer Clear of Gender Bias

Unconscious gender bias still plagues the modern workforce. A major step towards achieving true equality is to avoid using gender-coded language in your job descriptions.

Even the slightest hint of gender bias will discourage a lot of talented professionals from applying to open positions at your company. For instance, using words like “he will be responsible for doing X” will be off-putting to some female applicants. Triple-check your job description to prevent that unconscious bias from creeping in. Here are some actionable things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t Use Gendered Titles — Avoid terms like chairman, salesman, and craftsman in your job titles that  appeal to only the male gender. Women and nonbinary people are less likely to apply to such positions. Instead, use neutral nouns like chairperson, salesperson, or craftsperson.
  • Use Neutral Pronouns — Avoid using the pronouns “he” and “she,” as they aren’t inclusive to nonbinary people. Instead, use the neutral pronouns “they/them” to include the entire spectrum of gender identity.
  • Avoid Gender-Coded Words — Certain words are perceived as more masculine or feminine. Be conscious of them to make the job description more neutral and inclusive. Some examples of words that are perceived as masculine include driven, competitive, strong, lead, and ambitious. Whereas the words agree, affectionate, empathetic, and warm are perceived to be feminine-sounding.

Still unsure about your JD? Run it through the Gender Decoder tool to see if it checks out.

2. Appeal to All Age Groups

About 21% of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cases were age-related in 2021. Play your part in eliminating this bias by writing a job description that people of any age will relate to.

Avoid loaded phrases that mainly appeal to millennials and Gen Z, such as digital native, young, or energetic. Such phrases may deter older applicants with more experience from applying altogether. For example, instead of saying, “We’re looking for a young and energetic digital native,” say something like, “We’re looking for a digital enthusiast who’s comfortable learning about new tech.” That way, you appeal to all generations, including those that didn’t grow up with today’s tech, and reassure them that your company will give them the room to learn.

Furthermore, avoid specifying an age group in your job description unless it actually affects a person’s ability to perform the job (such as handling heavy machinery). Similarly, refrain from using limiting phrases like “Must not have more than X years of experience” or demanding unreasonable experience, as that will shrink your pool of ideal candidates.

3. Look Out for Ableism

There’s a slew of career options and jobs for people with disabilities — and in some cases, they’re even better at them than their able-bodied counterparts. Unfortunately, this group is often still discriminated against in job descriptions.

Avoid phrases that feel discriminatory to the physically and mentally disabled in your job descriptions. Some examples include see or listen, talk or speak, and fast-paced. Instead, use terms like monitor, communicate, and lively. And show the same level of prudence when describing any physical or mental demands for certain jobs where there’s a risk of injury.

Additionally, make sure to highlight the option to work remotely (if available). Disabled candidates who find the daily commute challenging will be more likely to apply to the position. 

4. Give All Socioeconomic Groups a Chance

Potential candidates come from different backgrounds, with some roots being more humble than others. Often, recruiters forget that and create job descriptions geared more towards a specific group. The result? Not everyone gets a fair shot, leaving the company with a smaller talent pool. Ensure that you don’t make the same mistake by opening doors to people from every socioeconomic class through your job description.

Get rid of any eligibility requirements that are unimportant to the job — especially ones that underrepresented groups are less likely to meet. For example, don’t ask candidates for any advanced degrees if it’s not crucial to the job. If an advanced degree is vital to the job, don’t specify any prestigious colleges or universities that charge above-average tuition fees.

5. Be Mindful of All Cultures and Races

Unconscious cultural and racial bias is another massive barrier to a larger, more diverse candidate pool for many companies.

To avoid that, ensure you’re not asking for any job requirements that outright exclude people from certain cultures and races. For instance, “Native U.S. English speaker” is a very common requirement for editorial roles. Such requirements discriminate against hundreds of thousands of professionals in other corners of the world who are just as talented as their U.S.-counterparts, if not more so.

Avoid using any culturally loaded words that certain people may find derogatory. Specifically, steer clear of words with a dark historical background (such as cakewalk) and those that would fall under appropriation (such as tribe).

6. Sell Your DEI Efforts

Reassuring self-doubting candidates that your company doesn’t discriminate against anyone might just be the push they need to apply. To this end, encourage people belonging to any gender, race, culture, age, social class, and faith to apply to the open positions at your company.

Make it clear that you’re a true equal opportunity employer who will consider the candidate even if they don’t meet all the requirements. Below is a great example of a company that does just that in every job description. This company doesn't just include the standard EEOC language in its job description. They take the time to directly encourage minority candidates to apply, making their efforts at diversity feel more authentic.

You should also highlight any DEI initiatives at your company. This will help significantly expand your pool of applicants who care about diversity.

7. Get a Second Opinion

No matter how inclusive you think your job description is, it still may have missed the mark. It’s always a good idea to ask existing employees — specifically those who belong to minority groups — to review the job description.

Their invaluable feedback will help uncover any potentially problematic elements. You might have unknowingly written something that may feel discriminatory or even derogatory to certain races, faiths, and/or disabled groups. For example, highlighting “company happy hours” as a perk may seem harmless at first. However, it could potentially feel non-inclusive to devout Muslims due to their faith and people who can’t drink due to certain medical conditions. Your team can help point out these little details that make all the difference in your job descriptions being truly inclusive.

8. Tap into Your Applicant Data

Statistics don’t lie. If the list of applicants for the open positions at your company seems not-so-diverse, there’s a good chance that something is wrong with your job descriptions.

Now’s a good time to review all of your job postings to determine what should be done differently to source a more diverse talent pool. Did you use inclusive language throughout? Is there any hard requirement that could be preventing certain people from applying? Did a potentially derogatory word accidentally make its way into the job descriptions, which is driving qualified candidates away?

Form an internal committee to evaluate your job postings and determine what went wrong. If the job descriptions check out, there could be something much more troubling at play, such as a toxic workplace culture or a blemished reputation.

Let Inova Handle Your Job Descriptions

At the end of the day, writing inclusive job descriptions is a lot of work for your human resources team. If it all sounds like too much, consider Inova’s HR outsourcing service to lighten the talent acquisition and onboarding load off your shoulders.

Our seasoned HR experts will help you craft the perfect job description that will appeal to everyone — without compromising on clarity.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a call with our team today.

Topics: Human Capital Management, Human Resources, Diversity

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