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How to Write More Inclusive Job Descriptions

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Ever wondered if your job description attracts stereotypes?

A diverse work culture is proven to garner better results as it ensures a broader range of experience and the ability to come up with solutions. As Kelly Wright from Hays once put it at an Xref Discovery Session event, “If we open up our minds to be able to say, we welcome diversity and we want to include everybody, we are going to offer a better service, a better product, a better organisation, a better working environment.”

But far too many organisations miss out on the golden opportunity of hiring great candidates when they don’t pay close attention to the inclusivity factor in their job descriptions. 

The push for diversity is not designed to encourage businesses to hire people from different backgrounds just for the sake of a target or quota, but to ensure that equal opportunities are applied to all and people are hired because they are the best candidate for a role. It starts with the way you write and advertise your job descriptions, which could include an element of bias you're unaware of, making your workplace unwelcoming to candidates from a diverse background.

If you’re planning on making significant strides towards becoming an inclusive workplace, you may want to consider these great tips on how you can improve your job descriptions. 

What makes a job description inclusive?

A job description that is worded in a way where the applicant with the right skills does not feel excluded based on their gender, culture, ethnic origin, background, or disability.

4 tips to get the word out

Graphic with images and text illustrating ways of integrating inclusivity into job ads

If you’re getting candidates from only one specific group, perhaps the problem lies in how you’re describing the position or the audience you’re sharing the role with. Here are some ways of integrating inclusivity into your job ads:

  1. Emphasise your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the job description: More and more organisations are beginning to emphasise their commitment to ensure that their workforce is neutral to all backgrounds. For example, IBM states the following: “IBM is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, colour, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.”
  1. Promote benefits like parental leave and childcare subsidies: Benefits like childcare subsidies, parental leave, paid family sick leave, and even health insurance go a long way. It signals to jobseekers with families (or those who plan to have them at some point) that your company is ensuring it has everything they need to thrive.  
  1. Remove gender-coded language: Studies have shown that certain words encourage male applicants over females. Examples of male-coded words include aggressive, decisive, fearless, ambitious, head-strong, assertive, independent, battle, dominant, outspoken, challenge, driven and superior. Typically female-coded words include variations of: agree, empath, affectionate, feel, support, collaborate, sensitive, trust, commit, interpersonal, understand, compassion, nurture, and share. You can use sites such as gender decoder and the gender bias decoder to identify bias and harmful language.
  1. Use thoughtful, inclusive descriptions: Experts warn about companies that advertise free beer or a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture. Such descriptions may give strong signals of the culture and what’s expected of the applicants. Candidates from some background may read between the lines and form the impression that the environment is dominated by a certain subset of people with different priorities and lifestyles to them and, in turn, be deterred from applying.

Questions to evaluate your job ads 

Before you go live with a job ad, consider these questions to evaluate the performance of previous ads and scrutinise the content of your job description and the picture it is painting of your workplace:

  • Have previous ads for this role or department attracted just one type of person? 
  • Do I use a lot of industry jargon? Will this be off-putting to some applicants who wouldn’t use the same type of language but would be great for the role? 
  • Is it a lengthy job description that strays away from the skills required for the job? 
  • When was the last time this job description was evaluated and updated? Managing director of Excelerator Consulting, David Fitton, said, “job descriptions are most inclusive when they evolve as the job changes. They should be updated at least annually and include input from the individuals doing the job when applicable.” 
Graphic: Questions to evaluate your job ads

Evaluate your current diversity and inclusion strategy

Having adopted methods for writing a more diverse job description, it is also a good idea to take a look at the approaches taken throughout the recruitment process. Here are some tactical points to improve your hiring strategy for more diverse outcomes:

  1. Consider greater representation in your hiring team- Knowing how to attract a wider range of candidates will often require an understanding of how and where to reach them. By including a more diverse range of people in the hiring team, you are more likely to ensure you are taking the right steps to talk to a broader talent pool. 
  2. Invest in the future - Understand the team you want to build, not just the people you need right now. If you are looking for a greater number of female leaders, for example, you could invest in mentoring programs that can help younger women entering the workforce or returning mothers. Inspiring Women is a program developed by Deloitte Australia, which aims to create an inclusive culture driven by the leadership of the firm. Some aspects include increasing the number of women in leadership positions by promoting talented women, investing in talent identification, development and recruitment and building an appropriate environment to retain talented women. 
  3. Expand your networks - Networks will typically include people of similar interests and backgrounds. Look for opportunities to expand your network beyond your immediate connections. Business Chicks, for example, is a community for the inspiration of both women and men. The community of 35,000-plus strong, independent thinkers is a great place for people to swap ideas, share stories and, most importantly, spark inspiration.
  4. Make it a part of every day -  “Diversity means caring at every stage, every day, and forever. It doesn’t end when you’ve made a few new hires, and it doesn’t end when you go home at night...And if the only time your org talks about diversity are at KPI season…think again. Your org doesn’t have a “diversity problem,” it just has problems period.” - Carol Ann Benovic.
Graphic with text that quotes Carol Ann Benovic on diversity strategy

Ditch the bias and become more intentional 

People tend to look for people who are similar to them unconsciously; it’s crucial to be self-aware of your own bias. "In a society that systematically excludes and marginalises, bringing new voices to the table requires a deep commitment to relationship building. It takes work. It takes time. It takes trust. And it is totally worth it, resulting in better decision making, better products and better performance." - Christie George.

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