Making a difference with the best job descriptions

Well-written job descriptions go beyond outlining a position’s responsibilities and including a specific job title. Most job descriptions include these features, but the ones that attract the best applicants will be unbiased, inclusive and ensure diversity. Furthermore, when candidates are searching for the best possible jobs, their first impression of the company is the job description, therefore, every word counts.

As a recruiter, crafting a job description that is both compelling and unbiased is a substantial responsibility. Before you can even begin to tackle this task, you must educate yourself on how to avoid unconscious bias that clutters your judgment. By recognizing that everyone has an unconscious bias, we can work on ways to reduce it. This mindset will inhibit bias from creeping into your writing and help with the following steps.

Implement gender-neutral job descriptions

A Heriot-Watt University research study has shown that gendered wording in job descriptions enables gender inequality in the workforce. To encourage all genders to apply do not include pronouns or words that suggest a specific gender. For example, for terms such as “chairman,” instead use “chairperson.” It’s sometimes everyday words that we are so accustomed to that slip right by, but nevertheless, can result in a less diverse staff and weaker company culture. To ensure your job posting attracts ideal candidates, there are free tools to find alternative words.

Avoid words that signify gender stereotypes

When writing the responsibility or qualifications section of a job description, avoid phrases that allude to masculinity or femininity. For instance, terms such as “strong” “fearlessly” and “competitive” all convey masculine language which could turn away women interested in the job. Another element to avoid in job descriptions are extensive desirable qualities list. According to Forbes, women are less likely to apply for jobs with these descriptions because they won’t feel perfectly suited for the job. Conversely, phrases such as “collaborative” and “compassionate” could deter a possible male candidate. Instead, focus on highlighting concrete skills and the company’s values and benefits.

Eliminate references to race, nationality and religion

A job description should not include any specific qualifications of race and religion. Also, if nationalities must be included in a job post in terms of language requirements, do not suggest that any candidate should hail from a certain country, i.e, “Spanish candidate” instead of “speaks Spanish language.” Also, stray away from phrases such as “native English speaker” which can alienate prospective candidates who might be subconscious of their English as a second language, yet speak it perfectly.

The above are guidelines that specifically target job descriptions, but unconscious bias does not stop there. It also seeps into the interview process. Here are couple of ways to continue eliminating biases:      

  1. Limit identifiable information
    • Influential companies such as LinkedIn are already endorsing this tactic by introducing its “hide names and photos” feature in 2021. With this new platform, recruiters are not able to view any photos and candidates’ names are replaced with random letters.
  1. Work sample tests
    • Instead of only conducting an interview, incorporate work sample tests that convey tasks in which future candidates would participate. This interview feature will indicate whether or not the candidate will succeed at the job as an employer rather than only focusing on them as a person to evaluate.

While many of the tactics raised are with the good intent of recruiting uniformly across a level-playing field, conversely, we know that the field is not always level. It is important as we implement tactical procedures to mitigate biases that we also make conscious efforts to look at our recruitment and hiring practices through a much deeper lens to ensure a diverse candidate pool. Are we diversifying our sourcing? Have we engaged with groups and programs that target underrepresented populations to help fill the pipeline? Do we take into account education biases, such as level of schooling vs. experience that could preclude a qualified candidate?

Unfortunately, there is no exact formula for building an equitable recruitment and hiring process. But the more we analyze the data, heed the research and listen to best practices from industry leaders on what’s working, the better chance we have at effecting real change.

Here at Matlen Silver we believe in BEING THE DIFFERENCE; likewise we do what it takes to FIND the difference.




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