Do's and don'ts for writing inclusive job descriptions

Do's and don'ts for writing inclusive job descriptions

Do's and don'ts for writing inclusive job descriptions: What you should know

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace can start before you even meet candidates. With inclusive job descriptions, you can let potential applicants know your organization welcomes people from all ages, races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations, with or without disabilities. Here are some benefits of inclusive job descriptions and the do's and don'ts for writing them.

The benefits of inclusive job descriptions

Making diversity and inclusivity a priority can help your company improve productivity and retention. Inclusive job descriptions can attract diverse candidates and make your company's DEI initiatives more successful. Individuals from underrepresented groups sometimes look at more than just the factual details of a job posting. They may study the language and tone used in the skills and qualifications sections for inbuilt prejudice. Using diverse phrasing and removing words that could indicate bias can encourage those who fear discrimination to apply. Making your business more diverse with inclusive job descriptions can also help you outperform competitors.

The do's and don'ts for writing inclusive job descriptions

Here are some tips to help your business create inclusive, appealing job descriptions:

Avoid gender-coded words

Gender stereotypes mean that some words imply male or female, even if they don't contain obvious references to gender or sex. These words can make candidates think you prefer one gender, discouraging some people from applying. Male-coded words can include:

  • Aggressive
  • Ambitious
  • Challenge
  • Confident
  • Decisive
  • Defend 
  • Dominate
  • Driven
  • Fearless
  • Fighter
  • Headstrong
  • Independent
  • Outspoken
  • Superior

Female-coded words could include:

  • Agree
  • Commit
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Feel
  • Honest
  • Nurture
  • Sensitive
  • Sharing
  • Supportive

Make language simple and easy to understand

Some people require help understanding complex or technical terms, especially if English isn't their first language. Use short, simple phrases when possible, and define terms and acronyms when needed. You can also make your job descriptions more readable by using active voice, avoiding figures of speech or idioms, and choosing a large, easy-to-read font. Breaking text into headings can be helpful, or you can use bullet points or bold text.

Look carefully for evidence of bias

Inclusive job descriptions don't contain qualifications and skills requirements with implicit biases. It's a good idea to ask one or two people to read each job posting and look for discriminatory language before publishing it. Evidence of bias could include:

  • Mentions of race or national origin: Phrases like “hard-working Americans” seem inclusive to many people, but they might exclude immigrants and people of color.
  • Requirements for English language skills:  Unless the job involves writing, teaching English, or a similar task, you can make immigrants feel more welcome to apply by not requiring strong English skills.
  • Dress codes that could exclude members of some religious groups: Bans on facial hair or head coverings could discourage some people from applying. Avoid mentioning these types of requirements.
  • Many requirements:  Women often only apply for jobs if they meet every requirement. So eliminating preconditions and offering training instead can encourage more women to apply. It also allows people from many underrepresented groups to learn more and advance their careers.

Appeal to many age groups

Job descriptions that seem trendy and modern can appeal to young applicants but may discourage older, more experienced people from applying. Don't use terms such as junior or senior in job titles, and avoid words and phrases that could exclude older or younger people, including:

  • Athletic
  • Digital native
  • Energetic
  • Mature
  • Party atmosphere
  • Recent grad
  • Wise
  • Work hard and play hard
  • Youthful

Don't write job descriptions that are only for able-bodied people

When listing job duties, don't make assumptions about people's abilities. Using more diverse language can encourage people living with disabilities. For example, when discussing transporting objects, say "moves" instead of "walks" or "lifts." Use "positions" instead of "crouches" or "bends" and "remain stationary" instead of "stand" or "sit." "Communicate" is more inclusive than "speak" or "talk," and "travel" includes people who may not be able to drive.

Mention inclusive benefits

If your business offers benefits that appeal to diverse candidates, you can attract more applicants by mentioning these in your job descriptions. Examples include:

  •  Diversity training programs
  •  Flexible work schedules
  •  Health insurance
  •  Leave and vacation policies
  •  Mental health resources
  •  Mentorship
  •  Needs accommodations programs
  •  Providing support for underrepresented groups through donations to charitable organizations
  •  Remote work opportunities
  •  Tuition reimbursement

Create an inclusive Equal Employment Opportunity statement

An Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement demonstrates to job seekers that the company fully complies with the rules established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Simple, boilerplate examples of EEO statements are easy to find but may come across as legal jargon. Job seekers might not read them, or they could perceive them as insincere. Instead, create an EEO emphasizing your company's commitment to inclusivity and diversity in inviting, easy-to-understand language. Have members of your organization's human resources department, management, and legal team review it to get input from people with different perspectives.

Use a fair candidate review process with your inclusive job descriptions

Inclusive job descriptions can help your company attract more diverse job seekers. It's also a good idea to consider diversity when assessing applicants. You can remove opportunities for unconscious bias with blind resumes. This involves keeping information about a candidate's name, gender, race, sexual orientation, age, or religion from the people making hiring decisions. This lets them focus on individuals' skills and qualifications. You can also help make the interview process more blind or unbiased by asking online screening questions and scheduling face-to-face interviews after you narrow the pool of candidates.

To ensure everyone receives equal treatment, ask all applicants the same questions. When creating these queries, get help to craft them so they're inclusive to members of many groups. An effective DEI training program can make everyone involved in hiring more aware of biases. Utilize a transparent assessment system to evaluate all candidates using the same criteria, and make your ranking system as objective as possible.

Understanding the do's and don'ts for writing inclusive job descriptions can help your company attract the best candidates for open positions. Inclusive job postings can improve your organization's reputation as well. You can learn more about creating inclusive job listings from CareerBuilder. Diversity and inclusivity are important for all businesses, whether large or small, and preventing discrimination is essential for productive, satisfied employees.

Related reading: Diversity and inclusivity 

With a DEI recruiting plan, you can encourage the best candidates to apply to your company.

Making job descriptions more inclusive can help your company improve advancement for women in the workplace.

Eliminating degree requirements can help make job descriptions more inclusive for many positions.

Inclusive job descriptions can help your organization build a more diverse culture.

You can also hire more diverse candidates by streamlining your company's community outreach efforts.

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