This article was written by Heidi Lynne Kurter from Forbes
Every company, regardless of industry, size, or location, has a goal of hiring the best talent. Yet, recruiting diverse candidates remains a top challenge for companies today. One of the main reasons is because many companies recycle old job descriptions instead of updating them. Even though their workplace has evolved, their job descriptions and core values remain outdated.
To expand on this, a company might promote a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet the language in their job description is exclusive and discriminatory. As a result, their job description makes qualified candidates feel excluded and discouraged from applying.
David Fitton, managing director of Excelerator Consulting, 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.” However, updating a job description is only one step in the process of capturing the attention of and recruiting diverse talent. A company’s website, social media, internal communications, and culture need to be on the same page as what’s being promoted. Companies can hire the best talent, but if everyone in the company, more specifically leadership, doesn’t live up to their claims, new hires will leave quickly.
Here are four useful tips on how companies can create inclusive job descriptions to attract diverse talent.
Lead with sensitive, thoughtful, and inclusive language
The language used in job descriptions will either attract or repel candidates. A well-written job description is one that speaks to diverse applicants while being specific about the skillsets required. Leading with sensitive, thoughtful, and inclusive language shows candidates you’re an inclusive workplace that considers all applicants, regardless of gender, background, disability, or status.
It’s important to first understand the different types of discrimination. The EEOC has laws to protect both applicants and employees from being discriminated against based on sex, age, race, national origin, disability, religion, gender identity, and color. Yet, a majority of job ads unintentionally use language that is aggressive, gender specific, and discriminatory due to the outdated content. As a result, qualified candidates are reluctant to apply because the language in the company’s job description is telling them they’re not an inclusive workplace.
Here are a few ways you can start to revise your job descriptions:
- Seek the feedback and perspective of current employees to prevent unconscious bias
- Replace gender-specific pronouns such as “he or she” with “you or they”
- Eliminate gender-coded terms such as ninja, rock star, competitive, patient, guru, or nurturing, to name a few
- Avoid lengthy job descriptions that stray from the core fundamentals of the role in which you’re hiring
- Use sites such as Textio and Gender Decoder to identify bias and harmful language
- Ensure job ads are jargon-free and easy to read with simple terms, especially for people with dyslexia or autism
Paul French, managing director at Intrinsic Search said, “You don’t have to dumb down your job descriptions or use social media slang, but you can use universally understandable terms to describe the role and requirements for the job.”
Ditch superficial requirements and be more intentional
Revisiting job descriptions is more than altering the language, it’s also evaluating the skills and requirements of the position. J.P. Gaston, co-founder, producer, and podcast host of The Biz Dojo, reminds employers that “every requirement line in your job description is another line of exclusion.” One example is listing “English as a first language” as a requirement when “must be fluent in English” would suffice. Another example is requiring a college degree for a role that doesn’t necessarily require college-level skills when equivalent experience would be adequate.
Hosea Chang, chief operating officer at Hayden Los Angeles, said, “If you ask for skills, experiences, degrees, and levels of seniority that aren’t necessary for success, you’ll be reducing your candidate pool and missing out on talented people that would excel in the position you need to fill.” He added, instead “focus on performance objectives and what a person needs to be able to do and achieve. By doing this, you’ll attract candidates with diverse backgrounds and skills that will become assets to your business.”
In addition to the language used, employers should be mindful of where they’re posting their jobs. Gaston explained, “LinkedIn, Monster, Workopolis, even your own company website, will carry with them a built-in unconscious bias. To be truly inclusive, you need to be purposefully and actively seek opportunities to remove exclusivity and bias from your current processes.”
Here are some diverse job boards to consider:
- Hire Autism
- Black Career Network
- Diversity Working
- Recruit Disability
- Pink Jobs (highly skilled LGBTQ candidates)
- We Work Remotely
- Career Contessa (ambitious and highly engaged female talent)
- Female Executive Search (C-Suite female candidates)
- 70 Million Jobs (candidates with criminal records)
- Hire Purpose (military spouses, veterans, and service members)
Emphasize your commitment to creating a workplace of belonging
Job descriptions should clearly communicate the ethos and core values of the company. Candidates want to know where companies stand in light of social and racial injustice. Companies who actively communicate their stance, support, and commitment to being an ally for women, veterans, and the BIPOC community, to name a few, will attract candidates with similar values.
Companies should be open with sharing their community efforts and the causes in which they invest their time and money. Candidates who are aligned with those efforts will want to apply, whereas those who aren’t will continue searching. For example, recognizing Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day sends a clear message to candidates about where the company stands in terms of Black Lives Matter.
Lastly, companies should be transparent about their perks and benefit offerings to demonstrate how inclusive their workplace is for all employees. Dr. Melissa Horne, DEI expert and director of client experience at Dialectic, explained, “Most women won’t apply for a position if they believe the company isn’t flexible around childcare and working hours.”
Some benefits companies should consider are:
- Parental leave
- Childcare allowances
- Mental health and wellness programs
- Flexible working hours
- Remote work
- Paid sick time
- Paid volunteer days
- Community work with BIPOC organizations
- Health insurance contributions
Become self aware of your own bias
Unconsciously, people look for people who are similar to them, whether it’s through hobbies, previous jobs, where they graduated, or other similar background information. Everyone has their own bias whether they realize it or not.
Gaston asserts, attracting diverse talent is “more than updating your job posting, your email, or your process improvement plan.” He explains, “Diversity and inclusiveness is a cultural shift for society, and for organizations. Hiring with the intent of driving D&I in the workplace is a good start, but will not spark an evolution within your business on it’s own. This requires commitment, education, and a lot of listening to understand.”
Hiring managers can become more self aware of their own bias through training as well as seeking the feedback of others to consistently improve job description language and hiring practices. In addition, there are tools available to eliminate bias. PinPoint, Textio and Blendoor are a few tools hiring managers can leverage to anonymize resumes and remove demographic information.