Historically, companies use gender and racially-biased language, discriminating against people with disability, those belonging to LGBTQIA+ groups and minorities, albeit unintentionally. Take a look at any recent job description, and you are bound to find some biased language.
The solution is to adopt inclusive job descriptions and communication practices. While it seems complicated, we can break it down to the fundamentals. This means that your job descriptions should contain these three aspects:
- Role overview and description
- Overview of daily tasks, performance indicators and deliverables
- Inclusive benefits, including diversity statements or mental health, PTO benefits or other accommodations for employees
Most importantly, remember that thoughtful job descriptions are often considered the best ones. The time, effort and care you invest in crafting the perfect job description will make a significant difference for the candidates. The results – engaged and diverse teams and more inclusive workplaces.
Impact of Inclusive Job Descriptions
It matters what you say and how you say it. Organizations often unintentionally use discriminating language that actively discourages candidates from applying for open roles. Job descriptions with exclusive, gendered or racial language send a message that the position is limited to specific groups of people.
Instead, language that promotes diversity and inclusion and is welcoming to all is essential to attract and retain employees. Here are some crucial reasons why inclusive job descriptions truly make a difference:
Prevents Candidates from Self-Selecting
Companies frequently use terms like ‘ninja’ or ‘rockstar’ and adjectives like ‘dominate’, ‘outspoken’ or ‘confident’ to describe their ideal candidate. Although it might not seem like it, these terms are gender-coded and discourage female candidates from applying for the job. In another example, terms like ‘digital native’ are ageist and exclude those who were not born during the internet and social media era.
Similarly, having many essential requirements also deters applicants. It makes it harder for regular candidates to see themselves in such positions, and they don’t end up applying. This leads to candidates self-selecting themselves out of the recruitment even before the formal process begins.
You might already be aware of the famous study which found that women don’t apply to jobs in which they don’t meet the criteria 100%. On the other hand, men apply even if they meet 60% of the requirements. This finding is supported by more recent research by LinkedIn, which reported that women are more selective when applying for jobs.
Inclusive job descriptions avoid using such terms that might prevent applicants from applying and stick to the role and performance-based neutral terminology. According to research by LinkedIn, men and women both relate most positively to strong performance-based descriptors.
Targeting a Larger Candidate Pool
Job descriptions with biased language are bound to limit your candidate pool as candidates exclude themselves without applying. They are also unlikely to share the application with their friends and acquaintances if they don’t believe in your commitment to DEI.
Research by McKinsey reports that candidates are unlikely to pursue jobs in an organization they perceive as non-inclusive. 44% of women, 45% of ethnic or racial minorities, and 50% of LGBTQIA+ respondents said they decided against pursuing or accepting a job because they believed the organization would not be an inclusive workplace. Overall, non-inclusive practices cause you to lose 39% of potential applicants.
The job description or ad constitutes your first point of contact with the candidate and is crucial in demonstrating your organizational values and employer brand. Using inclusive and role-specific language motivates candidates to apply for the job and share the opening within their social groups.
Sets the Tone for Candidate Communication
The JD is one of the first documents that the candidates and the recruiters will use and evidently defines future communication. Job descriptions are designed collaboratively to provide insight into the role and are used across departments.
Not everyone knows everyone in the organization. And JD will act as a point of reference to navigate candidate communication within the department and the organization at large. Getting the job description right is important as it determines how managers and supervisors interact with new hires.
If these descriptions are riddled with gender-coded and biased language, it can also add to the inherent biases of the employees. For instance, if the job description has a long list of ‘must-haves’, it creates unrealistic expectations of the candidate among managers and colleagues. This impacts recruitment as hiring managers will reject employees who don’t meet such strict requirements. It also affects employee performance reviews and satisfaction in the long run.
In contrast, inclusive job descriptions allow hiring managers to engage meaningfully with the candidates and hire them for their skills. In addition, they learn how to convey feedback and constructive criticism to the employees while nurturing their growth.
Job descriptions determine how you talk about your candidates and the role they are set to fill. When these documents include exclusive and biased language (age, gender, sexuality, disability or socioeconomic status), it makes candidates feel unwelcome.
It also paints you as an employer that does not value diversity and inclusion. This will prevent candidates from applying, limiting your talent pool and hampering diversity growth in your organization.
Inclusive job descriptions include language that does not discriminate against people based on age, gender, sexuality, race or socioeconomic status. It allows candidates from all backgrounds to visualize themselves in the role, encouraging them to apply.
Consequently, you reach a large number of talented candidates who believe in your company and values. Lastly, an unbiased JD ensures inclusive communication within the company at all levels, creating an inclusive workplace at large.
Are You Ready to Upgrade Your Job Descriptions?
To create belongingness and inclusivity in your organization, you must establish best practices to eliminate unconscious bias from your descriptions and other communications. By investing time and effort into revamping your job descriptions, you will attract more diverse and engaged candidates.
Don has spearheaded the adoption of HR and talent management applications and technology driven best practices at large and mid-sized companies throughout the U.S and abroad. He was also instrumental at evolving the focus of JDXpert’s Talent Management platform toward a job description-centric model that resulted in JDXpert becoming the market leader in job description management solutions.
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