8 Ways to Create Inclusive Job Descriptions


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Job descriptions are often a candidate’s first impression of your company and something as simple as a word can affect the diversity of the talent pool you attract.

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8 Ways to Create Inclusive Job Descriptions

Diversity in the workplace has many benefits. According to McKinsey, companies with diverse teams have been found to outperform those without by up to 35%. Diversity also drives better performance, with diverse teams being 87% better at decision making.

Moving forward, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) will be one of the most important trends in talent acquisition and recruitment. Moreover, 67% of employees consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment offers.

Therefore, companies need to ensure their job descriptions when hiring are as inclusive as possible. Here are 8 tips to help you make that happen.

Avoid gender-coded words and use more inclusive language

Gender coded language refers to words, phrases or traits that have been associated with particular genders which can lead to the exclusion of certain applicants. Using gendered words in job advertisements can result in candidates getting the wrong idea about who the ideal person for the role is and deter them from applying.

HR teams need to focus on using inclusive language to ensure they’re attracting a diverse talent pool and not giving job seekers a false impression of their company. Here are some examples of gender-coded words:

Female-coded words Male-coded words     
Empathy Lead
Sensitive Competitive
Honest Analyse
Loyal Ambitious
Compassion Fearless
Understand Headstrong
Nurture Independant
Interpersonal Assertive
Share Dominant
Support Outspoken

Try to avoid using too many gendered words in job descriptions. You can use tools like Textio or Gender Decoder to identify problematic word choices and help you to use more inclusive language.

Avoid gender bias

Using gender pronouns in job descriptions is a guaranteed way to exclude candidates who may be qualified for the role. Removing pronouns like he/she or him/her will help you avoid gender bias in hiring.

Instead, use neutral pronouns like “they/them” or, even better, “you”. Not only will this remove gender bias, but it’ll also give candidates the impression that you’re speaking directly to them.

Cut out racial bias

Including racially or culturally explicit words in job descriptions can lead to candidates from certain backgrounds feeling excluded. Often, racial bias is unknowingly perpetuated by recruitment personnel, so be careful with the words and phrases you use. Here are some tips to avoid racial bias in job descriptions:

  • Don’t mention race or national origin
  • Avoid requirements like “native English speaker” as this may exclude non-native speakers who are proficient in English from applying
  • Avoid listing requirements around dress (like prohibiting head coverings, for example)

Recognize age and experience bias

Age and experience bias is high in today’s job market, particularly in tech and marketing environments. But it’s important to recognize the words and phrases that indicate this and remove them from job descriptions to be more inclusive. Common examples of age and experience bias include:

  • Using phrases like “start-up atmosphere” or “young company” can cause older people to feel reluctant to apply
  • Asking that candidates are “digital natives”, a term than many older job seekers won’t identify with
  • Naming a specific number of years experience required for the position

Learn more11 Practical Ways to Reduce Unconscious Bias in Your Hiring Process

Highlight your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Many companies are already working towards being a more inclusive workplace, so why not highlight this in your job descriptions? Knowing you are a DEI champion will make candidates more inclined to submit their applications.

There are different ways to do this - you can simply state at the bottom of the job advertisement that you are “an equal opportunity employer” or write something in your own words that’s more specific to your company.

Don't forget about candidates with disabilities

When writing job descriptions, another important thing to remember is to ensure they are accessible and encourage disabled applicants.

Phrases like “seeking able-bodied individual” should be avoided at all costs, and instead of using words like “walk”, be more inclusive of those in wheelchairs by saying “moves”.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the job descriptions themselves are accessible to people with disabilities such as dyslexia by using size 12 font and simple language.

Drop the jargon

Avoid using too much jargon in job descriptions as this tends to exclude potential candidates who may be less familiar with your company vertical, such as recent graduates or those looking to make a career change. Often, professionals in certain fields learn jargon through experience, so it shouldn’t put limits on your talent pool.

Choose words that aren’t industry specific. Instead of using confusing acronyms and sales terms try to include more universal wording to ensure you’re not discouraging qualified candidates from applying.

State your benefits in your job description

Benefits such as paid parental leave, health insurance, flexitime, childcare subsidies and so on can play a huge role in supporting your DEI efforts. Mentioning them in job descriptions can help you to prove your commitment to creating an inclusive workplace and reflect your company values.

Learn more: Which Employee Benefits Can Your Workers Do Without?

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