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How to Write an Inclusive Job Description

Has your organization made a commitment to diversity and inclusion this year? Have you created goals to increase the diversity in your organization? Did you craft a diversity recruitment plan in order to meet those goals? All of these things are great, but there’s one area you simply can't afford to overlook as you execute your plan: job descriptions.

When creating job descriptions, it's not enough to just give an overview of what a position is and the expectations you have for candidates. When you're trying to increase diversity in your organization, it's important to post inclusive job descriptions, because otherwise you run the risk of alienating the very talent from underrepresented communities you're trying to attract. The following are some ways to make job descriptions inclusive, so there will be great talent in your hiring funnel pipeline.

1. Reconsider Must Haves

You want the most qualified candidates to apply for jobs at your company—that's a given. However, are all the must haves on your list of qualifications really necessary? Sometimes, people from underserved communities may feel a sense of imposter syndrome that causes them to believe they're not qualified for a job when they'd actually be the perfect fit. This in part is because when people see certain qualifications in a job description, it makes them feel excluded. Be sure to examine what you're asking for from candidates and determine if every item on your checklist is a must have for the job, or a nice to have that puts icing on the cake. Anything that isn't needed for a specific position should be reconsidered and possibly removed.

2. Remove Biased Language

If you have biased language in your job descriptions, you'll have a difficult time getting applicants from diverse backgrounds. Sometimes biased language is so subtle you may not even realize you're using it, so it's important to carefully consider the following things to avoid.

Gender. In order to ensure there is no gender bias in your job descriptions, you should remove references to pronouns. Instead of using “he” or “she,” refer to readers in the second person, which gives you the opportunity to speak to them directly in a way that connects with everyone who sees the ad. For example, instead of saying “He should have strong technical skills,” you can say, “You should have strong technical skills.”

Another example of gender bias in job descriptions is the use of words commonly associated with a specific gender. For example, if you're trying to attract more women to your organization, you should avoid words generally associated with men, such as “ambitious,” “assertive,” “aggressive,” and “confident.” Instead, use words that will resonate more with women, like “collaborate,” “understand,” “nurture,” and “interpersonal.”

Age. It's important to remember that we have a multigenerational workforce, so the spectrum of age groups needs to be considered in your job descriptions. For example, if you use words like “seasoned” and “experienced,” you end up eliminating younger workers who may have the skills you need. Similarly, phrases like “digital native” can turn away older generations. Instead of using these adjectives to describe potential applicants, focus on the actual skills you're looking for, which will open up the possibility of attracting talent from multiple generations.

Disabilities. In order to be inclusive toward those living with disabilities, it's important to avoid language that implies ability is required for a job. Words like “walking,” “standing,” “lifting,” and “bending” will make it difficult for people with disabilities to see themselves in a position, so they'll be less likely to apply even though they really may be a great candidate.

Culture and race. Cultural and racial bias in job descriptions doesn't have to be as blatant as mentioning specific groups. There are subtle signals that can unintentionally telegraph that your company isn’t inclusive. For example, talking about certain dress codes may exclude people from cultures that wear head coverings, while asking for native English speakers can exclude those who don't speak English as a first language.

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3. Keep Industry Jargon to a Minimum

Every industry has its own language, but using a lot of jargon in your job descriptions can turn potential candidates off. People who have not been in your field for long may have the skills you need for a position, but may not be familiar with the language you're using—which can also be a source of imposter syndrome that keeps talent away from your company. Only use jargon when necessary, and if possible, avoid it entirely. 

4. Highlight Benefits That Appeal to Diverse Groups

Benefits are important to every candidate, and if you offer generous benefits that appeal to diverse groups of employees, be sure to highlight them in your job description. Whether it is inclusive medical care for transgender employees, extra accommodations for people with disabilities, or generous family leave for working mothers, you want to mention these benefits to sell your organization.

5. Mention Your Dedication to Diversity and Inclusion

When you're trying to attract diverse talent, you have to communicate to people that your organization is welcoming. Fill your social media and recruitment website with information on your workplace culture and diversity initiatives, then direct prospective applicants to those sites to see it for themselves. If your organization is currently not as diverse as you would like it to be, you can still mention in your job descriptions that you're dedicated to hiring employees from diverse backgrounds in order to address that issue.

In many cases, your job descriptions are the first contacts with potential candidates, so they need to be as inclusive as possible to reach your D&I goals. Be sure to avoid language that could potentially repel the people you want to attract, while including information that displays your commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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