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Intentionally inclusive: 10 ways to build better job descriptions today

Clovers Editor

If you only had 14 seconds to catch someone’s attention, what would you do? 

You’d be clear, concise, and engaging.

What if you were a recruiter? And your first touchpoint was a job description?

You’d do the same thing.

Because the average applicant only scans a job description for 14 seconds, every moment matters. To attract as much talent as possible, and to do it quickly, good job descriptions should be right to the point. They should be easy to understand. And, most importantly, they should be inclusive.

At their best, job descriptions get candidates excited to apply. At their worst, they make talent feel unwelcome, uninterested, and unwilling to join your organization.

Why should job descriptions be inclusive?

Job descriptions need to cast a wide net. Because a diverse workforce is more successful, your descriptions should be able to draw in a range of talent. Use inclusive language to appeal to all qualified candidates.

Not only are diverse companies more effective, many job seekers also value diverse workplaces. If you want to engage great candidates, demonstrate similar values in your job descriptions.

Inclusive job descriptions are essential when connecting with diverse talent. You’ll lose out on great candidates, including women and BIPOC applicants, if they don’t feel welcomed as potential employees.

As the first step in a hiring process that should result in diverse, dynamic teams, take the time to develop job descriptions that can get you there. 

Ten tips for intentional inclusion

From gender-coded language to the use of industry jargon, it’s easy to write a job description that unintentionally excludes applicants. Do the opposite: go out of your way to write intentionally inclusive job descriptions. Use these tips to get started.

  1. Beat gender bias 

Remove pronouns

A good start to more inclusive job descriptions is to avoid gender pronouns. Women will feel unwelcome if “he” is used in your description, and using “s/he” will make candidates outside of the gender binary feel uncomfortable.

Speak directly to each applicant. Say “You will have these skills…” or “You’re able to accomplish…” instead of “He will bring to the table…” or “He will be able to achieve…” These small adjustments show that your organization is open to talent of any gender. 

Use gender-neutral titles

Write job postings or job ads with gender neutral titles. Use easily searchable job titles that specifically reference professional skills and avoid jargon.

Use this, not that
Neutral Job Titles Gendered Job Titles
Anchor Anchorman
Chairperson Chairman/Chairwoman
Congressperson Congressman
Firefighter Fireman
Flight attendant Stewardess
Salesperson Salesman
Supervisor/Manager Foreman

 

Avoid coded language

Too often, job descriptions make the mistake of appealing primarily to male applicants. It might be unintentional, but masculine-coded language quickly discourages non-male applicants. 

It’s best to use gender-neutral language or feminine-coded words, as men aren’t as easily deterred by coded language.

Use this, not that
Gender Neutral Words Feminine-Coded Words Masculine-Coded Words
  • Accurate
  • Articulate
  • Creative
  • Demonstrate
  • Inspire
  • Knowledgeable
  • Manage
  • Motivate
  • Persuasive
  • Proficient
  • Research
  • Organized
  • People
  • Self-aware
  • Sound
  • Steady
  • Tactful
  • Agreeable
  • Collaborative
  • Committed
  • Compassionate
  • Connected
  • Considerate
  • Cooperative
  • Dependable
  • Empathetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Honest
  • Interpersonal
  • Pleasant
  • Responsible
  • Supportive
  • Sympathetic
  • Together
  • Trustworthy
  • Understanding
  • Warm
  • Ambitious
  • Analytical
  • Assertive
  • Competitive
  • Confident
  • Decisive
  • Driven
  • Dominant
  • Expert
  • Independent
  • Intellectual
  • Leader
  • Logical
  • Ninja
  • Objective
  • Persistent
  • Rock star
  • Self-sufficient
  • Strong
  • Superior


2. Eliminate racial bias

Don’t reference race, culture, or national origin

Remove any trace of racial bias from your job descriptions. Unless a certain characteristic is explicitly required for the position (for example, your employee must be fluent in another language), take out any mention of race, culture, or national origin. This both ensures compliance and demonstrates an openness to diversity.

Remove offensive “requirements”

Some job descriptions include “requirements” that are actually discriminatory or offensive. Take care to avoid them.

For instance, requiring “native English speakers” will discourage bilingual applicants or immigrants. An applicant’s ability to speak fluent English is not a reflection of their ability to do quality work.

Referencing appearance or grooming is also problematic. For example, saying something like “clean shaven” could deter religious applicants who sport beards. And requiring certain “professional” hairstyles is discriminatory against candidates who wear natural hair or head coverings. 

Avoid insensitive lingo

There are many phrases used in everyday speech that many people don’t realize are offensive or discriminatory. We might use those phrases without intending harm, but that doesn’t mean they don’t cause harm.

It’s impossible to know every phrase that carries negative connotations, but it’s important to make every effort to avoid using them. Do research, use a job description tool to evaluate your text, or communicate with your diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) team. And if you make any mistakes, receive feedback and make changes in the future.

Use this, not that
Culturally Inclusive Phrases Culturally Insensitive Phrases
Easy, attainable Cakewalk
Excessive chatter Peanut gallery
Gather around Circle the wagons
Group, community Tribe
Leader, expert Guru
Manage Hold down the fort
Meeting, brainstorm Pow-wow
Mentor, kindred Spirit animal
Talented, adaptable Ninja

 

3. Remove ableist language

Focus on the goal, not the “how”

Not every employee or job applicant has the same physical or cognitive abilities. When you’re listing job must-haves, don’t focus on how your employee will complete their tasks. Instead, focus on the task itself. 

For instance, don’t say “you’ll walk downtown to meet clients.” Say “you’ll meet clients downtown.” This phrasing leaves room for employees to adapt to tasks in ways that work for them.   

Take out the lingo

Be careful of the words you choose when communicating with job seekers. Avoid terms that are insensitive to people with physical disabilities, like “it fell on deaf ears,” or phrases that could offend neurodivergent candidates, like “we need you to be OCD about selling.”

Use this, not that
Inclusive Insensitive
Committed to success Crazy about success
Communicate Talk, speak
Feeling ignored Falling on deaf ears
Gap in understanding Blind spot
Gather information Listen
Move files across the office Walk files across the office
Move up to 50 lbs Lift up to 50 lbs
Organized OCD about organization
Travel Drive

 

4. Avoid ageism

Include older applicants

Don’t deter a pool of qualified applicants. Not only is it bad for business, discriminating against older workers is also illegal

Avoid words that signal interest in a young workforce, like “fast-paced” or “tech-savvy.” Avoid asking after SAT scores, GPAs, or recent internships. 

Consider removing the “years of experience” requirement from job descriptions. You could discourage talented applicants if they feel they have “too much” experience.

Include younger applicants

Requiring “years of experience” could also turn off younger applicants. They may have the tools they need to perform well, but won’t feel confident enough to apply. You want to find the right person for the job, not the right-aged person for the job.

Some younger workers are experiencing ageism in the workplace—show that you have a more inclusive workplace with age neutral job descriptions.

Use this, not that

 

Age Inclusive Deters Older Applicants Deters Younger Applicants
  • Adaptable
  • Creative
  • Engaged
  • Flexible
  • Productive
  • Willing
  • Avant-garde
  • Digital native
  • Energetic
  • Fast-paced
  • Fresh
  • Go-getter
  • Recent graduate
  • Tech-savvy
  • Young at heart
  • Industry jargon
  • Mature
  • Proven
  • Seasoned
  • Wise

 

5. Reduce must-haves

Eliminate nice-to-haves

Each job requirement is another opportunity for good candidates to self-select out. Take an honest look at what is absolutely necessary for the position, and what is just nice to have. Only include the essentials.

Make women feel welcome

Male job seekers will apply if they meet some or most of a job description’s criteria. Women only apply if they meet 100% of the requirements. Narrow down your must-haves to appeal to more women candidates.

Re-evaluate education

Consider whether or not educational requirements are essential. Candidates may have learned key skills through certification programs, real-life experience, or accelerated courses.

Requiring a college degree also discourages candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds. Not everyone has the time, money, or opportunity to pursue graduate level education.

Prioritizing applicants who attended top-tier universities also puts underrepresented groups at a disadvantage. Historically, underserved populations have not had the same access to elite schools. You can’t judge an applicant’s true ability based on where they went to school.

The experience issue

An applicant with job experience might look good on paper, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Women and BIPOC employees are not given the same opportunities to advance in their careers as white males. Take care to consider this before blindly valuing experience over all else. Instead, assess for competencies, skill sets, and ability to learn.

6. Drop the jargon

Avoid insider lingo

Using too much lingo makes applicants feel they don’t have the insider knowledge they need to succeed. Write job descriptions that are easy for everyone to understand and make all candidates feel comfortable.

Appeal to all applicants

Jargon could discourage applicants from other industries. They could have the skills they need to do well, but incorrectly assume their talents won’t transfer. You could miss out on great talent and new perspectives.

Consider young professionals

Young applicants are discouraged by industry lingo. Their ability to understand vernacular isn’t a representation of their ability or potential. Make your job description accessible and welcoming to developing young professionals.

Simplify the text

Instead of using buzzwords or jargon, spell out acronyms. Address specific tools or tech on an as-needed basis. Don’t get into niche topics or complicated language. Stay on point.

Jargon to avoid
B2B Mergers and acquisitions
Compliance P&L
Fulfillment services Procurement
KPIs SLA

 

7. Communicate clearly

Ensure readability

Make things easy for your audience. To appeal to the average U.S. applicant, make sure your descriptions are at an 8th grade reading level. Plain language also includes potential applicants who have different comprehension abilities. Consider using specialized tools to double check your work.

Format like a pro

Formatting will make your job descriptions easier to digest. Use short sentences, large fonts, and break up text into smaller chunks. Take advantage of headlines, bullet points, and bold text to highlight important details. And if you keep job descriptions between 700 to 2,000 characters, you’ll see applications increase by 30%

Strike the right tone

When you’re writing your job descriptions, use an active voice. For instance, say “we support good deals” not “good deals are supported by the team.” 

Humanize your job descriptions too. Speak directly to your applicant. Say “you’ll communicate with…” not “the applicant will communicate with…” You’ll build a stronger connection with your applicants.

8. Share your benefits

Promote the positives

Make it clear that you support diverse lifestyles by outlining employer benefits in your job descriptions. Share any childcare subsidies, parental leave policies, or family sick time programs you offer. Promote any healthcare benefits or time-off incentives. And if you offer programs that support inclusion, like resource groups or mentorship initiatives, mention that too.

Share the salary

Some states now have laws that require salary transparency in job descriptions. Sharing your salary range especially benefits diverse applicants who are are effected by the wage gap. If you’re upfront, candidates won’t feel pressured to negotiate salary based on pay history.

9. Include DEIB statements

Demonstrate your company’s commitment to diversity with a DEIB statement. Expressly encourage diverse candidates to apply. And tell job seekers to reach out if they need any accommodations during the hiring process. It’s a good idea to include an Accessibility Accommodation statement and Equal Employment Opportunity statement too.

10. Receive feedback

The best way to make sure your job descriptions are inclusive is to ask for feedback. Send drafts to your designated DEIB team. Analyze your application data. Run job descriptions through tools to check for bias and readability. Always be open to improvement.

Inclusion to impact

Get your hiring process off to the right start. And take your job descriptions to the next level with intentional inclusion. Use these ten steps to attract more talent—and find the people you need to build stronger, better, more dynamic teams. 

Clovers Attract

When you only have 14 seconds to engage applicants, you know you need to make them count. Use Clovers Attract—a specialized tool for inclusive, impactful job descriptions—to connect with a pool of the best talent, fast. Let us help you take your job descriptions, and your teams, to the next level today. 

Want to learn more? Reach out for a demo or trial today.

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