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Your guide to writing inclusive job descriptions
Your guide to writing inclusive job descriptions
You know the basics of writing job descriptions—choose a job title, then outline job requirements, role responsibilities, and important skills. But what about writing inclusive job descriptions?
An inclusive job description takes those basic ingredients and amplifies them. It transforms your job description into a powerful tool that appeals to more (and more qualified) candidates.
Worried about adding extra steps to your writing process? Don’t panic. This post will make it easy. Keep reading to learn more.
What’s in an inclusive job description?
Job descriptions are the foundation of your hiring process. And an inclusive job description sets the tone for a more inclusive hiring process. They appeal to as many qualified applicants as possible and encourage people of diverse backgrounds to apply.
Inclusive job descriptions demonstrate your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). They use inclusive language, highlight specific DEIB policies, and outline inclusive benefits your organization provides.
What does “inclusive language” refer to?
The Linguistic Society of America says that inclusive language “acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.”
Inclusive language in job descriptions is:
- Gender neutral. Free of pronouns and masculine-coded phrases.
- Age-inclusive. Doesn’t try to reach one age group over another.
- Disability-inclusive. Doesn’t assume applicant ability.
- Culturally sensitive. Free of offensive phrases and references to national origin, ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
- Stereotype-free. Doesn’t assume what kind of people are applying.
- Free of exclusive phrases. Welcomes a range of qualified candidates.
- Low on jargon. Free of insider language, buzzwords, or excessive abbreviations.
Why are inclusive job descriptions important?
Before we cover how to write inclusive job descriptions, let’s discuss why you need them.
Attract diverse talent
Making job descriptions inclusive will draw in more diverse applicants. People of color, women, and LGBTQ+ people are more likely to turn down non-inclusive jobs. Don’t let your choice of words alienate or marginalize whole communities.
The U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects people from discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy status, age (if 40 or older), disability, or medical history. Follow the law and maintain recruiting compliance with inclusive job descriptions.
Promote diversity and inclusion
McKinsey found that 39% of participants turned down or stopped pursuing a job because they saw a lack of inclusion at their prospective employer. That’s too many applicants to lose when you’re on the hunt for great talent.
Enhance employer brand
Research shows that 86% of candidates consider an organization’s approach to DEI when searching for work. An inclusive job description shows potential candidates that your brand cares too.
Improve employee engagement
There’s a statistically significant relationship between DEIB practices and employee engagement. Attract engaged employees with inclusive job descriptions and see improved business outcomes, like reduced turnover and increased productivity.
Foster innovation and creativity
Diversity increases innovation, improves decision-making, and promotes creativity. If you want adaptable teams that make better decisions quickly or deliver 46% more innovation revenue, prioritize inclusive hiring.
The impact of inclusive language on diverse candidates
Words have the power to cause harm. They might be offensive, marginalizing, or perpetuate stereotypes. On the other hand, inclusive language is welcoming and respectful.
Using DEI language for job descriptions shows that your organization is committed to inclusion. It also helps foster trust between potential employees and your company. And signals that all employees are valued.
How to identify biased language in job postings
Biased language can be outwardly rude or hurtful. It can also be so subtle that a writer doesn’t notice they’re using it. For example, “Even if you’re a woman, you’ll do well in this job” is clearly offensive and needs revision. Using job titles like “chairman” or “businessman” instead of “coordinator” or “professional” is more subtle but should be fixed too.
Biased language doesn’t just apply to gender. Requesting “native English speakers” could exclude immigrants or people who speak more than one language. Using common terms like “pow-wow,” “circle the wagons,” or “guru” is also culturally insensitive.
Asking applicants to be “crazy about success” or “OCD about meeting deadlines” is offensive to people with mental health diagnoses. And requiring “digital natives” who want to work in a “fast-paced environment” excludes older, more experienced workers.
Best practices for writing inclusive job descriptions
You know the why, so let’s tackle how. Use these best practices to write better and more inclusive job descriptions today.
Define essential job requirements
Remove nice-to-haves and only request must-haves. For every job requirement you add, you increase the risk that great candidates will self-select out. Women are especially likely to do this—they tend to apply if they meet every single job requirement.
Be clear about potential job responsibilities too. Many applicants want to know role specifics, so be upfront about job duties to manage expectations.
Focus on transferable skills
Transferable skills are useful in any work situation and can carry from job to job. For instance, empathy, conflict resolution, leadership, and communication skills are transferable. Hiring for skills is up to 5 times more predictive of employee success than work experience or educational background.
Industry-specific skills are taught more easily than transferable skills. Attract high-quality applicants from other industries by ranking transferable skills over industry skills. And know that not all applicants have had the same chances for career advancement or schooling, so hiring based on skills is more inclusive too.
Avoid unconscious bias
To reduce bias in your job descriptions, learn what your own biases are. When you understand them, you can work to counteract them. Taking a Harvard Implicit Association Test will help you identify where you might be biased.
Use clear language
Avoid jargon, clichés, or work-specific phrases. Not all job seekers come from an English-speaking background or a background in your industry. Don’t discourage them with too much insider language.
The average American is comfortable reading at a 7th or 8th-grade level, so your job descriptions should be easy to understand. Keeping the language simple will also benefit neurodiverse candidates, candidates with reading comprehension difficulties, or people who speak multiple languages.
Use accurate job titles
Write job titles clearly. Avoid trendy phrases or gender-specific titles. Don’t say things like “salesman” or “marketing ninja.” Your job won’t appear in job searches, and you’ll turn off non-male candidates.
Consider, too, that more potential employees have skills in multiple fields and are willing to go beyond “traditional” job responsibilities. Don’t narrow down your talent pool with hyper-specific job titles. For example, instead of asking for an “SEO Expert,” seek a “Marketing Lead.” Or, instead of “Receptionist,” consider “Workplace Coordinator.”
Use gender-neutral language
Many job descriptions use language that appeals only to men. To appeal to women and gender non-conforming applicants, use neutral language instead. Feminine-coded words are also okay, as men aren’t as easily deterred by “feminine” language.
Masculine-coded words to avoid include “ambitious,” “dominant,” and “competitive.” Inclusive, feminine-coded words are “collaborative,” “compassionate,” and “interpersonal.” Common examples of gender-neutral words are “creative,” “knowledgeable,” “organized,” and “self-aware.”
Avoid age-related language
Don’t turn away experienced potential employees with language that targets young applicants. Avoid phrases like “tech-savvy” and “young at heart.” Don’t ask after internships or GPAs. And include younger applicants by avoiding words like “seasoned” or “proven.”
Age-inclusive phrases include “adaptable,” “flexible,” or “engaged.” To be even more inclusive, consider removing any “years of experience” requirements too. The number of years someone’s worked won’t tell you what they can achieve.
Provide salary transparency
Candidates don’t trust organizations that don’t share pay ranges. They worry their salary will suffer because of bias. The pay gap is a problem, too—women still earn 84% of what men do, and Black households only hold 12.7% of wealth compared to white households.
To attract these candidates, help shrink the pay gap, and gain candidate trust, share salary ranges. As pay transparency laws are becoming more common, it’s important to make sure you’re following them too.
Highlight career growth opportunities
If you offer stipends for continuing education or programs for development, share them in your job descriptions. Including these benefits will attract motivated candidates and improve employee retention. Make it clear you want great candidates who will stick around.
Highlight your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
70% of job seekers want to work for companies that prioritize DEIB. Using DEI language for job descriptions—language that demonstrates openness to diverse candidates—will reinforce your company’s commitment to inclusion.
Seek input from diverse teams
If you have a DEIB committee or diverse colleagues willing to help, ask them to review your job descriptions. They can help point out problematic words or things that would make them uncomfortable applying for that job.
Do not do this without their consent, though. Just because you have a co-worker from a diverse background does not mean they want to be a resource for all diversity efforts.
Review and iterate
If they’re open to it, have your DEIB team review your job descriptions and offer feedback. Other members of your hiring team or current employees can help ensure job descriptions paint an accurate picture of your company. Or candidates you’re actively interviewing can share what attracted them to apply.
When you first learn how to write inclusive job descriptions, you might not get it perfectly the first few times. That’s okay, as long as you’re willing to keep getting better. Take the time to research more inclusive job description examples. And incorporate any feedback into your job descriptions for more inclusive versions in the future.
Monitor the impact
Track how your new job descriptions are performing. Monitor views, clicks, and the conversion rate of job ad views to applications. Adjust as needed.
Over time, keep track of employee retention, turnover, performance, and satisfaction. Learn how well your inclusive job description efforts paid off.
Addressing accessibility in job descriptions
Avoid job description language that implies ability, like “you’ll walk door-to-door” or “you’ll see clients.” Instead, try “you’ll canvas neighborhoods” or “you’ll connect with clients.” Focus on role requirements, and let the candidates manage “how” in a way that works for them.
Remember, accommodations aren’t just for recognizable physical disabilities. Be inclusive of candidates who require accommodations for mental illness, neurodiverse candidates, or applicants with hidden disabilities.
Consider including video clips with your job descriptions for people who process information differently. Work to simplify your language as much as possible. And make it clear that your organization offers Employee Assistance Programs or other ways to accommodate individual needs at work. Adding an Accessibility Accommodation Statement will show you’re committed to meeting employee needs too.
Leveraging technology for inclusive job descriptions
As you write more inclusive job descriptions, specialized tools can help you. Some technologies will evaluate your text for biased language, while others will provide suggestions for improvement.
Programs that use AI, like ChatGPT, can be a good place to start outlining more inclusive descriptions if you aren’t sure where to start. If you want to check that your job descriptions are easy to read, use a tool like the Hemingway Editor or the grammar checker Grammarly. To add branded visuals or videos to your job descriptions, programs like Cliquify can help.
Many tools are available to help you write and deliver more inclusive job descriptions. Don’t be afraid of the technology. Instead, let it work for you.
Attract qualified candidates with inclusive job descriptions today!
Let Clovers help you optimize job descriptions for inclusive language. With Clovers Attract, an inclusive job description tool, define job description must-haves, then analyze and score your text. Improve your inclusion score with automated suggestions, and attract more diverse candidates right away!
Want to make the rest of your hiring process more inclusive, too? Clovers supports inclusive hiring from beginning to end with resume reviews, interview coaching opportunities, and I/O certified question guides.
Inclusive job descriptions are only the first step on your inclusive hiring journey. Schedule a demo today to see what comes next.
Scot is a successful HR technology entrepreneur and advocate for conscious inclusion. Passionate about helping others succeed, he’s committed to improving the hiring process for employers and job-seekers every step of the way.