How to Write More Inclusive Job Descriptions

Three people in a meeting.

Whether you’re writing a job description, social job ad, email, text message, or video job ad script, it’s important that each and every communication is unbiased and inclusive. This is easier said than done, since it may be difficult to fully comprehend how others may perceive a given job posting. For instance, describing the role as being “well-suited to recent graduates” suggests a bias against older workers.

Follow these tips for writing inclusive job descriptions, which will help encourage every qualified candidate to apply. You’ll not only deepen your candidate pool, you’ll also reap the rewards of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Remove Gender-Coded Words

If candidates assume the role is more suited for the opposite gender, you might be missing out on qualified candidates. The best way to avoid this common mistake is to avoid words that are typically understood to be coded for a male or female audience, even if they merely hint at gendered stereotypes. Below are some common variations of gender-coded words.

  • Female-Coded Words. Agree, empath, sensitive, affectionate, feel, support, collaborate, honest, trust, commit, interpersonal, understand, compassion, nurture, and share.
  • Male-Coded Words. Aggressive, confident fearless, ambitious, decisive, head-strong, assertive, defend, independent, battle, dominant, outspoken, challenge, driven and superior.

Avoid Gender Bias

According to a Hewlett Packard Internal Report, women will typically only apply for a job if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications. To avoid unconscious gender bias deterring women from applying to your job, consider eliminating requirements that are not essential. If the position is one where training can easily be provided, don’t ask for experience on software. Generalize areas where transferable skills are okay, and clearly outline which qualifications are required and which are preferred.

Eliminate Racial Bias

Like gender bias, racial bias can be implicit, and oftentimes is unknowingly perpetuated by recruitment professionals who otherwise recognize the importance of inclusive job descriptions. By paying careful attention to words and phrases, you can help eliminate implicit and explicit bias in your job posting. Here are some suggestions:

When Writing Communications

  • Never mention race or national origin.
  • Phrases like, “strong English-language skills” may deter qualified non-native English speakers from applying.
  • A “clean-shaven” requirement can exclude candidates whose faith requires them to maintain facial hair (it also indicates the position is for men only).

When Reviewing Candidates

  • Avoid “Cultural Fit” and focus on “Value Alignment,” since it could be misconstrued.
  • Limit referral hiring, and go beyond your network.
  • Don’t waiver from the qualifications for a select few.
  • Ask everyone the same set of interview questions.

Win Over Experienced Workers

Workers age 50 and older comprise roughly 35 percent of the workforce, according to a report from Human Resource Executive. Some best practices for avoiding age discrimination include making sure your employer branding reflects a wide range of the age of workers at your company. Also, don’t ask for GPA or SAT scores-it implies that only recent grads are being considered.

Additionally, avoid phrasing like:

  • “Young and energetic”
  • “Party atmosphere”
  • “Work hard/play hard”
  • “Digital native”
  • “Calling all recent college grads!”
  • “Athletic” or “athletically inclined”
  • “No more than X years of experience”
  • “Junior” or “Senior” except as part of a job title
  • “Supplement your retirement income!”

Inclusive Job Descriptions Welcome Disabled Workers

Job descriptions that are welcoming to workers of all abilities should mention reasonable accommodations such as flexible hours or telework policies that would appeal to disabled workers. Avoiding language that could discourage disabled job seekers who are nevertheless qualified for the job isn’t always intuitive, though. For instance, a job that requires constant movement throughout an office shouldn’t be limited to “walking,” since that would exclude someone confined to a wheelchair.

Let applicants know your workplace welcomes and values all candidates with phrasing like: “Ability to complete tasks with or without reasonable accommodations.” Instead of writing “Access to your own vehicle isn’t always necessary”, try “Access to reliable transportation,” which is more inclusive to people with disabilities. See our chart below for other inclusive language considerations:

Discriminatory Language More Inclusive Language
Must be able to lift 50 pounds Moves equipment weighing up to 50 pounds
Seeking able-bodied individual [No replacement-avoid completely]
Bending and crouching under desks to install equipment Positions self to install equipment, including under desks
Must be able to stand for entire shift Must be able to remain in a stationary position during shift
Talks to students about their financial concerns Communicates with students about their financial concerns
Walks throughout the building to access files Moves throughout the building to access files
This role requires visually inspecting sites for safety This role requires inspection of sites to detect safety concerns

Lay the Groundwork for a More Inclusive Workplace

If your workforce is monocultural and lacking in diversity, your organization is less likely to succeed. Writing more inclusive job descriptions can certainly help, but cultivating a more inclusive and diverse workplace requires awareness and efforts that may not be that obvious. We’re here to help. Access our free expert resources on creating an inclusive workplace and recruiting the right people in order to build, and keep, the best workforce possible.

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