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Best practices for job descriptions
Best practices for job descriptions

Write engaging, inclusive job descriptions that draw the most qualified and diverse talent pool

Updated over a week ago

When writing a job description, you probably use certain words that are difficult for some candidates to identify with and will likely turn them away.

Even something minor—like a word—can affect whether or not you are attracting a diverse talent pool. And with diversity and inclusion among the biggest and most important trends in talent acquisition, you need to make sure your job descriptions are inclusive too. Here are a few simple tweaks you can make to your job descriptions to do just that:

1. Avoid gender-coded words, like “rockstar,” “ninja,” and “dominate”

Being mindful with your job description vocabulary can make a big difference. Studies show that gender-coded words can significantly reduce the number of women applying to your open positions, even though this type of bias is usually unconscious.

To make your job descriptions more inclusive, start by taking gendered words like “ninja,” “rock star,” or “guru” out of your job titles and replacing them with more straightforward titles, like “developer” or “sales representative.” These titles may have less flair, but they’re also more inclusive and less likely to turn off candidates who feel they don’t fit the image you’re putting out.

Next, go through and remove any other gender-coded words that might pop up throughout your descriptions—for both men and women. Here is a list of gendered words, according to a study from Duke University and the University of Waterloo:

Keep these words in mind when writing your job descriptions and, to make things simple, you can also use Textio Hire—an online tool that analyzes job descriptions and suggests improvements to make the language more appealing to all applicants. Similarly, the Gender Decoder tool can tell you right away whether your job ad leans too much towards either feminine or masculine-coded words.

2. Limit your job requirements to “must-haves”

Your hiring manager might have an unending list of qualifications in mind for a given role, but in order to highlight your commitment to inclusion, it’s important to trim the list down. That’s because studies show that while men are likely to apply to jobs for which they meet only 60% of the qualifications, women are much more likely to hesitate unless they meet 100% of the listed requirements.

Instead of including all of the “nice-to-haves” that a dream candidate might possess, stick to the “must-haves,” and you’ll likely see your applications from female candidates increase. Or if you’d still like to call out certain desired skills, you can soften the message with language like “familiarity with,” “bonus points for,” or “if you have any combination of these skills.”

That said, it’s a good idea to cut down your long lists no matter what.

3. Avoid using unnecessary corporate speak and jargon

One of the quickest ways to turn off candidates is to include loads of unnecessary jargon in your descriptions. That includes things like KPIs, CPA, procurement, SLAs, P&L, and so on. While candidates with plenty of experience in a similar role might know what you’re talking about, studies show jargon and corporate language in job postings is one of the biggest barriers keeping talented young people from applying to entry-level positions. These subtle word choices can make some candidates feel unqualified for a position that they’re absolutely qualified for.

When in doubt, assume the candidate doesn't know the ins-and-outs of your company. For example, instead of using mystifying acronyms and sales terms in your requirements, aim for more universal wording, like “pays attention to details” or “personable with customers.”

4. Emphasize your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion

If your company is already making major strides toward becoming a more welcoming and inclusive place to work, you might want to consider including this in your job descriptions.

While you can simply state at the bottom that you are “an equal opportunity employer,” a statement in your own words is more powerful. If appropriate, you can also mention inclusion-related initiatives, like hosting employee resource groups (ERGs) or mentorship programs for women or people of color.

5. Call out inclusive benefits like parental leave and childcare subsidies

You already know that benefits like paid parental leave, childcare subsidies, paid family sick time, and even health insurance go a long way toward supporting diversity and inclusion, while also boosting retention and morale. If your company offers these benefits, you may not realize the need to call them out in job descriptions—since not every employee will necessarily benefit from them—but mentioning them gives you an opportunity to prove your commitment to inclusion right away.  

You don’t have to include every benefit, but adding a few perks to your postings doesn’t hurt. After all, your job posting is likely to be your first touch point with a candidate, and jobseekers with families (or who are looking to start families at some point) will see the benefits mentioned in your descriptions as signals of your larger company values.

Because we all have biases that can be unconscious and unintentional, it’s always a good idea to revisit your job descriptions and make tweaks to make them more inclusive and, if applicable, show off the great work your company is already doing to boost diversity and inclusion.

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