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4 Tips for Writing Job Descriptions to Attract Diverse Candidates

It can be a struggle to shift towards building a diverse organization when it hasn’t been a priority in the past. Unconscious biases often cause us to hire those similar to ourselves, and if your organization has fallen into that trap it takes an extra level of focus to break out of that cycle.

Attracting more diverse candidates is crucial to building a more inclusive organization, and that begins with drafting job descriptions that appeal to underrepresented candidates. Job descriptions are often a candidate’s introduction to your organization. If your description itself is not inclusive, you are immediately creating barriers for diverse employees to enter into your hiring funnel, much less become a part of your organization. 

There are several steps to take to ensure you are writing job descriptions for diversity.

1. Understand what drives success in your open role

Every hiring manager has a vision of the individual they are looking for to fill an open role. That vision can be based on several factors, from a past candidate who filled the role, the hiring manager’s own experience and thoughts on who will be successful, or even advice from others who have filled a similar role themselves. The issue with creating a job description this way is that our unconscious biases can work their way into the recruitment process and limit the candidates that are considered viable for the position. 

Understand that with any position there are “must-have” skills for success and skills that can be helpful, but aren’t necessary. For the majority of open roles, must-haves will come down to soft skills, which are the best predictor of job success. Crafting your job description around your must-have soft skills will not only prevent you from eliminating qualified candidates but also prevent them from eliminating themselves.

Using data to learn what skills it takes to be successful in a role is the best way to eliminate bias. Evaluate current employees in their roles to see what skills they possess compared to their level of success on the job. If you are hiring for a new role or one without a large number of employees currently in it, you can use a tool like our free Job Description Decoder to learn what soft skills will lead to success in an open role.

2. Avoid gendered language

Just as unconscious biases can limit the candidates you’re open to, there are types of language that can limit certain candidates from applying. One of the most common ways this manifests is in the use of gendered language. Remove any reference to “he” or “she” when talking about a potential candidate. Instead, use gender-neutral pronouns such as “they.” Beyond pronouns, you also want to avoid or balance your use of “gender-charged” words. Words such as “objective” and “principled” are generally male-associated terms while “supportive” and “pleasant” are female-associated.

Pay attention to what terms you are using and if a term leans heavily toward one gender consider avoiding it or using another word to describe the trait. If some terms are unavoidable, be sure to balance the use of male and female terms throughout the job description. If you are unsure how gendered your job description is, use a tool such as the Gender Decoder to identify where you need to improve.

3. Make your job posting accessible

Similar to avoiding gendered language, there are other ways you can adjust the language in your job descriptions to attract more diverse candidates. Avoiding jargon and corporate language can help attract a more diverse array of candidates. Jargon is one of the most highly reported reasons why applicants do not apply to positions (entry-level jobs in particular). Using this language can cause qualified applicants to feel unqualified. 

Another aspect of making your job description accessible is expanding where you post your job description. It doesn’t matter how inclusive your job description is if the right people aren’t seeing it. Attracting candidates from a more diverse background starts by sharing your post where they can easily find it. Many hiring managers fear that posting in non-traditional areas will attract an overwhelming number of candidates, but using pre-employment testing that is bias-free will help you to easily screen out unqualified candidates.

4. Highlight diversity in your job description

One of the best ways to attract more diverse candidates with your job description is to let them know that their diversity is not only accepted but valued. Include a statement about your organization’s commitment to diversity and, if it is relevant to the role, provide info on any diversity initiatives that you are prioritizing. 

If you haven’t come up with a diversity statement for your organization or are struggling with what to highlight in the job description you may need to review your diversity initiatives as an organization. Writing job descriptions for diversity only helps if you have a culture in place to retain them. 

Another way to highlight diversity is by including any benefits that are related to diversity, such as the maternity or paternity leave policies offered at your organization.

Focusing on diversity can seem like a daunting task at the outset, but it is needed in every organization. Writing job descriptions for diversity is a great first step. As you begin to attract more of these candidates read how you can build an organization in which they can thrive.