Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
We don’t need any statistics to remind us how tough recruiting is right now. What we need are solutions. There are plenty of suggestions out there including pay more, offer flexibility, better benefits and educational opportunities, etc. All of these are great things to promote in your recruitment marketing.
But organizations have to get people to actually see their job postings. If I’m a candidate and I don’t know about your job, then I don’t know that you offer all those great benefits. I recently got my hands on a new book titled “Hiring for Diversity: The Guide to Building an Inclusive and Equitable Organization”. One of the chapters was dedicated to writing more inclusive job descriptions and postings. So, I asked the book’s co-author, Arthur Woods, if he would share his thoughts about job descriptions and postings with us. Thankfully, he said yes.
In addition to being an author, Woods is a social entrepreneur and LGBTQ+ advocate. He is the co-founder of Mathison, the leading technology provider for equitable hiring which gives employers a single solution for managing their diversity recruiting efforts. He’s a three-time TEDx speaker, was named Forbes 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 by Business Equality Network (BEQ), and previously co-founded Out in Tech, the largest global LGBTQ+ technology community. Arthur is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, a New York Venture Fellow, and SAPiO Foundries Fellow.
Arthur, welcome to HR Bartender. Why should organizations that are looking to be more inclusionary examine their job descriptions and job postings?
[Woods] A job description may seem like a small part of your hiring process, but it influences nearly everything else to follow. Many employers gloss over the process of drafting a job description, often copying the first template they can find online without any consideration of what they are signaling, requiring, and how it will impact the diversity of their applicants.
But your job description cements the essential requirements for a role and what determines how wide of a net you can cast. It is the first signal you send to candidates about how they will feel and whether they will be included in working for you. The more inclusive, inviting, and accessible your job description, the stronger the foundation for a diverse workforce.
Can you give us a common example of language that might be found on a job description or job posting that’s considered exclusionary?
[Woods] The language we use sends a powerful signal. We mostly hear about the need to avoid gender-coded terms in job descriptions but there is so much more we need to consider. As part of our book, “Hiring for Diversity”, we expanded on the language to consider by accounting for three other areas we should be mindful of:
- Jargon, corporate cliches, and acronyms – overusing terms that might be unique to your organization.
- Accessibility – writing in a conversational tone, making the job description short enough to digest and at a reading level that can be easily understood are all ways to ensure inclusion.
- Exclusionary terms – there are terms that can be perceived as microaggressive, out of touch, or exclusionary to job seekers, for example referring to the disability community as ‘handicapped’.
Speaking of accessibility, in your book, one of the tips that you provide for writing more inclusive job descriptions is to “write in a conversational and concise manner”. While we love our attorney friends, what can HR pros do when the legal department wants to “formalize” job descriptions for liability purposes?
[Woods] There’s a common misconception that job postings need to be formal to be taken seriously, not be a liability or get attention. It’s actually the opposite. We have to look back to the purpose of a job description in the first place — to attract as many highly talented and qualified applicants as possible.
The only compliance-oriented aspect of a job description is to include the term ‘equal opportunity employer’. Otherwise, we should focus on conversational language, keeping job descriptions as short as possible, and only emphasizing the most essential requirements.
I’m seeing more conversation about degree and experience requirements as a potential bias. I was glad to see the mention in your book. Can you briefly explain why degree/experience requirements could contain a bias?
[Woods] Every high credential that employers require for a job actually narrows the pool of underrepresented job seekers. From the advanced degree to exorbitant years of industry experience or even preferred qualifications, each requirement leads to a more homogenous applicant pool.
This is why we strongly encourage employers to eliminate degree requirements, lessen or erase years of experience requirements, and remove any preferred qualifications. Instead focus on the objective skills that a job seeker from any background could possess.
Last question. If organizations could do one thing to make their job descriptions more inclusionary, what would it be?
[Woods] If there’s one thing employers can do to make their job descriptions more inclusionary, it would start from scratch in drafting a simple description that answers this question, “What is absolutely essential and how can I make this empowering, accessible, and clear to someone who hasn’t previously had a seat at the table?” By leading with empathy in this process, we will be more inclusive.
A huge thanks to Arthur for sharing his knowledge with us. If you want to learn more about building a more inclusive workforce, be sure to check out his book. And the Mathison website offers several resources including:
- Hiring People with Disabilities
- Hiring Refugees & Immigrants
- Hiring Older & Experienced Workers
One of the best things that an organization can do to get more candidates is to be more inclusive. It starts with writing a better job description and job posting. I know that this might seem on the surface like a boring administrative task, but it is an absolutely necessary part of recruitment. And it delivers results.22