Beyond Words: How to Write Job Descriptions that Welcome Diversity

For many candidates, the job description is their introduction to your organisation. It's how they learn about a role and its needs. It's how they make the decision to express their interest. It’s how they get excited about the opportunity to shift their career in a new direction. It's one of the most powerful tools for attracting candidates to your organisation.

Unfortunately, many organisations fail to attract diverse pools of candidates thanks to poorly written job descriptions. By making thoughtful changes to this critical document, you can ensure a job description properly represent your organisation.

Prioritise Role Requirements

A common flaw is for job descriptions to have exhaustive lists of requirements and responsibilities. This makes sense from certain perspectives; you want to highlight the full range of needs organisation has for the role. By making the job description long and hard to understand, organisations may also fail to attract a diverse talent pool. The research shows that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. In addition, a study found the average jobseeker only spends around 50 seconds reviewing a description before deciding if it’s a fit. You need to make sure you have all the appropriate information up front and easy to read.

Change this by making sure your job description includes a prioritised list of requirements. This list should focus key needs of the role and summarise what the needs for the role are. You can also soften the language for lower priority needs by calling them "potential requirements" or "nice to have".

Include a Diversity Statement or Goals

Does your organisation have a DEIA plan or a list of DEIA goals? Make sure that they are included and referenced within your job description. Listing these in your job description shows candidates you have been thoughtful about diversity and have a path to including a broad set of views in the organisation. A preliminary study concluded that any kind of diversity statement or goal was better than having none.

Do you have other projects or initiatives in your organisation to attract diverse candidates? Make sure to mention them here as well. Any mention of mentorship, training programs, or explicit efforts to attract diverse candidates will attract an even broader range of candidates.               

Include Benefits and Remote Work Options

In order to attract a diverse slate of candidates, organisations should list benefits upfront or early in the application process. It shows that organisations are being transparent about what they offer their employees. Make sure to highlight important benefits for diverse candidates including childcare subsidies and parental leave. This is especially true for roles that have remote options. In June 2021, Glassdoor found that interest in remote roles increased increased 460%. Organisations looking to attract a diverse slate of candidates should list their working arrangements and remote work options up front to attract candidates.

Limit Coded Language

Another common flaw for job descriptions is using coded language that subtly or unconsciously turns off diverse candidates. Research shows that when job descriptions included more masculine than feminine language, participants perceived men within these occupations and women found these roles less appealing. Make sure your job description includes words that are supportive of a broad and inclusive audience. This included words like "interpersonal" "together" "support" and "trust." (You can read more about this research here). You should also replace uses of “he/she” with the much more neutral descriptor of “they.”

You also need to be mindful of language that could turn off promising candidates that come with a disability. For example, you shouldn’t have requirements that dictate the type of communication needed for a role with language like “have strong written and oral communications skills.” You can use a more neutral phrasing like “able to communicate with others effectively.”

How SRI Executive Can Help

As a leading executive search partner, SRI Executive can help you on the journey to attract broad and diverse talent pools for your key hires. We have a long track record of attracting diversity into our roles, closing last year's searches with 56% of female hires and 47% of hires from underrepresented communities. We have a skilled Strategy Practice that can help you better understand your organisation's fitness and other areas. We bring more than 20 years of experience in executive search and can bring your experience and insight to bear in helping you craft better job descriptions.

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