Diverse hiring starts with unbiased job descriptions.
A great job description starts by removing biased and coded language while paring down on the skills required list.

Diverse workplaces are more likely to be successful, with higher rates of employee satisfaction and a greater likelihood of attaining revenue goals. But many companies lag behind in the charge to increase workplace diversity. From the tech industry to the insurance industry (and many industries in between), a lack of diversity is hurting company reputations and bottom lines. But with all of the research and statistics proving that diversity is a positive thing, why the lag to make change in the? One contributing factor may be biased job descriptions.

Biased job descriptions hurt a company’s acquisition of diverse top talent during the hiring process. They are a silent form of hiring bias that many hiring managers and recruiters don’t even think to look into as thwarting diversity efforts. The diverse hiring experts at Brilliant Hire have seen companies output job descriptions with biased language time and time again, driving down applicant pool diversity by turning qualified minorities off from submitting their resume. Here’s what you need to know to write unbiased job descriptions and increase candidate diversity.

Types of biases that are often found in job descriptions

In general, bias affects job descriptions and hiring decisions in two ways: Implicitly and explicitly. Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes (based on characteristics like race, ethnicity, age and appearance) that sway one’s perceptions and decisions unconsciously. Explicit bias refers to the beliefs and attitudes one holds on a conscious level. While implicit bias like gendered language is more common in job descriptions, hiring managers should also be careful not to let explicit biases (like cultural barriers) get in the way of a great job description.

Here are some other examples of implicit biases that commonly make their way into job descriptions:

  • Gender bias: Job descriptions are rife with gendered language. Masculine language (sometimes in the form of excessive job requirements) is responsible for lower rates of women applying to some jobs than men. Words that seem innocuous like strong, drive or lead are actually gendered language that could lead to a less diverse applicant pool. Here’s a list of common gendered words to avoid in your job descriptions and job titles.
  • Racial and cultural bias: Racial and cultural bias often appears in the form of cultural references. While it may seem innocent to include specific holiday or cultural references in your job descriptions, leaving them out will help create more unbiased job descriptions and increase candidate diversity. Be wary of words and references (especially in the benefits section of the job description) that would make an applicant feel they do not belong at your company.

Consequences of biased job descriptions

Unbiased job descriptions should be a crucial part of any company’s hiring practices in order to increase candidate diversity. The consequences of letting biased language remain in job descriptions reach every facet of a company: It discourages diverse candidates from applying, extends the time to hire and drives down the diversity of the workplace. The exact same diversity that a company needs to come up with newer and better ideas, augment productivity and increase its bottomline.

So yes, the short answer is that biased job descriptions can hurt the revenue of a business. That’s why hiring managers and recruiters alike need to strive for unbiased job descriptions. Read and implement our top tips below to start increasing candidate diversity through unbiased language.

How to write unbiased job descriptions

Here are some tips to help you write unbiased job descriptions to attract more applicants and increase candidate diversity:

  • Avoid using gendered or culturally-biased language: As we discussed earlier, the phrasing of a job description can have a huge impact on who it appeals to and who does or does not apply to the role. Cultural references or negatively connotated language that focuses on gendered traits (like aggressive or independent) will lead to a lack of culturally diverse or female applicants -- sustaining gender inequality. Instead, try to avoid exclusionary or gendered language. You can check your job description’s gender-friendliness with the Gender Decoder tool.
  • Don’t be too demanding about job requirements: Lots of research suggests that men will apply for jobs they see themselves as mostly qualified for, while women won’t apply without being 100% sure they meet every qualification. Job descriptions that are written to demand many requirements from candidates are less likely to see a fair gender split among applicants and will mostly skew towards men. To avoid this, try separating your job requirement list into “must-have’s” and “nice-to-have’s” so that candidates understand the bare minimum qualifications.
  • Define performance based on results rather than on time spent working: Try not to pitch a job as a full-time 9-5 role. It’s understood that most traditional jobs follow that expectation, but think carefully if there’s room for flexibility. Most hiring managers want the work of the day to get done, but they don’t necessarily care to fill a desk for longer than needed to get that work done. Be aware that jobs that come across as not allowing for a flexible schedule or work-from-home opportunities might inadvertently exclude working mothers, disabled workers or single parents from the applicant pool -- or any other group that would benefit from the flexibility a technology-enabled job might offer.
  • Make sure to include a Diversity and Inclusion Statement: Showing candidates that a company is committed to diversity and inclusion can go a long way in attracting more diverse top talent. Aside from the standard Equal Employment Opportunity statement, be sure to mention if the company has any current diversity and inclusion initiatives or training. Proving that diversity is a priority for the company makes it easier for minorities to see themselves working there. Here are some examples of great inclusion statements to draw inspiration from.

So, is it worth it to spend the extra time and care improving biased job descriptions? Weighing that effort against the benefits of a diverse candidate pool and an inclusive workforce leaves hiring managers and recruiters with an easy answer: Absolutely. In a world that is constantly transforming with the digital revolution, finding qualified top talent that bring new perspectives and award-winning ideas to the table is more important than ever. And the job description might just be the first place to look on the quest to unlock that talent potential.

Brilliant Hire by SAP provides companies with an innovative way to build diverse and inclusive teams. It offers an efficient, unbiased applicant screening solution powered by a network of experts. With a mission to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process, Brilliant Hire has been trusted by countless talent acquisition professionals to cut down on screening time while ensuring every applicant has an equal chance of moving forward. Check out our blog for more information, or request a demo here.