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How To Attract Diverse Talent With Inclusive Job Postings

POSTED ON 
March 21, 2023

Despite fears of a global recession and record-setting tech layoffs, companies are hiring more than ever. 

Against all economic predictions, the U.S. added 517,000 new jobs in January 2023, causing the unemployment rate to dip to the lowest level since the 1969 moon landing (3.4%).  

While it may feel like we’re doom-scrolling through LinkedIn with the constant layoff posts popping up in our feeds, the labor market remains firmly tipped in the employee’s favor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there have been 11 million jobs advertised in 2023 so far, and only 0.6 available workers per role. 

We’re in the tightest labor market in decades.  

That’s why it’s essential to position your job descriptions in a way that is inclusive of the diverse applicants that undoubtedly will be applying.  

In a recent Monster survey, 88% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer. Gen Z is set to comprise 37% of the global workforce this year, outranking millennials and Gen X.   

No matter your generation, most people want to work for an authentic employer who shares their commitment to a more equitable world – and they will run to your competitor’s organization if their first contact with you is a job posting that is uninclusive or problematic.  

If you want to attract top talent, read on for three strategies and best practices on how to write inclusive job ads!  

Table of Contents: 

@linkList; ;Use Gender-Neutral Language;Avoid Ableist Language;Decolonize Your Language  

Use Gender-Neutral Language 

While removing gender binaries (she/he) and opting for “they” is table stakes in inclusive communications, it’s essential to use gender-neutral language throughout your job descriptions. A job posting is often a candidate’s first impression of your company’s culture and values, and you want to ensure that you’re not leaving behind female, nonbinary, and gender-fluid candidates by using language that doesn’t appeal to them.  

A study by the University of Waterloo and Duke University found that gender-coded words like “ambitious,” “confident,” and “logical” attract more male candidates, while words like “interpersonal,” “compassion,” and “warm” attract more female candidates. Other gender-coded words and phrases – like “dominate the industry,” “rockstar,” and “fearlessly” – tend to appeal to male candidates and turn off female and nonbinary candidates.   

The kicker? By removing these words from their job descriptions and concentrating on skills instead, companies see nearly 30% more applications per job compared to ads with gender-coded language. That’s a pretty nice return on the (small!) investment of removing gendered language.  

Beyond gender-coded words, job titles should also be gender-neutral. If your company is advertising for a sales position, avoid “salesman” in the job title – “sales agent” is inclusive of female, nonbinary, and gender-fluid candidates and will encourage them to apply.  

Not that it’s a surprise, but casting a wider net with gender-inclusive language pays handsome dividends as well: McKinsey and others have shown that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. To get female, nonbinary, and gender-fluid executives, you must start in the job description by sending a signal that your company is inclusive

👍 Say This: 

  • they (Not: she/he) 
  • concentrate on skills: candidates can do ‘x’ rather than be ‘x’ (Not: ambitious, confident, logical, dominate the industry, rockstar, fearlessly; interpersonal, compassion, warm) 
  • sales agent (Not: salesman)  
Learn how to use gender pronouns in the workplace

Avoid Ableist Language 

Rooting out ableism in the English language isn’t easy – it’s everywhere, and it’s by design. In a capitalist economy, which is predicated on workers’ bodies performing under constant pressure, no matter how sick or tired, a disabled body is of little value. This capitalist preference for overperformance is, unsurprisingly, everywhere in job ads, and you must make a conscious effort to break it – especially since one in four people in the U.S. is living with a disability.  

If you’re asking your job candidates to work in a “fast-paced environment” that requires them to “wear many hats” and to have a high tolerance for “ambiguity” and “operating in the grey,” you’re paying homage to a capitalist, ableist mindset that excludes disabled and neurodiverse folks.  

Don’t.  

The same goes for having “a sense of humor” (read: we want you to be neurotypical!). Autistic individuals have a different relationship to humor, which is often dependent on finding something genuinely funny and not necessarily engaging in laughter as a means of social expression or cohesion.   

Not to mention introverts (who may or may not be neurotypical!). As an introvert myself, any job description that implies that I need to have a sense of humor is an instant turnoff because it’s signaling that I need to be an extrovert to fit into this team or culture. I can be quite funny, but I also need to feel comfortable with the people I’m laughing with to show this side of me.   

Excluding autistic folks or introverts because you’re using ableist language can be avoided. Instead, use language that is reflective of the real experience of working at your company while still being inclusive. For example, you might state that candidates will be part of a “dynamic” environment instead of a “fast-paced” one. You can also write that your team is “collegial” instead of placing emphasis on “a sense of humor.”  

Finally, if the role you’re advertising requires candidates to lift or move objects, frame that requirement in a way that is ADA-compliant. Rather than “candidates must be able to lift 10 lbs,” write, “candidates must be able to lift 10 lbs with or without accommodations.” Talk about showing up inclusively for your diverse candidates! 

👍 Say This: 

  • dynamic environment (Not: fast-paced environment, wear many hats; high tolerance for ambiguity, operating in the grey
  • collegial (Not: sense of humor
  • candidates must be able to lift 10 lbs with or without accommodations (Not: candidates must be able to lift 10 lbs)     
Learn How To Craft Inclusive Internal Communications

Decolonize Your Language 

In Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, Thiong’o critiques the colonial process, which required violently taking away people’s lands, resources, and labor. To maintain and cement power over the colonial subject, the colonizer also took away people’s language, particularly their ability to self-determine the terms used to describe them.  

An example of this is the word “tribe” – the connotation is immediately primitive and uncivilized, and it is applied to Black, brown, and Indigenous people almost exclusively. Because the colonizer has used this language so pervasively, the colonized have internalized this negativity in their self-perception: they see themselves as primitive and uncivilized, thereby continuing the legacy of colonial subjugation.  

Decolonizing your language is about rejecting this negative internalization if you’re BIPOC, taking the power to self-determine and self-describe back from the colonizer, and rejecting the legacy of colonial subjugation if you’re not.  

While all this may feel like an odd detour from Professor Habeeb in a blog post about inclusive job descriptions (!), to truly craft inclusive ads, decolonizing your language is vital. An example of this is asking for “native English speakers” when what you want is an English-speaking candidate. Due to colonization, “native” is a tricky and frankly inappropriate term, especially when you consider that no white Americans are native to the U.S. Asking for a native English speaker also implies that you’re looking for a white candidate, even if that’s not what you mean. 

Does this mean that you should state that you’re open to “English as a second language” (ESL) candidates? Actually, no. ESL is also a problematic, colonialist term, because it implies that English is the primary language that all people should speak – it’s ethnocentric and culturally chauvinistic. If you were advertising for a job in Italy, you wouldn’t ask for “Italian as a second language” candidates, would you?!  

Cut through the colonial doublespeak and aim for clarity: “English-speaking” or “English fluency” are alternatives that signal that you’re open to people of all ethnicities and multiple languages. If you want diverse candidates to apply to your role, you must begin the process of decolonizing your mind.  

👍 Say This: 

  • English-speaking, English fluency (Not: native English speakers, English as a second language (ESL) candidates)   

Inclusive Language Is a Journey! Keep Learning. 

More than ever before, job candidates in an extremely tight labor market are demanding that their employer shows commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.   

Since your job posting is often a candidate’s first impression of your company’s culture and values, it needs to be inclusive. Use gender-neutral language, avoid ableist language, and decolonize your language by refusing to be complicit in the disempowerment of people who aren’t white, neurotypical or “native” English speakers (no).  

If you need to know where to start, download my highly-rated Inclusive Language Style Guide for tips on what to say – and not say – in your employee and candidate communications. You got this, and Brilliant Ink is always here to help!  

Read Our DEI Style Guide

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