It’s no secret that the pandemic has created a resignation effect, with top talent from all over the world re-prioritising and re-assessing what’s important to them and their careers. This ‘great resignation’ has snowballed into the ‘war for talent’ (which we recently discussed how you can avoid) and we’re now in a situation where competition for top employees is extremely strong but demand is far outstripping supply.
One area often overlooked in the hiring process is language, specifically how language used in job descriptions can have an adverse effect on the number of applications an employer will receive. Let’s explore.
It may sound obvious but recycling outdated job descriptions and adverts can be extremely damaging, and I’m surprised how often this is done. The discipline of being definitive and clear about the skills and traits you need to attract is too often handled ‘lazily’.
We’ve all done it, I know I have. You need to hire someone, you go to the last job description you can find for the role, make a few edits, and post. Two weeks later you are disappointed and frustrated by the number, relevancy, quality and diversity of applications. The world of work is changing at breakneck speed, yet our job descriptions remain the same.
This is not just using ‘they’ instead of he/she. Inclusive language is one of the best practices in writing job descriptions, it’s also one of the most simple changes to make. It will not only improve your chances of attracting diversity but also widens the net to include as many qualified candidates as possible not limited by individuals’ life experience, cultural background, age, gender, sector experience, under-represented groups, education profile, socio-economic, and geography.
Without realising it, we all use language that is subtly ‘gender-coded’, we have ideas of what men and women are like, and how they differ. Think about “bossy” and “compassionate”: we rarely use these words to describe men. Research from Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay back in 2011, called Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 2011, Vol 101(1), has shown that it puts women off applying for jobs that are advertised with masculine-coded language and it’s the same vice versa.
I believe we all want to promote a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion yet the language we use is exclusive and sometimes discriminatory. No wonder qualified candidates do not resonate with us and feel discouraged from applying. So how do we do better?
1. Use a tool that removes non-inclusive language and create a style guide for writing job descriptions – avoiding words, like “rockstar,” “ballsy,” and “dominate”
2. Emphasize your commitment to diversity and inclusion and how you create an inclusive and supportive environment
3. Keep your requirements clear and succinct, stop using unnecessary corporate jargon, stick to the must haves and use more universal language such as “familiar with”
4. Shout about your inclusive benefits
However, it doesn’t stop here. A company can hire the best talent, but if everyone, more specifically leadership, doesn’t create the environment to support difference and a place of belonging, new hires will leave. Words on the page are a positive starting point – but talk is talk and the walk has to be walked.
If you’re interested in learning about how a major media organisation is building a more diverse, high performing team, check out SRI’s recruitment performance accelerator case study to see the recommendations we made.