Diversity in the Workplace: Start with your Job Description


Creating a best place to work means cultivating an engaged, forward-thinking, and diverse corporate culture. But before you can do that, you first need to attract a wide candidate pool of all backgrounds, orientations, and identities by posting job descriptions that are inclusive to all.


Think about music for a second. Now, close your eyes and imagine your favorite Diva. Who comes to mind? Maybe Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey, or Cher? What about your favorite Rockstar? Mick Jagger, or Paul McCartney, or even Elvis? Yet, when we sift through job description after job description, it seems everyone wants to hire a “rockstar,” but not so much a “diva.”


When you think about a musician, or even a songwriter, the difference in verbiage can really impact one’s perspective. That same principle holds true with job descriptions. There are certain words or phrases that, as much as we don't mean to, attract one particular demographic over another.


So, how can we make job descriptions less limiting?


Stay away from words like Rockstar, Ninja, or Guru. Since these words tend to lean more masculine, it’s best to use more neutral phrasing and verbiage to ensure you’re attracting a larger pool of candidates. Keep it simple with terms like “Engineer” or “Developer”.


Using words like “expert” or “leader” may also be deterring people, considering more men are in senior leadership roles compared to women. In fact, according to research, only 38% of women are in leadership compared to 62% of men. This is a challenge when hiring for senior-management positions, but as we continue to make strides in hiring equality, we can focus on changing certain keywords to continue attracting diverse candidates and diving in deeper in interviews, rather than resumes.


Avoid words in your job description like “aggressive” and “assertive.” Instead, ask open ended questions about achievements and successes during the interview process rather than looking for key-words on a resume. Studies show women tend to not over highlight their accomplishments, so words that rely on a heightened view of personal success may be turning some people away. Words like “collaborative” and “adaptive” will fare better in achieving a more diverse applicant pool.


Take out the fluff. A job description can go from concise to a laundry list of items very easily, and unfortunately, it’s turning off certain audiences. There has been evidence showing women don’t apply to roles unless they believe to be 100% qualified, compared to 60% of men in the same scenario. That means, the more “nice-to-haves” you list, the less representation you’ll have in your applicants.


That gives us a better idea of how certain phrasing can detract/attract certain demographics, but here are a few other points to consider:


  • Talk about your project goals and initiatives. You're looking for an iOS developer - great! What is the application's purpose? Studies show you will attract a wider array of candidates when you offer more insight into the goals of the project, especially if you're in a space that is looking to change the status quo.

  • This is the time to let your DEI goals shine! Does your organization have a DEI group, and are statistics being shared on an executive level to continue pushing the needle forward with diverse hires? What about stories of promotions and successes of your diverse staff? Whatever your organization is doing to be more inclusive, you want to highlight that in your own words. When people see representation of their own backgrounds/identities, it creates more interest in not just the role, but the organization as a whole.

  • Highlight work-life balance and flexibility. Each person has their own individualist needs, and showing that your organization can be flexible to include: religious and cultural observances, school and daycare pick-ups and drop-offs, volunteering, and even paternity/maternity leave, will attract a far greater audience than cultivating a culture centered around kicking ass and being a rockstar.

We have a responsibility to bring equity within the workforce by not only representing candidates of all backgrounds, but heightening those who feel they have been left behind. DEI is not just a buzzword, and little changes can pack a big punch. It all goes back to creating the best possible culture that cultivates happy, eager, and hard-working employees - and the first step is ensuring everyone is represented.


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