Diversity and Inclusion: Writing inclusive job adverts

July 30, 2020
George Turner Global Head of Operations

Following on from the brilliant first episode of Fifteen Minutes with FIFTEEN WEST where Lisa Walder spoke to Dr. Joanna Abeyie MBE about what the recruitment industry can do better to advance diversity and inclusion, I put together this article to look at how to attract the best talent to your business with inclusive job adverts.

‘Talent is talent.’  These were the words of Joanna Abeyie MBE in the first episode of Fifteen Minutes with FIFTEEN WEST, but how can you ensure that you are attracting the top talent to your business, and not allowing unconscious bias to affect your job adverts?

Unconscious bias is something that can creep into all aspects of life, and nowhere is more prevalent than in job descriptions, so we have looked at some of the things you can do, to make a positive change to how you write your adverts, which should hopefully lead to attracting more of the top talent to your roles.

Be mindful of the language

survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn found that half (52 per cent) of UK women would be put off applying for a job if the workplace was described as ‘aggressive’, compared to just 32 per cent of men.

“Masculine phrasing might also be off-putting for candidates from particular BAME backgrounds where their culture doesn’t typically fit with this type of approach,” Said Andrea Singh, HR Director at BAM. This matched with the use of terms such as ‘strong English language skills’, or ‘clean shaven’ requirements can similarly put off candidates from particular backgrounds or religions.

By 2022, workers ages 50 and older will comprise 35% of the workforce, according to a report from Human Resource Executive. One of the top tips for avoiding age discrimination is making sure your employer branding reflects a wide range of the age of workers at your company.

Additionally, avoid phrasing like: “Young and energetic”, “work hard/play hard”, “Junior” or ”Senior” except as part of a job title.

The single best way to write an inclusive job advert is by simply educating yourself and your team on the words to avoid; there are plenty of resources available to help you to do this. The other is via free extensions or websites like Textio and Applied.

Textio will take your job description and give it a diversity score before advising on ways to improve it, while Applied is currently working to include ethnicity into its similar tool to help remove bias from job adverts.

Limit your requirements

According to a Hewlett Packard Internal Report, women will typically only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the qualifications. To avoid unconscious bias deterring people from applying to your jobs, consider eliminating requirements that are not essential. If the position is one where training can easily be provided, don’t ask for experience in that specific skill. Generalise areas where transferable skills are okay, and clearly outline which qualifications are required and which are preferred.

FIFTEEN WEST talked to Phu Le Ngoc, Manager at a global recruitment company. ‘A lot of essential requirements are actually not that essential, and more a testament of inflexibility and bias (unconscious or even worse, conscious). It is important to open the door, so that a more diverse group gets a serious chance at interview stage.’ Said Phu

Limit your ‘must have’ requirements and focus mainly on transferable skills, this allows more people to feel like they have the right level of skill and experience in order to be able to apply for your roles.

‘In terms of job requirement, both HR teams as well as line management might have to do more work initially in order to re-evaluate them and update the criteria. Ultimately this might actually lead to an increase of quality-per-hire, as current criteria might be outdated in some if not many instances.’ added Le Ngoc.

List your benefits

Make a point of highlighting the benefits in your job advert. Be mindful that while not all benefits may apply or be as important to one candidate as the next, being fully inclusive means showing off all the ranges you have on offer

Benefits like paid parental leave, childcare subsidies, paid family sick time, and even health insurance go a long way toward supporting diversity and inclusion, while also boosting retention and morale. If your company offers these benefits, you may not realise the need to call them out in job descriptions—since not every employee will necessarily benefit from them—but mentioning them gives you an opportunity to prove your commitment to inclusion right away.  With more companies now accepting flexible working hours and remote working, tell people about this as a benefit of the job.

Highlight your own commitment to diversity and inclusion

If your company is already making major strides toward becoming a more welcoming and inclusive place to work, you might want to consider including this in your job descriptions. While you can simply state at the bottom that you are “an equality opportunity employer,” a statement in your own words is much more powerful.

Many top global companies have their own D&I statement now, but this shouldn’t just be limited to large businesses, so a real positive step can be actually writing your own D&I policy as a company, then making sure everyone knows about it when your include it in your job adverts.

‘A clear statement from the top of the organisation would be helpful. Then some senior sponsorship. Actual budget to get external trainers / consultants in when and where necessary and also a budget for the D(E)I team.’ Said Phu.

Encourage employee feedback

The journey that everyone is on to make all aspects of life inclusive, is one that needs everyone onboard. In light of the global reaction seen recently in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a lot of companies have taken a look internally at including people from any and every background in the decisions that are made.

From a job advert perspective, get current BAME, LGBTQ+, female or disabled employees and ask them for feedback, would they apply for this role based on the advert and the language that is used? Do they feel that the advert gets across your values and commitment to giving all people who apply the best opportunity to get the role?

‘Add on top of that some easy to find testimonials from BIPOC / BAME staff, and it would be good. But again, if you only have one success story, it might not be really fair to milk that one story.’ Added Le Ngoc.

As always, the biggest asset a company can have is their staff, so include them in the process, creating a lasting example to the inclusive businesses we are all striving to have.