‹  Back to Blog

Now Hiring: 5 Essential Tips to Write Inclusive Job Descriptions

What if your job descriptions are turning away talented candidates? And you don’t even know it.

Sounds pretty crazy, right? After all, you’re a recruiter.

You get all the details from your hiring managers about the positions they need to fill. Write up the job descriptions, and start attracting candidates and scheduling interviews.

You’ve done it hundreds, maybe thousands of times. And you’ve got lots of happy teams with talent you recruited. You could practically write job descriptions in your sleep.

Here’s the thing…if your job descriptions aren’t inclusive you could be missing a bigger and even more talented pool of candidates who never even apply.

Writing job descriptions? Beware of the Buffer Effect

When Buffer, a social-media platform for businesses, noticed less than 2% of interviews for software developers included women, they decided to take a closer look.

Most of the company’s job descriptions included all the usual tech terms, software proficiencies, and certifications you might expect.

So why the failure to attract more female candidates?

It came down to one word…HACKERS.

Buffer had used the term for years, according to Fast Company. Why? It was a company-approved word to describe the kind of tech-driven team members they like to hire…fast, efficient, tech-savvy, creative-problem solvers.

But after working with a consultant, Buffer learned the word “hacker” in their job descriptions just might be driving away talented female software developers. 

The way you write job descriptions can have a big impact on recruiting and influence who applies, and who doesn’t (which could be top candidates who think they’re aren’t a good fit, even though they are).

Writing job descriptions?

Beware of the Buffer Effect, and learn how to write inclusive job descriptions. Follow these 5 essential tips:

  1. Write gender-neutral job descriptions

It’s all-too-easy to fall into the trap of using old-school terms to write job descriptions…salesman, foreman, waitress, etc.

Or even using “his” as a generic term meant to apply to both genders.

If you’re not paying attention, these common-place terms in job descriptions can turn away top candidates. Why? Gender-polarizing terms can leave a candidate thinking, “I guess this job isn’t for me,” thanks to these subtle gender references.

Tip: Use gender-neutral terms to describe job duties and titles.

  1. Stick to the job requirements…NOT an exhaustive wish list

It’s easy to think that dumping a comprehensive list of required skills, experience, education and training, and a bunch of extras in a job description will help you find the ideal client.

But if you get carried away, your job descriptions become so narrowly focused, only a tiny handful of people will even fit the mold.

The result: Well-qualified candidates will skip applying, because their background is missing something from your wish list.

Tip: Of course you want to write detailed job descriptions, but stick to the essential skills. Resist the urge to describe the perfect hire all the way down to the car they drive and time they prefer to break for lunch.

  1. Keep corporate-speak and acronyms out of job descriptions

Step into your wayback machine to your first day on the job somewhere.

Chances are pretty good, you felt like you were trying to drink from a firehose at some point.

Someone’s slinging industry jargon you’re not familiar with. Every conversation is filled with acronyms you don’t understand. And you start to feel like there’s just too big of a learning curve.

That ever happen to you?

Tip: If your job descriptions are loaded with unfamiliar corporate-speak or acronyms, well-qualified candidates just might opt out of applying.

Ask yourself…Can I still describe this position without acronyms and insider terms?

  1. Get creative about describing EEO

There’s really nothing compelling about including the standard EEO statement: “We are an equal employment opportunity employer,” in a job description. It’s the law for most businesses with a staff of 15 or more employees.

But you can attract a wider pool of well-qualified candidates if you take the time to describe company culture, inclusion, gender and ethnic diversity, and more in a thoughtful way.

Tip: Besides the pay and benefits package, what elements of company culture and inclusion would appeal to a broader pool of candidates? That’s a piece you want to include in a job description.

  1. Mention benefits that support work-life balance

Here’s another often-overlooked strategy to writing job descriptions that get noticed…

Instead of spending the job-description real estate on describing the position and required skills and experience, mention some of the primary benefits that support work-life balance. Things like:

○ On-site day care

○ On-site clinic

○ Work-from-home options (at least after COVID-19) is no longer a public health issue)

○ Employee wellness program

○ Paid vacation, sick days, and bereavement leave

○ Employee Assistance Program

○ Flexible schedule

○ 401K

○ Health, life, and disability insurance 

You probably can’t list every work-life-balance benefit in a job description. But you should try and provide a sampling, or highlight the top benefits that might interest a candidate.

Why? When someone scans a job description, they looking for info to answer two questions:

1. Do I have the skills, qualifications, and experience for this position?

2. What’s it like to work here? Is this a good fit for me, my family, etc?

Tip: Sharing some of the work-life-balance benefits that comes with the job can help you attract quality candidates who might otherwise pass on applying.

Write inclusive job descriptions to find great talent

Ready to attract great candidates, book interviews, and help your clients build a talented workforce? 

Writing inclusive job descriptions opens the door to a wider pool of talent to help you, your clients, and people looking for work or opportunities to advance their career.

Follow us on LinkedIn for more content and updates. 

Ready to hit your hiring goals faster? See Canvas in action or contact our team at [email protected]

Hundreds of company partners are using Canvas's all-in-one virtual recruiting platform to connect, source, and engage with talent of all backgrounds to build a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Stop setting diversity goals.
Start meeting them.

Join hundreds of businesses, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, using Canvas to build diverse teams
See it in action