Creating Inclusive Job Descriptions

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Tabitha Ashura

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Who hasn’t seen job descriptions that read like stereo instructions—dry and methodical? Or, by contrast, job postings that use terms like “coding ninja” or “Excel wizard” to describe their ideal candidate?

Most of us are also familiar with job descriptions for an “entry level” role asking for 3–5 years of experience, or requiring a college degree for something seemingly unrelated to the role. 

In most cases, hiring managers and recruiters are trying their best to reach their ideal candidates, crafting job requirements and descriptions  that—while not perfect—are a best attempt as to  how to bring in a candidate who will qualify for the role. 

Creating solid, inclusive job descriptions isn’t easy. In theory, we all want them to be readable, positive, straightforward, concise, gender-neutral, age-neutral, engaging, and to attract the most qualified candidate for the role. If you’re using AI (or just closely following OFCCP internet-applicant guidelines surrounding basic qualifications), it’s important that candidates who apply have resumes that align to the job description. If you’re posting a job, you want candidates who are a good fit to apply. If you’re a candidate, you want to (very) quickly understand if you’re the right fit for a role.

With this in mind, it’s critical that the requirements are aligned to encourage higher application rates, and so that if you consider a candidate with fewer years of experience or less education you’re not creating a compliance nightmare

It’s a commonly cited metric that women only apply when they meet all of the job requirements, and further data suggests women are 16% less likely than men to apply for a job they’ve viewed on LinkedIn

In this post, we’ll dig into strategies to improve job descriptions to appeal to diverse candidates and widen your overall applicant pool. At HiredScore, we’re experts in calibrating job requirements to ensure your job description is aligned to attract the  best qualified candidates for your role. We recognize the value of using our tool Blueprint in combination with other methods.The following is how you might layer those methods together to get to the “perfect” job description.

But first, why is it important to improve your job descriptions?

Job descriptions serve two main purposes: 

  1. documenting a role and its responsibilities, and 
  2. attracting applicants to that role

And, they may also serve a third purpose—helping your AI accurately match relevant applicants and leads!

What happens if your job description has requirements that don’t align, or if it doesn’t attract applicants? You can always edit it. In fact, according to an Indeed survey, 65% of employers have had to revise a job description after it was posted in the last year. 

To comply with OFCCP regulations, this means you then need to fully repost the job, essentially starting your candidate pool from scratch, as you’d need to invite anyone in it to reapply. But who wants to do the work twice? No one. 

That’s why job optimization strategies are on the rise—to help teams write the most inclusive job descriptions from the start.

How to create an inclusive job description—with the support of technology

Starting from scratch

Like superheroes, job descriptions have their own unique origin stories. Each organization has a slightly different approach. 

In many situations, you’ll use a template. Typically, it will come from the Compensation and Benefits team, although it may come from HR as well. 

This core of the job description starts with generic industry-benchmarked role descriptions meant to help the company know how much they should be paying for that role. 

These generic descriptions do not describe the specific role nor life at your company, but they do describe the tasks that generally someone in that type of role might have to accomplish. These are neither appealing, nor do they appropriately document requirements, but they are often where recruiters and hiring managers start.

Align job requirements from the beginning

It’s important to ensure the job requirements are completely aligned with job duties at the beginning of the hiring process. 

Remember, getting the requirements on a job description right the first time will save a lot of heartache later. It’s important that they’re set correctly so that during an audit you can readily explain the choices you made in relation to your applicants and so that you attract the right candidates.

When defining requirements for the first time, hiring managers tend to describe specific people as they write what they’re seeking. If a member of their team left, and they need to make a new hire, that job description most often captures that individual’s qualifications. 

Recruiters and experience can help them understand how to broaden those requirements to accept a broader range of people who can be effective in the job.

Tools like HiredScore’s Blueprint can help you understand the impact of requirements on gender, race/ethnicity, and overall probable applicant pool. This tool is used at the outset—before posting the job—to better align years of experience, types of education, or skills to who will be effective in the role to avoid excluding people who otherwise might apply. 

It’s critical to think of requirements based on what needs to be done, rather than the historical qualifications of those who filled the role prior. 

If you did not write the initial draft of the job description yourself and are concerned about pushback on requirement changes, Blueprint can help by showing the types of candidates who previously applied, who would be likely to apply to the adjusted role. 

This will help you ensure that the adjusted requirements align with your expectations of the types of candidates you hope to hire.

If your team has a Compensation and Benefits team, be sure to check any requirement changes with them to ensure compensation remains equitable to the levels you’re proposing.

Ensure the job doesn’t discriminate against candidates with disabilities

Pause to read through your job description draft once more—do any of your requirements unintentionally exclude people with disabilities? 

When considering how best to evaluate job descriptions, this guide from Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), a network that helps employers recruit workers with disabilities, is a useful tool. According to EARN, “an effective job description will describe what needs to be done, not how the applicant needs to do it.”

This is also an excellent opportunity to partner with an organization like Disability Solutions @Ability Beyond, who can help you envision candidates that you may not have considered.

Ensure the job description language is appealing to a wide variety of people

A well written job description or job ad needs to consider attraction—using appealing language to draw people in. Ideally, the language used should encourage people who are qualified and discourage people who are not qualified (more applicants isn't better if they aren’t the right applicants).

A tool like Textio can help you with word-smithing to attract diverse candidates. The tool will learn your brand and help you adjust the voice of the post so it avoids gender or age bias without sounding like a technical manual.

Critical job posting? Consider having marketing take a look

Some teams run all job descriptions through their Marketing team to ensure the copy is approved and representative of their brand, and to identify ways to amplify the job post  

Marketing may help optimize your job descriptions for SEO for wider reach—after all, there are 150 million job searches on google each month. And your Social Media team, agency, or manager may be able to share your job posting on your corporate social media channels, reaching an audience already engaged with your company. 

It’s important to note that marketing understands attraction, but may be unfamiliar with compliance obligations, so be sure to take extra care in checking that the changes don’t introduce issues.

Okay, but this has too many steps…

Not every job description needs a high level of scrutiny! 

If it’s a one-time role, lower priority, or already attracting diverse applicant pools as is, you only need to be certain that you have clear requirements and that you aren’t discriminating against people with disabilities.

There are a lot of varying approaches to inclusive job description optimization. The most critical components of a job description are: 

  • clear, logical requirements, 
  • avoiding discrimination, and 
  • optimizing for candidate attraction 

Tools can help you focus to ensure you’re creating inclusive job descriptions and signaling to a diverse pool of candidates that they’re welcome.

To learn more about how HiredScore can help you take a proactive approach to driving diversity and inclusion recruiting forward, take a look at our Diversity & Inclusion AI Solutions information page, or if you’re ready to see our solutions in action, request a demo.

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