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How to make job descriptions for vacancies more inclusive

How to make job descriptions for vacancies more inclusive

Story by
Cynthia Davis, co-founder of

How to make job descriptions for vacancies more inclusive

With the furlough scheme finally at an end, and the ‘return-to-work’ not quite going as expected, vacancies across the country are continuing to rise.

In fact, the latest figures from the ONS reveal that, from July to September 2021, there was a record high of 1,102,000 vacancies across the UK.

This figure is higher than pre-pandemic levels by more than 300,000.

But perhaps in an even more concerning twist, there’s still a scarily high level of unemployment, which raises more issues than solutions.

Some of the main questions this raises are: why is there a disconnect between the two, what is causing the problem, and what can be done about it?

In my opinion, for today’s candidates, they are simply waiting for the ‘perfect’ job for them, rather than just applying for any position they come across to earn a wage.

But what this means is that they are also sifting through a plethora of job specifications and vacancies and disregarding them, attempting to find one that most aligns with their values.

Although there are clearly plenty of opportunities available out there for everyone, people are still turning down jobs.

I believe one of the issues is due to job descriptions not being inclusive enough to appeal.

Nowadays, job-seekers wish for a company or organisation to operate ethically and support them without any discrimination.

It’s not rare to see job seekers rule out vacancies or even turn down job offers due to employer values and workplace cultures not aligning with their own.

People have had time to reconsider their priorities and a healthy work-life balance is high on the list.

To help those who are searching for talent right now, I want to share some insight into how you can make your recruitment efforts more inclusive and attract the right people the first time around.

Remove gender-specific words

If candidates assume a role is more suited for a specific gender, you will certainly be missing out on qualified candidates.

The best way to avoid this common mistake is to steer away from words that are typically understood to be coded for a male or female audience, even if they only hint at gendered stereotypes.

Some of the most common are:

  • – Female-coded words: affectionate, sensitive, honest, trust, commit, compassion, nurture.
  • – Male-coded words: decisive, head-strong, assertive, dominant, outspoken, driven.

Avoid gender bias

Women typically only apply for a job if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications.

To remove unconscious gender bias, consider removing requirements that are not ‘essential’ in your job description.

If the position is one where training can easily be provided, don’t ask for experience in software.

Generalise areas where transferable skills are suitable, and distinctly outline which qualifications are required and which are preferred.

Eliminate racial bias

Just like gender bias, racial bias is often not done on purpose, but it’s more common than most would care to admit.

By paying attention to words and phrases, you can help eliminate implicit and explicit bias in your job posting.

Below are a few suggestions of what not to say

  • – Never mention race or national origin
  • – Phrases such as “strong English skills” may deter qualified non-native English speakers from applying
  • – A “clean-shaven” requirement can exclude candidates whose faith requires them to maintain facial hair (it also indicates the position is for men only).

Don’t forget about disabled candidates

Job descriptions that are welcoming to workers of all abilities should mention reasonable accommodations (flexible working hours or telework policies) that would appeal to disabled workers.

Let candidates know your workplace welcomes and values all candidates with phrases such as “Ability to complete tasks with or without reasonable accommodations.”

Outline the “right” perks

Great employee perks contribute to a positive and creative company culture that can lead to increased employee retention.

Having well-tailored perks can create a competitive edge that attracts talented candidates who are dedicated to cultivating a thriving workplace as a team.

Some of the best perks nowadays include gym memberships, employee discounts, wellness programs, volunteer time off, financial services, and milestone gifts.

They all contribute to the overall feeling of being championed, supported, and included as valuable members of the company.

REMEMBER: a “competitive salary” is not a perk. Salary should be disclosed and it’s an extremely common cause for candidates to not apply for a role.

Advertise flexible working opportunities

To ensure you appeal to every candidate, regardless of their circumstances, you need to have flexible working practices in place.

That includes part-time and hybrid/remote working environments.

Some other areas to consider are:

  • – Highlighting the maternity/paternity package, to show how you support employees even as their circumstances change
  • – Removing reference to ‘experience’, the description should focus on the specific capabilities of the candidate.
  • – Remove needlessly long application processes that become inaccessible to many.

As companies search for the best talent to introduce to their teams, it’s important to think about how the values and attitudes come across in job descriptions.

Writing the right content for vacancy posts can be seen as an art, but once you’ve grasped it, you’ll be reaping the rewards every single time you’re advertising for a new role.

You’ll be well on your way to building a stellar workforce before you know it, welcoming those with the best skills and capabilities to help take the company to new heights.



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