A Drunk History of Job Postings

Have you ever watched the show Drunk History? It was on Comedy Central and recently canceled, unfortunately. They would have a storyteller voice over a series of actors portraying different historical events. The twist was that the storytellers were drunk. The passage of time often has a way of rewriting history, as will a few strong drinks. 

Figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, Patty Hearst, Billy the Kid, Al Capone, and Lewis and Clark were profiled, as were significant historical moments like the Battle of the Alamo and Watergate. I imagine that if the show continued, we’d find a lot of the headlines we read today retold from their perspectives. 

I think it would be hilarious to do something like this for HR and recruiting. It would probably be a little mortifying, too, when we all figure out how many of our practices are hundreds of years old. It surprised me when I started researching the first job postings.

Looking Back: The First Job Posting

The first job post I could find was from the 1700s. It was for a sailor who would go out into a treacherous night and may never return home. While it sounds scary, it was still better than most job postings I read today. At least it was honest. They didn’t oversell. There weren’t four paragraphs about how the company was so excellent. No buzzwords at all. They said a lot without saying much on that poster.

Something went wrong after that. Looking at job postings 100 years ago, you start to see the same trends that make most postings subpar today. First of all, that line about “now seeking motivated professionals” is all over job postings from a century ago. They were even using phrases and favorite buzzwords like “highly collaborative.” Stylistically, they look almost the same.

While I am all for a best practice, have you read enough history to know what kind of bias existed 100 years ago? Do you remember how the world looked? It’s not a world I would ever like to go back to, that’s for sure.

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3 Ways to Remove Bias From Your Job Postings 

Here’s the fact: If we’re using styles and tactics that are 100 years old, we’re bringing 100-year-old bias with it. It’s about time we stop that, especially in your job postings.

There are three tactics you can use right now to begin removing bias from your job postings. 

  1. Years of experience. Stop making up requirements and picking numbers out of a hat. You’re not looking for years; you’re looking for experiences that would prepare a candidate for the role. 
  2. College degree required. College is not a right; it’s a privilege. It also doesn’t make someone a better candidate. Experience does. By requiring information about degrees and schools, employers may exclude qualified candidates with highly relevant experience.
  3. Gendered language. The “he/she will…” requirements are lame. They/them is a grammatically correct singular pronoun. Even if it weren’t, is grammar honestly more important to you than supporting gender diverse folx? 

As more companies begin serious DEI efforts, job postings are a great place to start your evolution. Note I said start. Inclusion is an operating principle, not a tactic. While I think all of these updates will help you attract a candidate pipeline with diverse backgrounds, that’s not where you should begin your inclusion efforts. 

Talk to your teams. Understand what they need to belong and thrive. Build that. Create a pipeline that reflects the world, not just your friend circle. Then you start working on those job postings. 

Katrina Kibben believes your first impression on candidates starts at the job post. Many small businesses and companies struggle to find their recruiting voice and craft less-than appealing job postings. As CEO of Three Ears Media and a featured expert in recruiting and HR, Katrina takes a unique, strategic approach to help companies rewrite candidate experience content, overhaul job descriptions, and attract more qualified applicants.

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