Exclusionary vs Inclusionary Terms to Use in Job Posts

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Jul 9, 2021

You already know that what’s written in your job posting sends a powerful signal to candidates. Indeed, companies are paying a lot more attention these days to how they craft their posts particularly to improve diversity hiring.

Most efforts, though, have focused on eliminating gender-coded terms — and that’s a great first step. But it’s not enough. It’s important to think more holistically about how to engage job-seekers from underrepresented communities via the language you use. 

A new study by diversity hiring platform Mathison shows that 50% of underrepresented job-seekers have observed exclusionary or biased terms in job posts. This really matters because beyond affecting the diversity of your candidate pool, job descriptions set the stage for ensuring consistency and fairness throughout the hiring process. What is written in your job description and your job post directly affects how you screen and qualify candidates, the questions you will ask in interviews, and the criteria by which you will ultimately base your hiring decision. 

And not only in your job postings. It’s worth evaluating all of your communications with job-seekers and candidates to ensure inclusive messaging. This includes what’s said in phone screens, interviews, offer letters, as well what’s on your website and social media. Here are some actions to consider:

1. Eliminate exclusionary and microaggressive language. 

The language you and your team use speaks volumes about your organization’s values, and microaggressive terms can easily show up as seemingly innocent language that negatively affects underrepresented groups. So try to avoid outdated terms that communities no longer associate with, particularly since many of these words have exclusionary origins.

2. Replace corporate clichés, jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms.

Jargon often takes the form of acronyms commonly understood by people who work in a specific industry — and only that industry. The intent may be to sound professional, but instead, the result can be far fewer applicants. It’s also important to remember that some applicants might have a different primary language so cultural expressions or phrases may be understood. Try to stick to neutral terms that don’t require interpretation.

3. Make your communication accessible, understandable, and brief.

Be mindful of the accessibility and the comprehensibility of everything you write to candidates. A good practice is to write up to an eighth-grade reading level to ensure readability and maximize attention. This means using short words and sentences with language that is not overly technical or specific to an industry or field. Try to stay away from cold and formal language. Also speak to the candidate directly by using words like “you.” Also, less is more, so cut down on the length wherever possible and eliminate redundant words or phrases.

4. Rethink degree requirements, years of experience, and “preferred” requirements.

Finally, reconsider the degree requirements you might have originally thought were essential for the role. The same goes for exorbitant years of experience. Finally, refrain from adding “preferred requirements” or saying certain skills are “a plus.” If a skillset isn’t essential for the job, then don’t mention it at all. Instead, be abundantly clear about the skill sets needed to be successful on the job. 

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