HR and Recruiting

How to implement inclusive language in your job descriptions

an image of a diverse and inclusive office
Written by Kate Lopaze

There’s no time like the present to update your job descriptions. It’s usually something that should happen regularly anyway (shake off the status quo!), but with many organizations making it an active strategic goal to improve diversity hiring and recruitment, it’s now a must. However, saying it should happen and actually doing it are two different things. Job descriptions are often pared down to the bare necessities already, so finding different ways to convey the same information in a better way can be difficult. Here are some tips for revamping yours so that they are more inclusive and appealing to a broader range of applicants.

Take a close look at your existing job descriptions

Time to put on your editor hat. Read your current job descriptions and evaluate them differently—not for typos or factual correctness, but in a more generally critical way. Is there information in there that could be taken out? Are there job requirements that you put in because you feel like they’re standard, but aren’t actually hard-and-fast needs for the job? For example, do you list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement when the job could really be done by someone with fewer credentials but equivalent experience? Do you use a lot of jargon or complex phrases that might not be clear to someone who speaks English as a second language?

The goal here is clarity for people from a broad range of abilities and backgrounds. Your job description should be limited to “must-have” requirements, expressed clearly. There’s no real upside here for using a five-dollar word when a shorter one will do.

Create a “diversity style guide” for your organization

Style guides are used in formal writing and editing to make sure certain standards are being met. Making one that specializes in language specific to diversity and inclusion can help make sure that anyone writing job descriptions on your team is using consistent language. You can define “bias words” to avoid and give your people tools for framing job requirements in ways that don’t alienate potential candidates. Diversity Style Guide is a good reference as you start working on yours to help you see what kind of language carries bias or problematic overtones.

Emphasize your commitment to diversity

In addition to the basic points about the job and your company, make sure you’re calling out that you’re a diverse organization that is committed to finding the best people. Space can be at a premium when you’re trying to fit in all the information, but even just a sentence or two in your posting can make a variety of readers feel more welcome to apply.

Consider adding information about diversity-focused benefits to demonstrate your commitment to inclusive hiring. This can include blurbs about employee resource groups that support inclusion, any internal committees devoted to diversity, and needs accommodations (like flexible work arrangements or accessible offices).

Use tech as a tool to boost your inclusive language

Writers are human. As such, we’re always going to be subject to certain kinds of bias, consciously or not. There are a number of resources out there that can flag and remove biased language, as well as recommend replacement text. Tools like Textio and OnGig’s text analyzer help you minimize bias and maximize inclusivity in your job descriptions. If you’re unsure of whether something is inclusive or not, these tools can help remove that uncertainty.

Like with any other aspect of improving diversity and inclusivity, meaningful change to your job descriptions means thoughtful evaluation and educating yourself to ensure you’re reaching out to as many people as possible. It’s a great chance to revisit your current job descriptions and make sure you’re writing the best, most broadly appealing ones that you can. Your talent pool will be all the better for it.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.