How to Increase Workplace Diversity Through More Inclusive Job Postings

If you want to build a more diverse workforce at your business, one of the most important things to have in your toolbox is an inclusive job posting. A job posting is usually the first point of contact between your company and prospective candidates, and therefore it offers a vital opportunity to highlight your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, far too many employers squander this opportunity by using job postings which, often unintentionally, exclude the very people they want to welcome.

The good news is that updating a standard job posting to be more inclusive is not a difficult task. It simply requires care, attention, and a willingness to acknowledge the effect that your company’s unconscious bias may have on different groups of people. Read on for a look at some of the most important steps you can take right now to make your job postings more inclusive.

Use straightforward language

If your job posting makes heavy use of acronyms, slang, idioms, or technical jargon, your audience may interpret this as a sign that outsiders—that is, people who don’t understand such terms—are not welcome. Too much specialized language can confuse and intimidate even qualified candidates, and can discourage them from applying for a position that might otherwise be a good fit. To avoid this issue, use plain, straightforward language to clearly outline the job’s basic responsibilities and essential skills.

Avoid coded terms

Coded terms are words that we associate with specific groups of people as a result of our societal biases about those groups. For job postings, this is an important issue to be aware of because the use of coded terms can make your readers feel as if you have an implicit preference for a certain type of candidate. For example, we tend to perceive certain words such as “aggressive” as masculine. Therefore, if you use words such as this in your job posting to describe your ideal candidate, female applicants could potentially be more likely to feel excluded and discouraged from applying.

Focus on the essentials

Did you know that women don’t feel confident about applying for jobs unless they meet 100% of the requirements specified, whereas men typically apply for jobs as long as they meet 60% of the qualifications? This is just one of many reasons why you should focus only on must-have qualities when developing your list of requirements for a particular role. The more qualifications you specify, the more you’re restricting your potential talent pool, so don’t describe something as a requirement unless it really is necessary for the job.

Rethink your educational requirements

Speaking of essentials, an important way to make a job posting more inclusive is to reframe your approach to education requirements. As revealed in a recent study, the phenomenon of “degree inflation”—a practice which sees employers requiring college degrees for jobs that haven’t previously needed one—is proving to be a serious barrier to employment for workers who may not have a degree, but who do have relevant experience. Increasingly, human resources experts are advocating for a different approach to hiring, in which the most important question is not “Do you have this specific level of education?” but rather, “Do you have the skills and experience needed to succeed in this role?” Many more candidates will be able to answer “yes” to the second question rather than the first, which will in turn help to diversify your potential talent pool. 

Highlight inclusive benefits

You can always tell job candidates that your company is committed to inclusivity, but it’s much more effective to show them how you’re doing it. Highlighting any inclusive benefits that your company offers right in the job posting will demonstrate your awareness that different people need different things to feel welcome, and your willingness to provide those things if you can. For example, benefits such as parental leave, sick leave, mentorship programs for underrepresented groups, diversity training for employees, mental health and wellness programs, or needs accommodations should all be mentioned specifically in your job posting.

Think about the format

How you write and format your job posting is just as important as what you write if you want to reach a truly diverse talent pool. To make your posting more accessible for people with dyslexia and other cognitive processing challenges, use an easy-to-read sans serif font, bold for emphasis (avoid underlining and italics), and leave plenty of white space rather than crowding text on the page. It’s also important to make sure your posting is available in a variety of formats, including HTML, large print, text transcripts of visual information, and electronic formats that are compatible with screen readers.

Cast your net wider

After all that work to create an inclusive job posting, it would be a shame if you didn’t actively seek out more inclusive places to distribute it. Of course, you don’t need to avoid major sites such as LinkedIn, Monster, or Workopolis. However, you should try to seek out diverse and inclusive job boards for your posting: examples include Black Career Network, Diversity Working, Pink Jobs, and Female Executive Search.