Why does inclusive job posting language matter? Learn what to include in a job description, and what you can eliminate to attract a wider pool of candidates.
Your business fully controls one of the most significant reasons why qualified talent doesn’t apply to a job: what you write in the job posting.
With the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting there were 11.3 million job openings in February 2022, there’s a lot of competition among employers for qualified workers. Many companies don’t do themselves any favors to attract the right candidates. As Vox reported in September 2021, businesses tend to add to job requirements rather than simplify them. That:
- Can cause qualified candidates to avoid applying
- Potentially weeds out talented prospects who don’t meet every single specification an applicant tracking system (ATS) scans for
Since publicly traded companies receive an average of 250 job applications per position, it’s no wonder nearly every Fortune 500 company uses software to screen applications. But software isn’t human; an ATS only looks for candidates who meet the job requirements. If your job postings are too specific or too complex, they could disqualify your best talent.
Unnecessary qualifications could cost you good candidates. When you’re considering how to write a job posting, you can get higher quality applicants when you focus on what matters most. Here’s how to think about your job postings more critically.
software isn’t human; an ATS only looks for candidates who meet the job requirements. If your job postings are too specific or too complex, they could disqualify your best talent.
What information should a job posting include?
Some companies treat a job description as a “wish list” of what their dream candidate looks like. But the more specific you get, the more exclusionary the job posting becomes.
Typically, the following elements are what to include in a job posting. You can simplify or rethink each one to widen your talent pool of candidates.
Years of experience
The number of years someone worked in a position tells you the length of time they’ve worked, but it says nothing about the quality of that work. When your job posting requires “5+ years of experience,” you exclude qualified candidates who may be 1 year off but much more talented.
Years of experience could also exclude younger candidates who do have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Many “entry-level” roles require 3 to 5 years of experience. This excludes recent graduates who may not have the work experience but have studied the field.
Instead of years of experience in a specific role, you could list sample job titles of candidates you’re interested in, or a range of years someone has worked in an industry. Better yet, focus on the skills required for the job to attract relevant candidates.
Instead of listing rigid educational requirements, you can focus on skills. Your best candidates may have learned these skills outside of a traditional college classroom.
The number of people attending traditional 4-year college is on the decline. In May 2021, the National Center for Education Statistics reported undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions decreased by 5% between 2009 and 2019.
There are more accessible post-high school education options than ever before. Free courses from universities populate sites like Coursera and edX. Trade schools and technical colleges offer certificate programs that students can complete in less than a year. Candidates may be completing their bachelor’s degree more slowly if they’re working full time while taking online classes.
Listing broader educational requirements can support your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. In October 2021, The Hechinger Report stated White students at public colleges are 2.5 times more likely to graduate than Black students. They’re also 60% more likely to graduate than Latino students.
Instead of listing rigid educational requirements, you can focus on skills. Your best candidates may have learned these skills outside of a traditional college classroom. It can benefit you to question the necessity of a 4-year degree.
Also, beware of listing a specific college degree. The University of Washington reported that 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in jobs that don’t require their degree. Education can help professionals succeed, but experience matters more.
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When you need to fill a position, the previous employee may have learned various types of specific software or processes. Bringing someone in who has these exact skills can save you training time, but technology is rapidly evolving. What works today may completely change in a year.
That’s why soft skills like initiative, adaptability, and time management may be more important. Soft skills develop over time through diverse experiences, some of which may not relate to work.
You can train a new hire to use a specific software or teach them the way of doing things at your business. When you’re looking for candidates, prioritize soft skills that technology can’t compensate for. Skills like leadership, critical thinking, collaboration, and a willingness to learn can help candidates master the technical skills a job requires and contribute to your company.
How do you write an effective job posting?
When you need to post a job, write a new job posting and get input from current employees about what to include. The same exact job description that’s you’ve posted time and again can give off the impression that it’s difficult to retain employees for the role. Refreshing the posting with input from current employees helps you optimize the content.
To gain a better understanding of whether a candidate qualifies, list the typical job duties and responsibilities of the position. Use inclusive job posting language. Avoid copy that relates to potentially exclusionary categories, including:
- Race and ethnicity
- Sexual orientation
Focus on what the job requires today. A concise, accurate job description gives potential candidates a clearer view of what’s expected of them, so they understand if they qualify.
Focus on what’s most important in job descriptions
Your job description may provide a first impression of your company to a candidate. Lengthy job descriptions that are too specific might not even lead them to apply. Widen your talent pool with inclusive language and an open mind so you can find the best worker for the job.