Inclusive Job Postings: How to Write Them, and Why They Matter

Well-written, inclusive job postings can help you attract top talent, build a diverse workforce, and run a more successful business.

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Hiring the best talent available in your area (or beyond) requires casting a wide net. You want everyone who is qualified to respond to your posting without hesitation. Nothing in the language of the post should suggest that anyone is excluded — all talent is welcome and encouraged to apply. The most inclusive job postings allow the reader to imagine themselves filling the role, not wondering if they’ll be the right fit.

A diverse and inclusive workforce is a top priority for businesses. To best serve your customer base, it’s important to reflect their demographics and values. You don’t want to limit who buys your product or service: the same should apply to your staff. Assuring your workforce mirrors your customer base will make it easier to understand their needs, wants, and perspective. Diversity is only the first step; inclusion is key to attracting and maintaining a strong workforce that represents who you are as an organization and how you meet the needs of consumers.

Watch your words

Start with neutral language. Look at your posting and filter out words that are suggestive of one group or another.

If you’re not sure what inclusive language is, start with neutral language. Look at your posting and filter out words that are suggestive of one group or another. Some are easy to spot. “Salesman” excludes; Sales “representative” includes. There are many common terms that should be substituted, but others are more subtle. The language you use will determine who will respond, and who will move on to the next posting. Here are areas to look at closely when writing inclusive job descriptions.

Gender

Substitute “their” for his or her in the posting wherever pronouns are used. Go with “candidate will leverage their (rather than his) extensive background to attract new clients.” Many terms aren’t gender-specific, but suggest there’s a gender attached. Terms like “aggressive” and “go-getter” often imply the position is for a male. Terms like “compassionate” and “sympathetic” suggest a female is best suited to the role. Look for more neutral terms, like results- or customer-oriented to describe your needs.

Race and ethnicity 

When your posting lists “outstanding English language skills” you’ll likely miss out on some candidates. This term suggests some ethnicities or races might not be welcome.

Candidates with a regional or foreign accent may not only be just as strong a communicator as those without, they may also bridge communication gaps with clients. If bilingual abilities are important, include “strong bilingual English/Spanish (or other language) communication skills” are required.

Age 

Terms like “energetic” or “fresh” imply you’re looking for a young candidate — maybe even one just out of school. This can limit the amount of responses you receive. Substitute with “enthusiastic” instead. Another term for the younger crowd is “digital native.” This suggests someone who was raised in a world of tech. Older candidates may be just as digitally fluent, so why exclude them?

At the other end of the spectrum, “seasoned” or “senior” might turn off younger applicants. The amount of experience you list may shrink your applicant pool, as well. Do you really need 5 plus years of experience for that position? Often, year requirement language is a holdover from when companies had a wealth of candidates from which to choose. It might be a good time to reexamine why you have these minimum years listed, and if they’re still relevant in today’s market. If you remove them, you may open up to a larger, much more diverse candidate pool.

Sexual orientation

Pronouns have come to the fore as exclusionary, so stick with they/their/them whenever included in the posting. There are other subtle common terms that may suggest someone in the community is not welcome. “Family-oriented” may imply traditional families; switch to customer-oriented instead. If you’re including your company’s maternity leave offerings, switch to the term parental leave instead, suggesting any of parent is included.

Ability

Using terms like “strong” or “able-bodied” imply someone with a physical disability might not be welcome at your organization. If there are specific physical requirements to the job, list them as you would on the job description: “position requires the ability to lift X pounds without assistance on a routine basis.” Candidates can then determine whether they can perform the work.

When you’re specific about the needs of the position, candidates with disabilities can assess whether or not they can meet the requirement. A blanket “able-bodied” statement could turn off everyone in the community. It could exclude people who are deaf, for example, or those who have done similar work in the past with or without an accommodation.

Education

Postings that require applicants who are “graduates of top tier universities” exclude the majority of job seekers, and could specifically exclude those from historically Black colleges and universities. If a degree is required, any university or college should be sufficient.

Four-year degree requirements may also be exclusionary. Many organizations, upon reviewing their “must-haves” for job seekers, have eliminated the requirement (some have made it a preference) for a 4-year degree. Depending on the work, a degree might be something required when the job description was originally created, but isn’t relevant today.

Keeping it inclusive

The first rule to writing an inclusive job posting (or description) is to make sure it’s about the job, not the candidate or employee. Describe the work, not the worker. If the position is in a fast-paced environment, include that in the posting: not “young and agile.” Outline what’s necessary to get the work done, such as skills, years of experience, education, licenses, and certifications.

Then list traits or characteristics, if any, that are necessary in as neutral language as possible:

  • Customer-centric rather than sympathetic
  • Detail-oriented instead of fastidious
  • Goal-oriented instead of driven

Extend these minor changes from job descriptions through postings to cast the widest, most inclusive net when you recruit and hire.

If you’re still not sure all the language in your posting is inclusive, there are software packages and websites that will screen the listing for you and point out (with reasons) why terms may sound exclusionary. Some are free, others are available at a small fee. If you’re not pulling as many diverse applicants as you think you should, these might be a good first step.

Make sure it’s about the job, not the candidate or employee. Describe the work, not the worker.

Highlight inclusive language

Beyond removing exclusionary terms, you’ll want to boast wording that is inclusive. If you want candidates to understand your preference and commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce, include that language prominently in your posting. Don’t just add “EEO” at the end. Specify you’re looking for top talent from every walk of life to join your diverse team. Outline a welcoming message up front — like in the overview of the position. Make sure to include additional or similar language in the description of your organization. Some basic examples:

  • We strive to be a diverse workforce that represents every member of the community
  • Our organization doesn’t just accept diversity — we seek it out and celebrate it
  • We are committed to diversity and inclusion

If you’re building a diverse workforce and expanding your reach, include language that outlines your plans and commitment:

  • Diversity is strength — help our team grow stronger
  • We’re building a diverse and inclusive workforce; be a part of our growth

Another way to build inclusion into your postings is to advertise in places you haven’t before. Local job posts cull from the immediate community. Broadening your reach not only opens your jobs to more candidates, it opens you to a wider range of job seekers.

A diverse and inclusive workforce is proven to increase innovation and promote better business outcomes across all levels. Well-written job postings can help your organization achieve these, and more.

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