As organizations continue to drive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts when hiring, it is important to start from the very beginning: writing inclusive job descriptions. In order to attract and hire a diverse range of job candidates, it’s critical to continuously be aware of your tone and potential unconscious biases in your internal and external communications, including your job descriptions. 

While it is difficult to predict how any one individual will respond to a job ad or email, employers can increase effective messaging by adopting a writing style that is unbiased and inclusive.

Making this effort at the beginning of your hiring process will diversify your talent pool and ultimately help your company become a more inclusive workplace. Following are some best practices for writing inclusive job descriptions that will encourage candidates of all backgrounds to apply. 

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Avoiding Gender Bias in Job Descriptions

Organizations can overcome gender bias in their job ads by utilizing these tactics:

  • Use they/them instead of he/she.
  • Alter the job ad language to include more gender-neutral alternatives such as manage, committed, proficient, inspire, demonstrated and research.
  • Be intentional when setting expectations for a position. Reduce the overall number of requirements and limit the “nice-to-haves.”
  • Check your job ads and communications for gender-coded words. Feminine-coded words include collaborative, empathy and interpersonal. Masculine-coded words include aggressive, hunter and confident.

Why is it so important to write inclusive job descriptions and be aware of coded language? Because it can significantly impact whether someone applies. Job descriptions that have more prevalent masculine-coded words are likely to discourage female applicants from applying. And job descriptions that are more feminine-coded tend to only have a slight effect on male applicants, while increasing the number of female applicants. In addition, research from LinkedIn shows that women are more likely to apply to jobs where they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men are inclined to apply to jobs when only meeting 60% of the requirements. 

Steering Clear of Age, Race and Disability Bias

Ageism, racism and ableism are often embedded in language historically used in job descriptions. Ageism is one of the most common forms of employment discrimination. Racism and nationalism can hide in outdated organizational ideals such as “culture fit.” And ableism deters individuals with disabilities from applying for jobs. Set your organization apart by considering these tips to combat unconscious bias in your job descriptions:

  • Keep away from an emphasis on “recent college graduates” or “tech-savvy digital natives.” 
  • Avoid capping the years of experience required. For instance, rather than requesting 8-12 years of experience, use 8+ years of experience.
  • Don’t use language that automatically excludes qualified applicants like “can lift up to 20 pounds,” “can stand for long periods of time” or “can walk 10,000 steps in one day.”
  • Steer clear of wording and divisive phrases like these: “fluent in English or English native speaker,” “excellent speaker, “clean-shaven” or “neat hairstyle.”
  • Eliminate the use of wording and phrases like “work hard, play hard” and avoid highlighting happy hours as company perks. 

Highlighting Your Company's Commitment to DEI

DEI matters greatly to many job seekers today. In fact, in a new Cella survey, 62 percent of respondents said a potential employer’s positive DEI policy is important and influences their job search, according to our 2022 Talent Report for Creative, Marketing and Digital Professionals.

If your organization is focused on DEI initiatives it can be helpful to mention those efforts in your job ads. More and more companies are going beyond the basic “We are an equal opportunity employer” statements by including additional details about their DEI policies and inclusive workplace environments.

If applicable, you also might place extra emphasis in your job descriptions on certain perks and benefits, including sabbaticals, an organizational focus on work-life balance, remote work opportunities, inclusive team events or the ability to join DEI-focused employee resource groups.

Double-Checking Yourself

Before publishing a job ad it’s wise to take an additional step to check that you’ve written an inclusive job description. There are many text-analysis tools available online that you can use to help detect bias, insensitive language or subtle coded words that may be lurking in your job postings.

Expanding Your Reach

To better publicize a job opening, consider broadening your pool of potential candidates by posting the career opportunity far and wide, including on niche diversity-focused job boards. A prospective employer’s DEI policy remains an important consideration for job candidates.

The Bottom Line on Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions 

Establishing best practices to overcome unconscious bias in job descriptions and communications is how organizations can create the foundation of belonging for their employees. Investing the time and effort into revamping how your organization appeals to job seekers will pay off with a more diverse, innovative and engaged workforce. Inclusive in-house agencies or organizations are typically more successful in every facet of business.