How to Write More Inclusive Job Descriptions

A team writes inclusive job descriptions.

Writing inclusive job descriptions is easier said than done, since it may be difficult to fully comprehend how others may perceive a given job posting. For instance, describing the role as being “well-suited to recent graduates” suggests a bias against older workers. Follow these tips to encourage every qualified candidate to apply. You’ll not only deepen your candidate pool, but you’ll also reap the rewards of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Remove Gender-Coded Words

If candidates assume the role is more suited for the opposite gender, you might be missing out on qualified candidates. The best way to avoid this common mistake is to avoid words that are typically understood to be coded for a male or female audience, even if they merely hint at gendered stereotypes. Below are some common variations of gender-coded words:

  • Female-Coded Words. Agree, empath, sensitive, affectionate, feel, support, collaborate, honest, trust, commit, interpersonal, understand, compassion, nurture, and share.
  • Male-Coded Words. Aggressive, confident, fearless, ambitious, decisive, headstrong, assertive, defensive, independent, battle, dominant, outspoken, and driven.

Avoid Gender Bias

According to a Hewlett-Packard internal report, women will typically only apply for a job if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications. To avoid unconscious gender bias deterring women from applying to your job, consider eliminating requirements that are not essential. If the position is one where training can easily be provided, don’t ask for it. Clearly deliniate which qualifications are required and which are preferred.

Eliminate Racial Bias

Like gender bias, racial bias can be implicit and oftentimes is unknowingly perpetuated by recruitment professionals who otherwise recognize the importance of inclusive job descriptions. By paying careful attention to the words and phrases you use, you can help eliminate implicit and explicit bias in your job posting. Here are some suggestions:

When Writing Communications

  • Never mention race or national origin.
  • Phrases like, “strong English-language skills” may deter qualified non-native English speakers from applying.
  • A “clean-shaven” requirement can exclude candidates whose faith requires them to maintain facial hair (it also indicates the position is for men only).

When Reviewing Candidates

  • Limit referral hiring, and go beyond your network.
  • Don’t waiver from the qualifications for a select few.
  • Ask everyone the same set of interview questions.

Win Over Experienced Workers

Best practices for avoiding age discrimination include making sure your employer branding reflects a wide range of the age of workers at your company. Also, don’t ask for GPA or SAT scores because it implies that only recent grads are being considered.

Additionally, avoid phrasing like:

  • “Young and energetic”
  • “Party atmosphere”
  • “Work hard/play hard”
  • “Digital native”
  • “Calling all recent college grads!”
  • “Athletic” or “athletically inclined”
  • “No more than X years of experience”
  • “Junior” or “Senior” except as part of a job title
  • “Supplement your retirement income!”

Include an Equal Employment Opportunity Statement

The EEOC requires some federal contractors to include an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement, and many business owners have followed suit. When you’re writing inclusive job descriptions, you may want to mention that you are an Equal Opportunity Employer, are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive company culture, and that your team does not discriminate against candidates and employees because of their disability, sex, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, veteran status, or any other protected status under the law.

Welcome Disabled Workers

Job descriptions that are welcoming to all workers should mention reasonable accommodations such as flexible hours or telework policies that would appeal to disabled workers. Avoiding language that could discourage disabled job seekers isn’t always intuitive, though. For instance, a job that requires constant movement throughout an office shouldn’t be limited to “walking,” since that would exclude someone who uses a wheelchair.

Let applicants know your workplace welcomes and values all candidates with phrasing like: “ability to complete tasks with or without reasonable accommodations.” Instead of writing “access to your own vehicle isn’t always necessary,” try “access to reliable transportation,” which is more inclusive to people with disabilities. See our chart below for other inclusive language considerations:

Discriminatory LanguageMore Inclusive Language
Must be able to lift 50 poundsMoves equipment weighing up to 50 pounds
Seeking able-bodied individual[No replacement. Avoid completely.]
Bending and crouching under desks to install equipmentPositions self to install equipment, including under desks
Must be able to stand for entire shiftMust be able to remain in a stationary position during shift
Talks to students about their financial concernsCommunicates with students about their financial concerns
Walks throughout the building to access filesMoves throughout the building to access files
This role requires visually inspecting sites for safetyThis role requires inspection of sites to detect safety concerns

It’s also best practice to include an Accessibility Accommodation statement on your company’s career page and all job descriptions. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a “reasonable accommodation” is a modification to the hiring process that makes it accessible for people with disabilities. For example, you could have the interview in a wheelchair-accessible room or provide assistive technology. You may want to reiterate your commitment to creating an inclusive workplace and note how candidates can request accommodations.

Inclusive Job Descriptions Lay the Groundwork for a More Inclusive Workplace

If your workforce is lacking in diversity, your company is less likely to succeed. Writing more inclusive job descriptions can certainly help, but cultivating a more inclusive and diverse workplace requires awareness and efforts that may not be that obvious. We’re here to help. Access our free expert resources on creating an inclusive workplace and recruiting the right people in order to build, and keep, the best workforce possible.