Diversity & Inclusion, Learning & Development, Recruiting

Are Your Job Postings Inclusive?

In an earlier post, we discussed how to make your job post shine. But is your posting inclusive? 

We spoke with Katrina Kibben, Founder and CEO of Three Ears Media, to learn how to attract diverse talent. 

Because of the society we live in, it’s impossible to be completely without bias. But recognizing and understanding past and present institutionalized systems is the first step to addressing inclusivity issues in recruitment. 

“It is your responsibility as a recruiter, as a leader, to mitigate bias with your expertise,” Kibben says.  

Remove Bias from Your Job Posts 

Everyone has biases, whether they’re aware of them or not. The University of California describes unconscious biases as “the social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.” 

Bias is often a particularly large issue in job descriptions. Kibben researched over 100 years of job postings to analyze similarities. They found that in the past hundred years, many key phrases and skills were still the same.  

“If you are using 100-year-old tactics, you have brought 100-year-old bias into your posting,” Kibben says. “That ‘highly collaborative team player’? That’s been happening since the seventies. Those tactics—the actual ‘how’ of the requirements we write and the specifics—that’s where the bias was living.” 

Gender bias, though one of the most well-known issues in recruiting, is just the tip of the iceberg. Race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality play roles too. Looking into the writing within job descriptions, bias further resides in skill sets, education, and experience. 

Experience Level 

Experience level is completely subjective, as all experiences are different. “Years of experience quantifies time, but qualifies no one,” Kibben says.  

Kibben uses the example of their own experience as a CEO and Jeff Bezo’s experience as a CEO. “We are not in the same market, but we both have four years of executive experience. We’ve been doing it for four years, but we don’t have the same skills.” 

Years of experience isn’t a clear indicator of people’s abilities. Instead, recruiters should consider what skills people would have acquired within an experience. For example, instead of “5 years of customer service,” writing “Worked in a call center environment resolving 20 or more customer calls per day” would better specify the type of candidate your company is seeking.  

Breaking down experiences into years is inherently ageist. Recruiters should qualify people rather than quantify them. In the case of specialized roles, ones that often feel the need to include years of experience, recruiters should ask: 

  • How do they use that tool? What will they build? 
  • What do they know after # years that they couldn’t know with just # years? 
  • What work have they done in your role that they couldn’t have done on day one? 
  • What will they do in 6 months that isn’t happening now? 

In explaining senior positions, job postings should consider: 

  • Technical aptitude: What is their experience with the tools? 
  • Autonomy: Do they need support, or are they working independently? 
  • Communication: Who do they communicate to, and who are they communicating with? 
  • People Management: Do they work with a large group, or a small team? 

Education Level 

Of the 25-year-old and up population, 32.1% hold a college degree. And, according to the Education Data Initiative, 15% of those adults report having outstanding undergraduate student debt, and 35-year-olds have the highest outstanding debt at $42,600 per borrower.  

“College degrees are a privilege, not a right, in the United States of America,” Kibben says. “It’s not a right that’s afforded to the majority of people.” 

Most people cannot afford to go to college, be it because of the financial burden or logistics of a collegiate education. Therefore, requiring a degree when it’s not necessary for a job implies that a company only wants to work with privileged people. 

Recruiters should set the tone within job descriptions by changing education requirements to skills and qualifications. As we’ve described before, experiences are more telling of a person’s qualifications.  

Entry Level Jobs 

Oftentimes an entry level job posting is extremely long with lots of bullets on what’s required for the role. At their core, many entry level jobs are riddled with bias. 

“‘Entry level’ means no experience required,” Kibben says. “The short answer here is, if no experience is required, there’s no bullets required.” 

All an entry level job description needs are the role’s impact, everyday activities, and minimum requirements.  

“If there is no experience required to thrive in a role, write that you’ll teach them everything they need to know.” 

Gender Bias 

Gendered language predicts who is hired. Expedia found that in job listings for the exact same job, posts with feminine phrases, more women were hired than men. In the case of masculine phrasing, more men were recruited than women. 

There are many paid or free gendered-language detection tools. When inputting a job description, the tools can detect if the posting has keywords that lean one way or another, thereby detecting if the job posting is set up to attract or discourage certain genders.

However, many tools assume that there’s a gender binary and that there’s primarily feminine or masculine language. In reality, gender is not binary—there’s far more to it. Recruiters need to be aware of biases when actually inputting job postings into gender bias tools, no matter how skilled artificial intelligence or programming involved. 

Kibben explains, “You have to know how to write a job posting to understand the tactics we’re avoiding. Do not spend money on tools before you invest in training.” 

Check out our on-demand master class to learn more about inclusivity in the recruiting process.