How Companies Can Write More Inclusive Job Descriptions

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It's time for companies to check in on their recruitment processes and review how they gather data on their people. Workers want to be a part of a truly inclusive and diverse company culture, and that starts at the source: the job description.


The language used in job descriptions can play a big role in inclusive hiring. Existing descriptions should be assessed and corrected for unconscious bias resulting from:

Gender Coding

Gender coding refers to signals, such as words, phrases, or traits, that have been historically associated with or attributed to either the male or female gender. Words such as 'outspoken' or 'individualistic'', for example, connote masculinity. 'Assertive' or 'forthcoming' express the same qualities without such a male-leaning undertone. And 'empathetic' or 'considerate' suggest femininity while 'mindful' or 'emotionally intelligent' convey the same message. Gender coding often occurs in recruiting messaging and can create a false impression as to who the ideal candidate is for a role. Tools such as the Gender Decoder can help identify such words used in job ads.

Gender-specific pronouns

Gendered pronouns exclude pools of candidates who may otherwise be qualified for the role. Using the pronoun 'You' instead of ‘He’ or ‘She’ avoids gender bias while also giving the impression that candidates are being directly spoken to.

Using 'you' is even more critical today with the changing nature of gender identity. Recent research shows not only the increasing numbers of people in the workforce who do not identify with either 'he' or 'she', but the growing acceptance of other gender identities by those who do, More and more individuals are finding the language and support to identify as something other than their assigned sex at birth, and are then entering the workforce empowered to identify as transgender or gender-non-conforming.

Alternatively, why not keep things in the third person and refer to the candidate as 'the candidate' or 'the applicant'? Referring to them as 'they' throughout the description will remove gendered language and minimise unconscious bias. ?

Exclusive Wording

Certain phrasing can also have an impact. For example, to say "We are looking for a rock star" to describe a go-getter signals a male-dominated culture. And seemingly harmless words like ‘ambitious’ or ‘competitive’ can also alienate female candidates. Be cognizant of how language can implicate bias towards certain groups or genders.

Focusing job descriptions on skills and experience rather than personalities will go a long way in ironing out this kind of bias. Replace 'rock star' and 'go-getter' with 'someone with a keen desire to help the team' or 'a candidate with the ability to motivate themselves'. Instead of depicting a 'competitive and high-octane' work environment, depict a 'culture where efforts are rewarded and skills welcomed'.

This includes candidates with physical and cognitive disabilities. For example, stating that a candidate “Must be able to lift 50 pounds” is exclusive, while “moves equipment up to 50 pounds” focuses instead on what needs to be accomplished in a role.


Jargon (whether industry or company-specific) is problematic when sourcing talent from a broader candidate pool. Many industries have acronyms that are well-known on the inside, but can put off skilled candidates from different backgrounds. For example, a computer programmer who has worked in the entertainment industry for years could be a great fit for the financial sector until they encounter terms like CBDCs and GAAP.

Many candidates have transferable skills from other industries they may assume won’t convert based on the language used. If jargon is required, such as a role that requires the use of specific tech or tool types, spell out acronyms or plainly describe the jargon.