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Are Your Job Postings Biased

Posted by Kathleen Smith

Hiring BiasIn the recruiting world employer brand has become a major asset in attracting top cyber talent. One of the first ways a company communicates their brand to a candidate is through their job postings. It’s important to realize that how you present your company in these ads can be a strong factor in the quality and diversity of applicants you attract.

Research indicates that unconscious bias is readily evident in postings, especially in male-dominated industries. This bias is communicated unintentionally and can deter female candidates from applying. The use of gendered language can undermine your strategy for diverse hiring practices – and bringing it full circle, can affect the way your company brand is perceived.

By rethinking commonly-used language and focusing on more gender-neutral wording your company can be increasingly successful in attracting a more diverse group of candidates.

The gendered wording downside

A recent study indicates that words often connected to gender stereotypes are frequently found in job postings. Findings showed that in male-dominated industries there was a greater use of male-oriented words like leader, competitive and dominant.

The research further concluded that when masculine wording is used potential applicants assume that the company skews male. This perception makes the posting less attractive to women causing them to pass on applying for the position. Removing words that are gender biased increases the number of applicants by over 40 percent. Obviously this will have a tremendous impact on reaching your goals for diversity hiring.

The upside of gender neutral wording

It’s believed that a diverse workforce will help increase profit margins with research indicating that having more women in an organization will grow profits. Companies who have 30%+ women in the boardroom show a 6% upward skew in profits over businesses without women.

Paying closer attention to wording in job postings will create a level playing field and attract more qualified female candidates. If research is correct, not only will you have a more inclusive hiring strategy but you will be honing in on candidates who will improve the bottom line.

Big picture

The first step in recruiting more diverse employees is identifying the areas that are off-putting before the process begins. Start by examining your job posting language and take steps that will help you hire more effectively.

These words tend to deter female candidates:

  • Aggressive
  • Confident
  • Driven
  • Determined
  • Independent
  • Adventurous

These words tend to appeal to both male and female candidates:

  • Loyal
  • Honest
  • Supportive
  • Sociable
  • Dedicated
  • Interpersonal

It can be very tempting to get creative writing job postings and use more contemporary language, but stay away from terms like ninja and rock star. Researchers found that most women shy away from postings with masculine coded terms. Feel free to give your postings some sparkle but make an effort to neutralize your wording.

Reduce your job requirements

Hiring managers may lean towards using a comprehensive list of preferred qualifications but it’s important to reduce the requirements in your posting. While men will apply for positions where they meet slightly over 50% of the requirements, women tend to apply only for jobs where they meet 100% of the preferred experience. Focus on the “must haves” and eliminate the “nice-to-haves”.

Consider softening your job requirements with terms like “familiar with” or “big plus” or even “combination of these skills”. A short posting is more effective in general with one study indicating that a job seeker will spend less than 50 seconds scanning a job posting before making a determination to move on.

Include benefits that appeal to women

It’s a given that a solid benefit package is a major draw for attracting top cyber talent. Think through your offerings and if you’re are looking to pull in more women job seekers, include in your posting benefits that hit their hot button – like childcare subsidies and paid parental leave. While these may appeal to all candidates they do offer the opportunity to call out your commitment to an inclusive environment.

For serious help use software

There is software available from Textio than can help you write more effective, gender neutral job postings. The software offers feedback as you type. Throughout the writing process it will call attention to biases and highlight words classifying them as “masculine”, “repetitive”, “negative”, etc. It will even offer suggestions about how to strengthen job descriptions. Cliches beware.

Bottom line

We all have biases – most unintentional and unconscious. It takes a bit of work to uncover gender-coded language and to improve your security job postings. Write a post, step away from it, review again and make tweaks. Take the time to make the job posting as inclusive as possible and improve your employer brand while you’re pulling in more diverse top tier cyber security talent.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 9:41 pm

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