Sheri Byrne-Haber is a senior staff accessibility architect at VMware. Views are the author's own.
If improving workforce diversity is a goal for your company in 2022, inclusive language in job postings is essential. If you want to attract diverse candidates, and candidates who value inclusion, there are things to consider when developing job postings.
Get rid of subjective qualifications
Have you ever asked yourself what "excellent written and verbal communications skills" actually means?
This phrase is ubiquitous, yet means something different to every single person who will be participating in the candidate screening and interviewing process. Moreover, people with dyslexia, autism, stuttering and hearing loss may choose not to apply for a job that contains this phrase because they may not consider their communication skills to be excellent. In the field of technology, that can be up to 1 in 8 candidates according to a recent Stack Overflow survey.
Communications are never one-sided. To account for the recipients’ communications style, valuable communicators use an approach that is flexible and effective. In that next job posting, try substituting "effective and flexible communications skills" for "excellent written and verbal communications skills" to increase the attractiveness of the job description to people with disabilities.
Get rid of requirements that are not essential to performing the job
Does the successful candidate for your job posting really need to have a drivers’ license? In the United States, a recent study from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that only 60.4% of U.S. residents with disabilities drive a car, compared to 91.7% of people without disabilities. If driving is the main task of the job, sure, leave it in; but for other positions such as administration, customer service or training, just to name a few, that requirement adds no value and will eliminate almost one-third of your potential disabled applicant pool.
Additional job requirements that add little to no value are those related to the employee’s ability to sit, stand or lift particular amounts of weight. Maybe this is essential if the job posting is for a forklift operator, but certainly not for IT or management roles.
Including these as standard requirements eliminates people with mobility issues, arthritis and chronic back conditions. It’s a silent message to people with disabilities that regardless of any other claim of inclusion, the organization really doesn’t want them there.
Look at other inclusive language
Gender inclusion is another area that needs to be carefully assessed in all job advertisements. Terms like "hacker," "rockstar," "superhero," "guru" and "ninja" are more male-oriented and may discourage applications from female job seekers. Using gendered phrases such as "he" or "she" anywhere in a job description is incredibly insensitive – it implies that the organization expects that the successful candidate will identify with a pre-determined gender.
To attract female candidates, companies should include emphasizing collaboration and interpersonal relationships in job postings. Try Kat Matfield’s gender decoder for help with analyzing and preparing gender-neutral job descriptions.