Examples Of Bias In Job Descriptions

Great teams start with great interviews.

By recording live interviews, our platform harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to help teams run a faster, better interview process.

Request a Demo

Examples Of Bias In Job Descriptions

Removing bias from job descriptions is a critical step in creating an inclusive hiring process. That's why, in this article, we are going to give several examples of bias in job descriptions, with a primary focus on the topics of gender bias and racial bias. We'll talk about how to recognize when bias shows up, and then cover removing bias from job descriptions.

Creating a positive and inclusive workplace that values diversity, equity, and inclusion starts long before the hiring process. It goes to the roots of the company's ideology and how it approaches culture. That said, removing bias in job descriptions is vital as this is one of the first places candidates will see your company's values.

Bias in job descriptions can manifest in many forms. Two of the most common are gender bias and racial bias. Gender bias in job descriptions can be seen in the use of gender-coded words, such as “dominant” or “nurturing,” that traditionally correspond to male or female stereotypes, respectively. Similarly, racial bias in job descriptions can be seen in the use of phrases like “native (language) speaker,” or "professionally groomed hair" that often exclude diverse candidates and perpetuate homogeneous workplaces.

Racial and gender bias have no place in an equitable workplace where all are welcome and offered an equal opportunity to do great work. To combat these biases, we have to focus on that as our end goal- attracting the best talent and providing them a great place to put their skills and experience to work!

The first step to creating a workplace like this is to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. At an organizational level, and from the top down, being proactive to include and promote diversity in all aspects of the company will lead to a more inclusive culture that can be reflected in job descriptions.

For instance, instead of using gendered language like “nurturing” or "dominant," focus on specific skills and qualifications needed for the job- use neutral terms like “collaborative,” “strong communicator,” or “excellent problem solver.” Using neutral language that is inclusive of all genders, avoiding jargon and cultural references that could alienate candidates from different backgrounds, and focusing on primary skills and experiences in your job descriptions will eliminate these biases.

Next, implement automated tools and systems that will mitigate bias before it becomes an issue. Text analytics tools like Textio, for example, can help identify and remove gender and racially biased-language in job descriptions. Once the job description has been written, structured interviews and interview intelligence by Pillar can ensure fair hiring processes and deliver interview insights that enforce objectivity.

Examples Of Gender Bias In Job Descriptions

As we talked about in the previous section, identifying examples of gender bias in job descriptions is the first step to creating equity in the workplace – but identification alone isn't enough. Once we see these biases show up, we have to act to ensure candidates have a fair opportunity to showcase their skills and experience for the role.

Gender-coded words often get misused in job descriptions. For example, words like “dominant” or “nurturing” mentally correspond to male or female stereotypes and can discourage candidates from applying for a position. Studies show that these gender-coded words in job descriptions greatly limit your access to top talent and decrease the size of your candidate pool by 7- 50% or more - depending on which study you review.

But limiting your talent pool isn't the only potential consequence. In addition to the potential ethical and legal implications of these terms, gender-coded words in job descriptions often perpetuate stereotypes that don't align with your company's culture and initiatives. This means the candidates who do apply will have an unrealistic view of your team which can affect the overall company culture and how employees interact with one another.

To counteract these effects using gender-neutral language in job descriptions is paramount. LinkedIn offers a great resource to help you remove bias from your job descriptions. You can learn more about it by clicking this link.

Instead of using terms that subtly lean towards one gender or another the solution is to specify what skills, experience, and qualities are necessary for the role. Use phrases like “proficient in,” “responsible for,” or “experienced with” followed by specific solutions, skills, or qualifications. For example, replacing “seeking a dominant individual” with “seeking an individual with a proven track record of meeting sales targets” removes gender bias while clearly communicating the job requirement.

Examples Of Racial Bias In Job Descriptions

Racial bias is another example we see commonly. Examples of racial bias in job descriptions discriminate against individuals from diverse cultures and limit your ability to create an inclusive workplace. The biggest culprit is "native English speakers." Stating this preference is most often unnecessary and can discourage highly qualified candidates who are non-native but fluent speakers. This is a clear example of racial bias in job descriptions that can limit the diversity of your applicant pool from some of the best contributors to your team and culture.

Another way that racial bias is often seen in job descriptions is the "professional grooming" requirement. "Professional grooming" is a completely arbitrary term that's viewed solely in the "eye of the beholder." This term can be interpreted as discouraging natural hairstyles that are specific to certain racial or ethnic groups. These types of phrases and other language to avoid in job descriptions include phrases that imply cultural fit, specific ethnic origin, or which can be coded to exclude those who might bring valuable perspectives to your team.

Shift your language toward inclusive job description examples to solve this problem. This means focusing on the skills and qualifications necessary for the role without implying a cultural, racial, or ethnic prerequisite. You can use Textio (the tool we recommended earlier in the article) to accomplish this goal.

Once you've removed exclusive job descriptions, focus on signaling your commitment to an inclusive workplace. This could involve highlighting the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion or ensuring that the imagery and media used in job postings reflect a diverse workforce.

The Role Of Company Values In Job Descriptions

Once you've gone through the process of removing bias from job descriptions, it's time to decide how you'll share your company values in job descriptions. This is key to signaling inclusion and core to attracting a diverse pool of candidates to choose from.

The role of company values in job descriptions shouldn't be overlooked. Candidates will often read a job description, click on a link to the company's website, and review things like your product, mission statement, and recent reviews on social media sites and job boards. Explicitly outlining company values like growth, diversity, inclusion, and equity in job descriptions will help candidates understand your culture, expectations, and how this opportunity will align with their desired career path.

Integrating your mission statement into job descriptions is another way to signal values alignment. When a candidate sees that they'll be contributing to projects that align with their personal values, they're more likely to pursue the opportunity – even if it means making a lateral move, taking a slight pay cut or even relocating. When Millennials and Gen-Z were asked what was the most important factor in accepting the role they chose, culture and diversity were at the top of the list. This highlights the value of incorporating diverse language in job description examples which show a proactive approach to the things they care about the most.

Before we go any further, you may be thinking - "But, we included "equal opportunity employer" in the job post." And, while this is a good first step (it's also legally required), inclusion is about inviting candidates from various backgrounds to see themselves as a good fit for your company, culture, and open roles. This means ensuring that the language throughout the job description is consciously inclusive not just passively.

Going back to our first example, gender-neutral language in job descriptions is one way of creating a more diverse team. Avoiding words or phrases that historically tend to skew towards one gender over another, will help you widen the candidate pool and invite diversity.

The same rules apply across your entire organization. Using inclusive job description examples demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion and acts as a blueprint for other teams following your lead. This could be individual business units within your company or other companies following in your footsteps.

In conclusion, any recruitment team aiming at creating a diverse and inclusive workplace should prioritize the language used in job descriptions. Avoid gender bias, and racial bias, and use inclusive language that aligns with your company's values and mission. This is step one as you seek to attract a diverse pool of candidates but it will only get you 20% of the way to an inclusive team. You must also create an environment where all employees feel valued and included. This is the 80% that ensures long-term change.

Finally, continually assessing and updating your internal best practices for job descriptions will ensure they are free from any kind of bias and reflect the inclusive culture you strive for. This will ultimately lead to a stronger and more dynamic team, better decision-making processes, and a positive impact on the overall success of your organization. So keep these tips in mind when crafting your job descriptions and watch as diversity and inclusion become an integral part of your workplace.

If you'd like to see how Pillar can help you increase diversity hiring by more than 40%, book your demo of our interview intelligence software today. Happy Hiring!