Statistics prove that diverse and inclusive workforces provide tremendous value. As top priorities among employers, especially now, companies are looking for inventive ways to attract talent. Since job descriptions are typically the first means of contact employers have with candidates, it’s paramount that they are written in a non-bias way that reflects the company’s mission, needs, and values.

“First and foremost, if you’re even thinking about this, it’s obviously a good time,” says Britteny Soto, CTRM, Manager, Talent Acquisition – Retail at ‎Green Thumb Industries (GTI). “A lot of companies don’t, but it’s actually something that we talk a lot about. Because of the industry we’re in, it’s particularly special because we have a lot of individuals who are personally tied to the mission of the business. People are really taking the time to read job descriptions and making sure that they see themselves within them.”

When it comes to bias, Soto says, it’s typically about gender so avoiding male-centered terminology is key. “When you really get into the nitty-gritty of it all, and how you’re describing the duties of the job, that’s when it can be unconscious bias. That’s one thing we talk about a lot — unconscious bias,” she explains. “There’s actually a really good tool I use called Gender Decoder. It will go through your job description, dissect it, and find specific words.” Nine times out of 10, Soto adds, women won’t apply for jobs if they think they aren’t qualified — whereas men are more likely to just go for it. “If you want to make sure that you’re getting that gender diversity in your applicants, you have to put a little more thought into it.”

Nick Cervino, Vice President at full-service recruitment consulting firm The Goodkind Group, agrees. “It’s more gender-wise than racial-wise. A lot of times women won’t respond to tech jobs because of certain words — they give the connotation of a man, so you want to stay away from those kinds of things,” he says. “Don’t write in technical or internal terms. You also don’t want to get caught up in too many words. When you write job postings, or anytime I post for a job, I try to stick to the facts of the job and avoid excluding anybody. What you want to be able to do is say, ‘I’m looking for somebody who has x, y, and z skills, who might have x amount of experience. The best person is the person I’m going to hire for the job. At the end of the day, that’s the key thing.”

Diving into diversity
Subtle words have a huge impact when it comes to job descriptions, notes Soto, and this is where employers might get more into ethnic biases. “When you say things like, ‘strong English language skills preferred,’ it seems very simple, but candidates who are not native English speakers — even though their English may be great — might be deterred by that. You may want to rephrase it to, ‘English proficiency required,’” she says. “You can even get into age bias using terms like energetic, fresh, green, or eager. Basically what you’re trying to say is young, even though that may obviously not be the case. Companies have to take the time and care to dissect what they’re saying. We really have to go a step further, not just for the older generations, but also for the newer generations who are far more cognizant of these things. You have to really be careful and make sure that job descriptions are as inclusive as possible. We want to be approachable, so someone can feel themselves within the role and not feel like they have to check all these boxes.”

Cervino adds that companies should be more attentive to diversity and consider where they are posting positions. “I think everyone has more wide-open eyes to diversity, and it may not even be about the posting itself. It may be about where you are putting the posting. A lot of times companies will post their job on specific diversity websites. As an employer, it probably behooves you to post on a variety of websites, so you can get the best, most diverse group of people.”

For Soto, one thing GTI decided to be really thoughtful about was their D&I (diversity and inclusion) statement. “We wanted it to be something more than the EEO (equal employment opportunity) blurb. We really put some thought behind it and actually crafted an EEO/diversity statement/stand, and we include that on all of our job descriptions,” she says. “We are now building out a new career section on our website that will showcase our employees a lot more. I think when you showcase your people, then candidates can say, ‘That person looks like me, or that person has an experience similar to mine,’ and they can see themselves better. It’s crucial to put out how your company’s mission and values line up with your hiring practices and people management. I think your career site can really set things up because it’s going to decide whether or not someone will even take the steps to read your job description.”

But it’s not just about the job description
“The thing is, everybody reviews everything before they do anything at this point. At the end of the day, no one’s going to just take a job at a company,” notes Cervino. “Everyone’s doing all this research, so it behooves companies to promote themselves in a positive light whether you are looking at their website and it shows their diversity, or they are posting about it. Internally, companies need to make sure those best practices are put in place. Other things are going to be more important too, as far as word of mouth, so obviously your branding and marketing are critical.”

Soto agrees, adding, “Candidates even go so far as being bold enough to reach out to current employees on LinkedIn. They’ll say, ‘I saw job posting, tell me a little bit about what you think of the company.” This is something Britteny did herself, she reveals, before accepting her current position. “It’s actually less about the job description these days and more about how companies are putting themselves out there. For candidates, it’s less about duties and more about how they feel. It’s a much different kind of approach to job searching — it’s really a candidate’s market.”