James: Luz, give us the big picture. Why shouldn’t I just look up a similar job on Indeed, change the company information and post it. Are there other things I can be doing to make a job ad more likely to attract a more diverse candidate pool?
Luz: Yes, absolutely. If I could tell people to change one thing in their recruiting practice, it would be to change the way they write job ads. A job ad is your first opportunity to show most job seekers that you are a welcoming organization and it’s something that you can change fairly easily, it’s inexpensive and it’s kind of fun to do.
The very first thing I would say to people is to write job ads using clear or plain language. Most of the jobs out there, like the ones you mentioned on the job boards, are really dense and full of jargon – they are hard to read, especially if you haven’t achieved a high level of education or if you don’t speak English as a first language. They can create barriers to your full participation in that recruitment and ultimately in that employment opportunity. Instead, if you write in clear, simple terms you reduce the barriers to both those who do and don’t have a high reading level. You should avoid using jargon, acronyms, and overly formal language like what you find in a lot of job ads online.
Avoid words that are exclusionary. For example, how simple is it to stop saying salesman and say sales person instead. Aim for words, tone, phrase, metaphors and references that are inclusive and that can be understood by the broadest audience.
James: So, that sounds like you’re talking about how I’m writing, but what about specific content? Are there changes you would make there?
Luz: Yeah, for sure. Again, these are not difficult to do.
The first one is that it’s fun to have cool unique job titles internally like coding ninja or chief people and culture officer, but those job titles are less effective on the boards because those aren’t the terms that people are searching for on a job board. Go with the most obvious or basic title for the job you’re looking to fill.
The second is a little more difficult. Put some thought into your qualifications and aim for the minimum qualifications someone would need to be a viable candidate for a job. Start by listing only the skills that you absolutely need to do the job well. For example, do you really need an advanced degree in business to do an entry level sales role or could you be effective in that job if you have a bit of experience selling in a business to business role.
Also, use the broadest version of a skill. A common qualification is to have completed high school, but it’s more inclusive to say, have you achieved high school or its equivalent. Maybe somebody achieved their high school certificate in a different way or in a different jurisdiction. By stating both, you’re increasing the number of people who would be included in that qualification.
The other thing I would absolutely include is a diversity and inclusion statement. But I wouldn’t put one there that sounds like it was added for legal purposes. Studies have shown that can backfire. Applicants from underrepresented groups who can sense or infer that a company is not seeking diversity and inclusion from their values won’t apply.
To give you an example of that, we came across a diversity and inclusion statement that we really love from a Chicago based B Corp, called See 3.
See3 is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and we look for candidates who have a high level of demonstrated comfort with cultural competency.
People of color, people with disabilities, veterans, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are encouraged to apply.
All applicants will be considered without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, sex, marital or parental status, disability, gender identity or expression, age, or any other basis prohibited by law.
The reason I love that statement is because it sounds like See 3 wrote it. It doesn’t sound like something they copied and pasted from the internet and that makes it sound authentic. Many different kinds of people are called out and offered welcome to the employment opportunity. To me it reads like a sincere call for diverse people to be included in that company.
James: It’s cool knowing See 3, they spent quite a while going through specific diversity training. This comes out of their culture and it’s really obvious to me when I read that.
I also wanted to do a little more research to see what diversity programs are working. There’s been some great research done on this by the Harvard Business Review. They’ve got a great study I would recommend checking out called, “Why Diversity Programs Fail.” There were some great diversity initiatives that they talked about. A lot of female and minority applicants want to know how your company is different. Some of the specific things you can call out are:
- Do you have any awards you’ve received for diversity? Having a third party to verify that is a way to show you’re serious.
- Mention any programs or policies that have been proven to create inclusive opportunities. Studies show having access to training, mentoring and equal opportunity promotion programs all help create a more diverse company.
- Being a B Corp and your involvement in the Inclusion Challenge.
Before we finish, I’d love to take a quick look at the end of a job ad. Luz, you think this has been a missed opportunity for most people.
Luz: A lot of job ads end with a hostile tone. Only candidates who are invited to an interview will receive a response or please no phone calls. They create distance with the job seeker, instead of saying something that is welcoming and inclusive like, we value your interest in our company and we look forward to receiving your application. That’s a really simple way of flagging that you are welcoming of a wide variety of jobseekers and reducing the intimidation factor.