How to rewrite your job descriptions to help improve diversity, with a sample from an open role at LinkedIn

  • A well-written job description can make all the difference when you’re recruiting.
  • Recent data from LinkedIn suggests avoiding the language of “requirements” and educational criteria.
  • Job candidates without four-year degrees are seeing greater acceptance in the job market.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We’re approaching a new era in the workplace, one that will be shaped by expanding remote work and addressing the abundant inequity within organizations and communities.

While so much is changing, job descriptions have not changed very much. For most companies, this could represent a missed opportunity to bolster employment brand or improve recruiting pipelines.

Recently released data from LinkedIn found that language in job descriptions that focuses on requirements and education are falling out of favor. Recruiters can get more applicants and improve diversity by making simple adjustments to their postings.

Employers are getting wise to the need to evaluate job candidates based on their skills and demonstrated abilities over academic credentials and experience at well-known companies. This reshaped how interviews and hiring decisions are made, but job descriptions can be a barrier that keeps qualified candidates from applying. 

Workplace consultant Jessica Miller-Merrill wrote for SHRM that in addition to composing simpler, more realistic job descriptions, employers can send a message by leading with their equal employment opportunity statement. She also warns of using gendered or other coded language because it excludes people from a wide range of underrepresented groups.

A recent study from University of Waterloo and Duke University found that male-coded words like “ambitious, confident, decision, logic(al) and superior,” tend to attract male applicants while female-coded words like “compassion, emotion(al), interpersonal, sensitive, and warm” tend to attract more female applicants.

Statements about being energetic or part of a collegial environment may exclude older candidates, and language about physical requirements for an office job can be a barrier to applicants with disabilities who would be perfectly capable of meeting the job’s actual requirements.

Previous research from LinkedIn found that salary information and details about the role are most the valued pieces of information for job seekers. It might also be useful to eliminate requirements completely from your job descriptions and instead focus on skills, LinkedIn found.

“Not only can a skills-based job description help you find the best person — it can also improve your employer brand and boost your appeal to candidates,” Gopika Maya Santosh, senior insights analyst at LinkedIn, wrote.

Here’s an example of a revised job description

LinkedIn provided Insider with an example of a revised “skills-based” job description.

The old version of the job description read: “2+ years of experience in customer service or account management supporting a product/solution. Utilizing multiple communication channels (email, chat, and phone)” along with 10 “nice-to-have preferred qualifications.”

Below, you can see the edited version of the job description, which instead focuses on preferred experiences. 

LinkedIn found that job descriptions that mention responsibilities were shared 21% more. These posts received four times more applications per view compared to those that don’t mention required qualifications or experience. In fact, job posts that specifically mentioned qualifications received 36% fewer applications per view compared to those that did not mention it.

The evidence for shifting away from academic qualifications as a means of determining fit for a job is quite strong. For example, employers are increasingly removing the bachelor’s degree requirement and those companies that prefer to hire from an exclusive list of selective schools are increasingly receiving pushback. When attending an elite college is mostly a byproduct of privilege, focusing on applicants only from those schools can be a big hindrance to diversity.

LinkedIn’s latest report found more evidence, observing a 20% increase in people promoted to manager that don’t have a four-year degree. Additionally, employees without a four-year degree tend to stay 34% longer than their counterparts.

“Try focusing on the results you’d like to see, rather than the type of person that you think could deliver those results,” Santosh said. “Highlighting the desired skills — the candidate’s ability to perform certain tasks — gets to the same results without creating an unnecessary barrier to entry, like a requirement for a four-year degree.”

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