How to Write Inclusive Job Descriptions

As charity recruiters, you’ll be aware of how important it is to strive for inclusivity in the recruitment process and workplace. However, you may not know where to start when it comes to taking practical steps that can actually help your organisation to be more inclusive and attract a wider pool of diverse and talented candidates. Here, we’ll go through four pieces of advice to take on board when writing inclusive job descriptions.

1.   Recruit for skills instead of education and experience

You may have heard of the term ‘skills-first hiring’, which is fast becoming a hot recruitment trend, and for good reason. Put simply, this refers to recruitment that prioritises a candidate’s skills (e.g. problem solving, empathy, data literacy), rather than their qualifications and very specific experiences (e.g. a 2:1 undergraduate degree or 3 years’ experience working in a similar organisation).

Research from LinkedIn found that 40% of companies now rely on skills to search for and find candidates. And the employers who do this are 60% more likely to make a successful hire than those who don’t.

What’s more is that years of experience and education are actually pretty poor predictors of job performance.  And by having very specific job requirements, you’ll put off candidates from other sectors with excellent transferrable skills from applying for your roles.

So how can you make your job descriptions skill-based?

When you’re deciding on the criteria for a job role, you need to identify the skills that are actually required to perform it, rather than the experience the ideal candidate may have, or the background that the last person in the role had.

So, for example, when recruiting for a marketing and communications assistant, you may want to advertise for ‘the ability to write creatively for a range of channels and adapt the writing style according to the audience’ rather than ‘at least a year of experience working on marketing campaigns’ and ‘degree level education in a relevant discipline’.Lady writing an inclusive job description


2.  Watch out for non-inclusive language

Ever read a job description and felt that it wasn’t right for you, even if it was the sort of role and organisation you were after? It may have been that the language used in the job description put you off.

Writing inclusive job descriptions means avoiding any language that may be gender-coded, age-biased or non-inclusive for neurodivergent candidates.

Gender-coded language

Gender-coded language refers to language that is unconsciously biased towards one gender or another. For example, words like ‘competitive’ and ‘self-reliant’ are male-coded and words like ‘cooperative’  and ‘support’ are female-coded.

In a research study by Gaucher, Friesen and Kay (2011) male and female participants were shown job adverts with different kinds of gender-coded language. Women rated jobs that had lots of masculine words as less appealing and felt that they belonged less in the role. Furthermore, reported that their job adverts with gender-neutral wording got 42% more applications than those that didn’t have gender-neutral wording.

You can use a free gender decoder tool which will tell you the overall tone of your job description and highlight male and female-coded language. Where possible, you should aim to swap gender-coded words with neutral ones.

Age-biased language

The language in your job descriptions might not only be deterring males or females from applying for your roles, it could also be putting off older candidates. Research by the Centre for Ageing Better in 2021 found that older participants rated jobs that included words or phrases like ‘technologically savvy’, ‘fun’, ‘recent  graduate’, ‘rockstar’ and ‘dynamic’ as off-putting. They were also associated with a lower perceived likelihood of getting an interview or a job offer.

Non-inclusive language for neurodivergent candidates

Job descriptions frequently include skills that may exclude some neurodivergent candidates. For example, ‘brilliant communication skills’ or ‘excellent team player’ may be off-putting for some neurodiverse people. Whilst these skills may be essential for some roles, they aren’t necessary for all.

Additionally, you should avoid using non-literal phrases like ‘think outside the box’ and ‘low hanging fruit’ which may be confusing for some neurodivergent candidates.

3. Get rid of charity jargon

As well as the type of language you use, it’s important to check your job descriptions for unnecessary jargon or acronyms that candidates from other charities, job roles or industries may not be aware of. It’s best to use simple, clear language that can be easily understood by anyone.

Man applying for a role with inclusive job description

4. Tell candidates what you’re doing around diversity, equality or inclusion

Does your charity have a stance on diversity and inclusion? Or an equal opportunities policy? If so, you should use the job description to tell candidates about these and why they’re important to you.

So now you know how to create more inclusive job descriptions. Focus on skills, be careful not to exclude any groups with the language you use, avoid jargon and be upfront about diversity, equality and inclusion.

By making these changes, you’ll be working towards creating a more diverse and equitable workplace, which can help your charity achieve its goals and have a greater impact on the communities it serves.

Ready to hire with inclusivity in mind? Post a job today.

Tags: diversity and inclusion, diversity in recruitment, equality diversity and inclusion, fairer recruitment, hiring trends, inclusive recruitment

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About the author

Lucy Hardy

Lucy Hardy is Research Manager at CharityJob.