By KG Kujjo
Writing accessible and inclusive job descriptions (JDs) is one of the first and most basic steps a company can take to source diverse applicants. In this post, we will explore four strategies and different tools to ensure your job ad is readable to applicants with different educational and linguistic backgrounds. Additionally, we will cover tools for assessing the gender inclusivity of your job post. These best practices can help your company attract diverse candidates and ensure the application experience is positive.
Align posting language with minimum degree requirement
It is critical for you as a hiring manager or talent team to ensure readability and understanding when crafting your JD. For example, use plain language to describe the responsibilities and requirements for a role because simplicity makes the job ad more accessible to applicants with lower literacy levels and makes it easier to translate the content if needed.
Avoid information overload or dumping too much content in a job ad that applicants experience reading fatigue. Get some feedback on your job posts from staff before posting. This one step can prevent you from losing applicants if your job descriptions are extremely long and cluttered with unnecessary information or requirements.
Overloading applicants with information can make it harder to understand the job requirements or role expectations. Truly challenge yourself to only list the must-haves and be very careful with your list of nice-to-have or preferred qualifications. Avoid creating a never-ending wish-list of qualifications because you are likely to lose people of color, women, and other marginalized applicants who typically opt out of applying for a job if they don’t meet almost every single requirement.
If a job post needs to incorporate technical terms or industry jargon, explain those terms for career changers and applicants who may not be familiar with the terminology. Very complex language can make it challenging for some readers to fully understand the written content. For example, think about those reading the content in a second language or readers with cognitive disabilities who may find your job ad inaccessible and difficult to understand. Equally important, write JDs that align with the educational requirement for the position. For instance, if the role requires a high school diploma, the job posting language should not be so complex that readers need a college or graduate degree to understand the content.
Overall, make sure your job ad is readable and easy to understand to help candidates absorb the key responsibilities and requirements. Don’t overwhelm them – make them excited to read your JD and help them feel confident in knowing what they are signing up for.
There are different tools that you can use to assess the level of education required to understand written content. Below are three options that you or your hiring team could use to write inclusive JDs that are accessible to job seekers regardless of language proficiency and educational background, and for career changers with transferable skills who may not be as familiar with the industry jargon.
Avoid elitist language in your position requirements and job ad
Let’s talk about some of the most used elitist terms in job descriptions that you should be conscious of (shout out to Heather Barbour for putting together this list). Quick side note: Elitist in this context refers to associating certain qualities with high intelligence.
- “MBA from a Leading University”
- “Degree from a Top 25 School”
- “Graduated from an Ivy League University”
- “J.D. Degree from a Top Law School”
- “Graduated from a Top 10 (Or Top 20) School”
- “High SAT/ACT Scores”
- “A High GPA”
Avoid the elitist terms above and similar ones that assume that an ivy education or high test scores are signs of intellectual superiority and workplace success or high performance predictors. These expectations can exclude people of color, low income candidates, and first-generation college graduates who did not or could not attend ivy league schools. College in the U.S. is absurdly expensive, so don’t create unnecessary barriers by expecting your new hires to have attended top private schools.
Besides, a name brand degree does not guarantee a new hire will be a high performer. Candidates who did not have access to or simply did not want to attend (costly) prestigious schools should not be penalized for going to public universities or the institution that is best aligned with their life circumstances.
Write gender inclusive job descriptions
In addition to considering the educational and language needs of applicants, evaluate your job descriptions for gender bias. Textio is not only great for checking readability; they also offer a Gender Bias Meter to analyze and edit job ads.
Gender Decoder is another effective tool for your company or hiring team to copy and paste your JD to detect subtle gendered language in your posts. The platform categorizes JD results as feminine, masculine, or neutral. Also, Gender Decoder highlights key gendered terms for you to edit your position descriptions to make it more gender neutral. For example, instead of using “he/she” in a JD, you can replace those binary pronouns with “they” or simply say “the applicant/candidate.” Another perk of using Gender Decoder is that it flags words like “collaborative,” “support,” and “fast-paced” because they typically have gendered implications in our American society.
In summary, Textio and Gender Decoder are both effective and simple ways for you to start writing job descriptions that attract applicants from different backgrounds and to reduce bias in your hiring language. First impressions matter, so be mindful of your word choice in your job ad since it’s a reflection of your company culture and values.
Text accessibility in job descriptions
Another quick fix for your hiring team is making sure the actual text in a job ad is accessible and inclusive for various readers. Whether the job posting is online or in a downloadable or printable format, you should take these factors into consideration.
- Bold instead of underlining or italicizing to avoid crowding.
- Avoid Serif fonts like Times New Roman, Garamond, Baskervillege, Georgia, Courier New, etc.
- Use Sans Serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Futura, Montserrat, Proxima Nova, etc.
- Add links meaningfully: Linked text should make sense out of context so users understand where the link will take them. Give people a heads up on what they are opening.
- Include image descriptions: These are textual descriptions that narrate the essentials to make your job posts more accessible when sharing images. For example: [Image is a flier featuring five panelists with text promoting a virtual Women in Education Panel on March 20th at 4:30pm MST. The panel is open to the public and will be live streamed on Facebook.]
- Text resizing: Your applicants should be able to resize the job ad text up to 200% without losing functionality or the information becoming distorted and inaccessible.
- Headings and labels: Organize content into sections and identify these sections using headings and labels. The headings and labels should have meaningful names and be organized in a hierarchy or importance.
- Color and contrast: Your choice of color and contrast needs to take into consideration sight-impaired individuals and people with certain cognitive disabilities like dyslexia.
- Text-to-speech: The job posting should be compatible with text to speech tools. Avoid scanned copies of job descriptions or image based job ads that make it difficult for applicants who use text-to-speech or other assistive technology tools.
KG Kujjo (they/them) leads a team of talent acquisition recruiters with Denver Public Schools and works as the VP of Operations with AfroCharts. KG is an Indigenous South Sudanese blogger who was born and raised in Khartoum, Sudan. They served with Teach for America-Memphis as a middle school teacher and have experience in political organizing and campaign operations. KG’s writing focuses on race, gender, and immigration. They approach writing as a therapeutic tool for healing through past generational trauma and colonial legacies. They also use writing as a tool for professional advocacy and disrupting stereotypical narratives about systemically marginalized