DEI Biases in Job Descriptions: Best Practices

published on 26 January 2024

Crafting inclusive job descriptions free from unconscious bias is critical, yet many organizations struggle to implement best practices.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to mitigating DEI biases in job descriptions, covering text analysis tools, inclusive language, flexible work options, and more.

You'll learn specific techniques to train recruiters, audit existing materials, and incorporate diversity and inclusion throughout the hiring process. Actionable recommendations help HR professionals evaluate and improve their strategies.

The Importance of Addressing DEI Biases in Job Descriptions

Addressing unconscious biases and ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principles in job descriptions is critical for creating an inclusive workplace. Studies show that diverse and inclusive workplaces have higher innovation, better financial performance, and higher employee satisfaction and retention.

The Prevalence of Implicit Biases in Traditional Job Descriptions

Many commonly used words and phrases in traditional job descriptions can perpetuate biases and limit diversity. An analysis by Textio found that job posts for men use more words related to leadership and authority, while those aimed at women use more collaborative language. Other problematic language includes:

  • Requirements for "culture fit" that can exclude underrepresented groups
  • Lack of stating flexible work options, which discourages some candidates
  • Use of ableist language that may discourage candidates with disabilities

By being aware of these common issues, companies can proactively remove biased language from job posts.

The Business Case for Mitigating Biases in Hiring Practices

Studies by McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, and others have found that companies with greater diversity, especially in leadership, perform better financially. Diverse teams also lead to greater innovation through a variety of perspectives.

Additionally, showcasing a commitment to DEI in the hiring process leads to greater applicant pools. With talent shortages in many industries, this wider reach is key for recruitment. Promoting DEI also boosts employee satisfaction, retention, and referrals.

How do you put DEI in a job description?

Here are some best practices for incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into job descriptions:

Use inclusive language

Avoid gendered pronouns like "he" or "she". Use gender-neutral language like "they/their" instead. Also avoid ableist language that could exclude candidates with disabilities.

Highlight commitment to DEI

Explicitly state your organization's commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. For example: "We are an equal opportunity employer committed to building a diverse workforce."

Emphasize soft skills

Soft skills like communication, collaboration, and cultural awareness align with DEI values. Highlight requirements for those skills.

List DEI job duties

If the role entails DEI-related responsibilities, list those duties clearly. For example, "Lead training on unconscious bias for hiring managers."

Focus on transferable skills

Rather than niche hard skills, focus on transferable skills that allow for a diverse candidate pool. Lead with must-haves then list nice-to-haves.

Avoid degree inflation

Consider skills over degrees. Avoid unnecessarily requiring a 4-year college degree unless absolutely needed.

By taking these steps to mitigate bias in job descriptions, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to DEI in the talent recruitment process.

How do you avoid bias in a job description?

To attract a diverse and successful talent pool, job descriptions should be crafted carefully to avoid unconscious bias. Here are some best practices:

What is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious biases are prejudices that negatively impact our attitudes and decisions in an implicit way. When writing job posts, it's critical to mitigate biased language that could discourage qualified candidates from applying. An example is using gendered language like "rockstar" or "ninja" which perpetuate male stereotypes.

Are Your Job Titles Inclusive?

Job titles should accurately reflect roles without alienating candidates. Generic titles like "team lead" or "program manager" are more inclusive than niche titles with implied race, gender or age. Focus on skills rather than subjective qualities.

Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Avoid using "he/she" pronouns. Use "they/their" instead to create an inclusive tone.

Check For Biased Language

Scrutinize wording for racist, ableist, ageist and other exclusionary connotations. Stress an openness to candidates from all backgrounds.

Avoid Presenting a Toxic Work Culture

Don't overemphasize rigid schedules, unlimited availability or 24/7 work ethic. Highlight flexibility, work-life balance and remote options.

Consider Your Job Requirements

Only include qualifications truly needed for success. Reconsider preferences that could filter out capable candidates unfairly.

Use Online Tools To Eliminate Bias

Services like Textio analyze phrasing in real-time to flag biased language. This allows adjusting wording before posting to attract wider talent pools.

Taking proactive steps to craft inclusive, unbiased job descriptions significantly expands your reach to connect with the best candidates. Eliminating exclusionary language encourages more applications from qualified people of all backgrounds.

As a best practice, job descriptions should avoid language that could introduce unconscious bias or discourage qualified candidates from applying. Here are some things to avoid:

Using gendered language

Avoid using gendered terms like "he," "she," "guys," "gals," etc. Use gender-neutral language instead (e.g. "they", "staff", "team").

Specifying race, ethnicity, or culture

Unless directly relevant to the role, do not include racial, ethnic, cultural or religious specifications. This could discourage qualified candidates from applying.

Ableist language

Avoid ableist language that could discriminate against those with disabilities. Use inclusive language instead (e.g. "accessible to people of all abilities" rather than "must be able to stand for 8 hours").

Requirements unrelated to the job

Irrelevant requirements around appearance, demographics, personal lifestyle choices, etc. should not be included. Keep qualifications focused strictly on bona fide occupational requirements.

Using coded language

Exclude coded language that could indicate bias and discourage diversity. Textio or other AI tools can help reveal problematic phrases that should be removed.

The key is crafting inclusive language that focuses solely on the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to succeed in the role. This creates a welcoming environment for all qualified candidates.

How do you remove gender bias from job description?

Removing gender bias from job descriptions is an important step towards building a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Here are some best practices:

Use gender-neutral language

Avoid using gendered terms like "he," "she," or referring to the candidate as a "guy" or "gal." Instead, use gender-neutral terms like "they", "the candidate", etc.

For example:

  • Replace "he will be responsible for" with "the successful candidate will be responsible for"
  • Replace "she must have experience in" with "the candidate must have experience in"

Additionally, avoid using gender-coded words that may be more associated with masculine or feminine traits. Use neutral descriptors instead.

Focus on skills and qualifications

Keep the focus on the required and preferred skills, experiences, competencies and qualifications rather than subjective traits or qualities. Rely more on verbs that describe actions and capabilities.

Leverage tools

Use gender decoder tools like Textio to analyze job posts and uncover hidden biases related to gender, race, age or sexual orientation. The software gives suggestions to make language more inclusive.

Highlight commitment to diversity

Express the company's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the job posting. This signals that candidates from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

Review and update frequently

Set reminders to review job posts periodically to remove biased language that may have slipped in unconsciously. Get others involved in reviewing as well.

By being proactive about using gender-neutral language and emphasizing skills over subjective traits, organizations can craft more inclusive recruitment messaging.


Identifying and Overcoming Unconscious Bias in Job Descriptions

Understanding Unconscious Bias in Recruiting

Unconscious bias refers to the automatic associations people make between groups and stereotypes without conscious awareness. This can negatively impact the recruiting process if biases cause recruiters to make unfair assessments about candidates. For example, studies show that identical resumes receive more callbacks if the name sounds white and male versus female or ethnic minority.

Raising awareness of unconscious bias is an important first step. Recruiters should understand how these biases manifest and lead them to potentially overlook qualified diverse candidates.

Training Recruiters to Recognize and Counteract Biases

Formal training programs can help recruiters recognize unconscious biases, including those related to gender, race, age, appearance, disabilities, and cultural background. Through realistic scenarios and examples, they learn to spot bias "red flags" in their own thinking and hiring practices.

Roleplaying exercises also teach them to use more inclusive language in job posts, interview questions, and communications with candidates. The goal is to counteract biases by focusing evaluations on the individual's skills, achievements, and fit.

Gender Decoder and Other Tools to Identify Gender Bias

Tools like Gender Decoder analyze job posts to uncover subtle gender biases in word choice and phrasing. For example, job posts tend to use more agentic words like "leader" and "competitive" which appeal more to men. Using Gender Decoder helps rewrite posts to be gender neutral.

Textio is another text analysis tool that ensures job descriptions use inclusive language and avoid racist connotations or ableism. The key is crafting posts that welcome all qualified candidates to apply.

ADA Compliant Language and Inclusivity for People with Disabilities

The ADA prohibits discrimination in job ads against those with disabilities. Following ADA guidance on word choice, like using "accessible to people who use wheelchairs" versus "handicap accessible", makes posts more inclusive.

Clearly stating options for flexible work hours, remote work arrangements, and other accommodations also signals openness to candidates with disabilities. The aim is removing barriers to create equal opportunities.

Utilizing Text Analysis Tools for Crafting Inclusive Job Ads

Text analysis tools like Textio can help identify biased language in job descriptions and suggest alternative phrasing to attract a more diverse candidate pool.

How Textio Enhances Inclusivity in Job Descriptions

Textio analyzes word choice, sentence structure, and other linguistic patterns in job ads that may indicate bias or limit diversity. It flags potentially exclusive language and provides alternative wording suggestions to make the text more inclusive. Specific features include:

  • Detecting masculine-coded words (e.g. "dominant", "competitive") and suggesting more neutral alternatives (e.g. "excellent", "results-driven")
  • Identifying needlessly complex sentences and simplifying language to increase accessibility
  • Highlighting vague requirements (e.g. "culture fit") and proposing more objective criteria

By rewriting job ads using Textio's recommendations, companies have increased applications from women by up to 30% and from underrepresented groups by up to 40%.

Comparing Text Analysis Tools for DEI Effectiveness

In addition to Textio, tools like Gender Decoder, Unbiasify, and Attestiv can analyze job descriptions for bias and make edits for greater inclusivity. Key differences:

  • Textio has the largest dataset and focuses on word choice optimization
  • Gender Decoder performs femininity/masculinity scoring
  • Unbiasify concentrates on screening for offensive terminology
  • Attestiv specializes in identifying socioeconomic and ability biases

The best approach is using multiple tools to cover different aspects of potential bias in job ads. Integrating recommendations from several text analysis platforms leads to the most holistic improvements.

Case Studies: Success Stories with Text Analysis Tools

Unilever increased applications by 16% after using Textio to highlight biased language in their job descriptions. Textio helped them replace exclusionary words like "superior" with more welcoming terms like "excellent."

Vodafone found that job ads edited by Textio received 25% more applications from women and 13% more from minority groups. Textio enabled them to make their language more accessible and inclusive.

By analyzing and updating their job ads, companies like Unilever and Vodafone have created more welcoming, equitable recruitment processes. Text analysis tools are critical for identifying subtle biases and attracting diverse talent.

Best Practices for DEI in Recruiting Emails and Communication

Crafting Recruiting Emails with DEI in Mind

When crafting recruiting emails, it is important to keep diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) top of mind. Here are some tips:

  • Use inclusive language like "we" instead of "I" to emphasize teamwork and collaboration.
  • Highlight any employee resource groups, DEI initiatives, and flexible work policies to showcase your commitment to DEI.
  • Focus on skills and abilities rather than subjective traits to avoid unconscious bias.
  • Ensure consistency in tone and messaging across all recruiting emails to align with your DEI efforts.

For example:

We were impressed by your skills and experience with data analysis. Our team values analytical thinkers who can work collaboratively. As part of our commitment to DEI, we offer flexible schedules and remote work opportunities. We would love to continue our discussion about the open data scientist role on our inclusive team.

Ensuring Consistency Across All Recruitment Materials

It is vital that your DEI messaging remains consistent across job postings, recruiting emails, interview questions, and any other recruitment communications.

  • Use an automated tool like Textio to analyze your materials and ensure neutral, inclusive language.
  • Create recruiting email templates that align with your DEI statement and core values.
  • Train recruiters on crafting emails free from unconscious bias about candidates.

By maintaining consistent DEI messaging, you demonstrate an authentic commitment to recruiting diverse talent into an equitable, inclusive workplace.

Language Sensitivity and Avoiding Racist Connotations

Exercise caution with common phrases that may carry racist connotations. For example, avoid language like "black sheep of the family" or "black mark on your record" which reinforce negative associations.

Instead, use more inclusive alternatives:

  • Black sheep -> outlier
  • Black mark -> blemish

Scrutinize all recruiting language, remove insensitive phrases, and replace them with neutral alternatives. This conscious effort to eliminate racist terminology promotes DEI in your outreach.

Incorporating Flexible Work Options to Support Diversity and Inclusion

Highlighting Flexible Work Hours as a DEI Commitment

Offering flexible work hours demonstrates a commitment to supporting a diverse workforce with varying needs. Some ways to highlight this in job descriptions include:

  • Explicitly stating that the role offers flexibility in start and end times. For example, "This role offers flexibility to set your schedule between the core hours of 10am-4pm."
  • Noting the ability to shift hours as needed, such as "Ability to modify your schedule on a weekly basis to accommodate appointments, family needs, etc."
  • Listing compressed work weeks or alternative shift schedules as an option. For example, "We provide the opportunity to work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days."

Emphasizing these flexible work options makes jobs more accessible to working parents, those caring for family members, people with disabilities or health considerations, and employees seeking better work-life balance.

Remote Work: Expanding Access to Diverse Talent Pools

Enabling at least partial remote work opens up more diverse talent pools that may not be accessible with location-restricted roles. Some good practices include:

  • State clearly if the role is hybrid, fully remote, or offers occasional work from home days. For example, “This is a remote-friendly role with the flexibility to work from home 2 days per week."
  • Note if the role allows working from different locations to accommodate travel, relocations, etc. For example, “This role allows for remote work from anywhere within the United States.”
  • Provide details like equipment, stipends or subsidies offered to remote employees to offset home office expenses. For example, “Remote employees receive annual stipends for internet and coworking space fees.”

Opening up geographic boundaries for candidates from all backgrounds improves access and aligns with DEI goals.

Balancing Flexibility with Company Culture and Expectations

While flexible work options attract diverse talent, some coordination may be required to nurture an inclusive culture:

  • Set core hours where real-time collaboration is expected, while enabling customization outside those blocks.
  • Host regular video calls for team bonding, updates, brainstorming sessions.
  • Clarify communication norms across time zones when relevant.
  • Enable remote participation in company events.

With intentional coordination, teams can build trust and unity while supporting individual work needs and diversity efforts.

Evaluating Job Descriptions Through a DEI Lens: People Management and Recruiting

Conducting DEI Audits on Existing Job Descriptions

To identify potential biases, people management teams should conduct regular DEI audits on current job descriptions. This involves carefully reviewing language, qualifications, and requirements through an inclusion lens.

Consider utilizing AI-powered tools like HRbrain's DE&I Bias Analysis to scan for biased terminology. Such tools can analyze word choice contextually to flag insensitive, racist connotations.

Additionally, collaborate with legal counsel to confirm job criteria align with ADA compliant language regarding disability accommodations and flexible work arrangements.

Overall, the goal is to ensure qualifications are inclusive, relevant, and strictly role-related without perpetuating systemic inequities.

Involving Diverse Voices in People Management

People management should prioritize diversity when building teams responsible for crafting and vetting job postings.

Actively seek input from marginalized groups within the organization during job description reviews. Consider forming an inclusion council or holding focus groups to gather perspectives.

Diverse teams inherently notice exclusionary nuances majorities overlook. Inclusive language resonates better with wider audiences.

Fostering an environment where people feel psychologically safe to speak up ensures more equitable practices.

Recruiting Strategies that Emphasize Diversity + Inclusion

Recruiters play a pivotal role in attracting diverse candidates. Hence DEI training is essential.

Strategically post openings in niche job boards catering to minority demographics.

Craft recruiting emails that use gender decoder tools to analyze and adjust masculine or feminine language.

Emphasize the organization’s commitment to DEI and cultural values cherishing unique backgrounds.

Proactively seek referrals from ERGs and similar communities to source candidates.

Overall, an understanding of unconscious bias helps recruiters mitigate prejudice and effectively convey the company’s dedication to inclusion.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

Crafting equitable and inclusive job descriptions that attract diverse talent aligned to a company's DEI initiatives requires proactive efforts, but the long-term benefits for organizational culture are immense. Here are some key recommendations to mitigate biases:

Top Recommendations in Summary

  • Leverage inclusive language checking tools during drafting and review processes to identify biased wording, stereotypes or assumptions. Continually monitor language use over time.
  • Consult internal DEI leaders, ERGs, hiring managers, and talent acquisition teams when creating or updating job descriptions to align on equitable, diversity-welcoming messaging.
  • Track application, interview and hiring analytics to monitor for potential ongoing biases that may be deterring candidates from underrepresented groups from advancing through the hiring funnel. Course correct language as needed.
  • Highlight flexibility around hours, locations and work arrangements to convey openness to non-traditional schedules that allow for work/life balance.
  • Emphasize skills over years of experience to make opportunities accessible to those with relevant abilities from diverse backgrounds.
  • Transparently convey commitment to DEI, equal opportunity employment, and nurturing an inclusive culture to attract those sharing company values.

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