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  • Trish Driver

7 top tips for writing inclusive job ads

Updated: Feb 2, 2019






In a recent report, the BBC shared some insights around choosing your words carefully when you’re writing a job advertisement. A job ad might sound like a small thing when it comes to your employer brand, and it might feel as though it has very little impact on the balance of diversity in your organization. But it is an organisation’s first interaction with their prospective employees, and whilst it’s tempting just to copy and paste the last job spec, it’s very rarely the right thing to do… Instead, here are my "Magnificent Seven" tips for writing a brilliant and inclusive job ad:

  1. A job advertisement isn’t the same thing as a job description – however tempting it might be to lift and shift the content of the latter into the former “to save time”, it’s ultimately expecting any prospective employee to pick through the detail and work out for themselves what the opportunity is.

  2. It’s not a shopping list either! A report by the Harvard Business Review showed that whereas a on average a male candidate would “opt into” a job opportunity if they met 60% of the criteria for a role, a female candidate would de-select herself if she didn’t meet 100% of the criteria. So, if your candidates are deselecting themselves from a role – make sure it’s on the basis of stuff which is actually essential to being able to do the job.

  3. And whilst we’re on that note, essential means essential. It’s not the stuff that the last person in the role could do, it’s not the “nice to have” list – it’s the absolute deal-breaking “couldn’t do the job without it” stuff. This has the added bonus of keeping the list short as well!

  4. Remember that your job ad is your first (and – if you get it wrong - only) opportunity to talk to a candidate about your employer brand. It starts the beginning of a psychological contract between the candidate and the organization, and helps you to set expectations.

  5. So don’t oversell – selling something which isn’t a reality is the quickest way to break trust between a new employee and their organization. So be realistic about what you can offer.

  6. But REALLY think about it – don’t just assume that because the last guy who did the role was full time, the next one needs to be. Offering even a little flexibility makes a big difference - the reality is that in the UK, even in 2018, the majority of those with caring responsibilities are women. So you can impact your gender balance positively through offering some flexibility. Not only that – flexible workers have been found to be 30% more productive than those with more traditional working patterns. Other research suggests that where flexible working is offered as an option, the employees who benefit are likely to stick around longer, with a report by Aviva saying that 63% of employees surveyed stated they would stay longer with an employer who offered flexible working.

  7. And finally – the point made by the BBC article – choose your words carefully. The way our brains work means that words are culturally coded to indicate more than they appear to. For example - at Atlassian, they drew the conclusion that using the phrase “coding Ninja” might lead women to believe “that these are hostile work environments for female staffers". Tools like Textio can give a view of where you are currently in the job ads you’re posting, but long-term, it’s really important that whoever is designing your job ads is really clear about the impact of the words they choose.

At A New Normal, we work with organisations at every stage of the talent lifecycle, supporting with auditing job advertisements and the messages organisations may not realise they’re putting out there, training your recruiters on the art of the perfect job ad, and helping organisations to navigate the path to a truly flexible and inclusive working environment. If you want to chat to us about it, please feel free to get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

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We provide diversity and inclusion consultancy everywhere from London, Surrey, Hampshire and across the UK, to Europe and the rest of the world; helping our clients to build a diverse talent pool, and to create and sustain an inclusive working culture.