August 30th, 2022

Language Matters: Tips to Ensure You’re Using Inclusive Communication in Job Postings

Category / Business

Competitive candidate attraction starts with the first contact point. This first contact is often the job posting. The language used in your job posting sets the tone for the experience your applicants can expect to have with your company.

Since your job ad is a potential applicant’s first impression of you, it’s essential to create your posting by:

  1. Using inclusive language 
  2. Making conscious decisions on phrasing 
  3. Being aware of the job requirements

Let’s start by visiting common language faux-pas many hiring companies unintentionally use in published job postings.

Gender-Coded Language

It’s essential to avoid gender-coded language or other potentially isolating words, terms, and phrases. When your job posting is free of pronouns, you show potential applicants that your company offers an inclusive opportunity. 

Be sure to use gender-neutral words so that your job posting is appealing to men, women, gender-fluid and non-binary applicants. If you’re unsure of which terms to avoid, review the examples below.

Masculine-coded words:

Feminine-coded words:

In this Gender Report released by Appcast, a recruitment advertising company, the company notes that job ads with gender-neutral language perform overwhelmingly better than job ads with gender-coded language. The report shows that job ads with gender-neutral language get:

Compared to job ads with gender-neutral language, job ads with female-coded words get 46% fewer candidates at a 16% higher CPA, and job ads with male-coded words get 25% fewer applications per job at a 49% higher CPA.

After reviewing Appcasts Gender Report, you will recognize how valuable it is to replace all gender-specific pronouns like ‘he’ or ‘she’ with ‘you’ or ‘they.’

Consider the advertised job title as well. It’s equally important to ensure that the job title you are promoting is gender-neutral. For example, ‘Salesman’ should be ‘Sales Agent,’ and ‘Craftsman’ should be ‘Artisan.’

Try this tool:

Find subtle bias in job ads with this Gender Decoder Tool

Ageist Language

In addition to gender-coded phrases, consider the often subtle language used around age. Ageist language isn’t just about phrasing that discriminates against older workers. Ageism can go both ways and discriminate against young workers as well.

Phrases that isolate older workers:

Phrases that isolate younger workers:

Ableist Language

When writing a job posting, it’s important to consider what physical functions are essential for the job and which are not. To avoid ableist language and phrases in your job posting, leave out superficial work requirements, and stick to the facts.

For instance, any job not defined as manual labor should not include manual labor-related ‘must-haves.’ If you are hiring a Front Desk Customer Service Agent and include, ‘Must be able to lift up to 30 pounds’ in the job posting, this statement could be considered ableist since it isn’t a core requirement for the job to be done successfully. 

Avoid these common ableist phrases in job postings:

Use this language instead:

Try this tool:

US Department of Labor’s Abelist Language Detector

Neurodiverse Language

In addition to removing gender-coded, ageist, and ableist language from your job posting, it’s also essential that the language used is inclusive of neurodiverse workers. 

If you’d like your job posting to be welcoming to people of all gifts and abilities, be sure to include language and details around:

Remove harmful language stigmatizing mental health conditions or words rooted in problematic history. If you’re unsure which words to omit, check out this Library of Language and Microaggressions from the University of the Fraser Valley.

Embrace the Power of WIIFT

If the great resignation showed us one thing, it taught us that employers do not hold all of the power in the hiring process. If you are a hiring authority, it’s important to recognize that candidates are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them.

One way to acknowledge and honor this balanced relationship is to highlight WIIFT in your job postings…What’s In It For Them?

The idea is that you need to communicate what a person will gain by applying to your job posting. Consider including details like:

When mentioning culture, be aware of any statements that could feel intimidating to or isolate specific groups. For instance, highlighting social drinking events as a perk could deter people who do not resonate with this lifestyle.  

When mentioning perks, consider positioning these added benefits in a way that includes all lifestyles. For instance, ‘paid maternity leave’ or ‘spousal benefits’ do not resonate with everyone. Instead, consider stating that the company offers a range of lifestyle perks and benefits.

Try this tool:

Use Textio to gain advanced language insights into your hiring and employer brand content.

Key Takeaways

It is easy to unintentionally use words and phrases that marginalize or alienate others. The language goalpost is ever moving as we become more aware of microaggressions and unconscious bias in everyday communication. 

In reality, most of us cannot memorize a lexicon of words and phrases to avoid making these errors. Help yourself out by bookmarking and using the range of tools readily available to you as you create and publish job postings and other business communication.

Words matter. Take the time to understand today’s talent attraction landscape and feel confident in the language used in your job postings.


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