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The importance of gender-neutral wording in job postings

I recently attended the HR Tech Expo in Seattle and came across this study from Zip Recruiter by way of one of the presenters, Prem Kumar (CEO of Humanly). Of many interesting findings, the study found that: "Job listings with gender-neutral wording get 42% more responses."

As Talent Optimization professionals, I believe we're involving ourselves in pre-hire conversations. For example, we are suggesting language to be used in job postings and role descriptions. From a diversity and inclusion (D&I) perspective, there's a lot to be learned about how to frame that copy, and findings like these lead me to believe that drafting a job post is not intuitive for most people. We're simply not used to speaking and writing in a gender-neutral fashion, in this case. However, we are being called to alter our default behavior in certain contexts, hiring especially. I wonder what else we're missing?

Often we're asked to extract the highest potential performance from our existing teams, but as roles and business models evolve, my question is what are we doing to bridge the gap between the design phase and hire phase of our future teams? How we hire ensures we're working with the best possible future teams. Let's work as a community to ensure we positioning our clients to hire from the best possible pool of candidates.

Are there other issues we should be aware of to ensure we're not inadvertently culling the pool of potential candidates before we even send the behavioral assessment?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!



  • @Sarah Mulvey actually wrote a great blog about gendered wording in job ads recently:

    With regards to other ways the candidate pool might unintentionally be culled:

    • Looking for certain types of education. Not every position requires a degree. If you're looking for college on a resume, you may be missing motivated candidates who took an alternative path. This also impacts DEI initiatives, as not everyone has the privilege of attending college.
    • Looking for a certain amount of experience. In some roles, that might be necessary but many organizations look for more experience than the role actually calls for. Many companies are actually scaling back on this to increase their candidate pool.
    • Using the wrong wording. In addition to gendered wording, many job ads use language that's opposite the kind of person they're looking for. For example, I recently was sent a job ad where they were looking for a "confident and collaborative executive assistant." Confident and collaborative are two traits that fall under the category of dominance. Only thing is: They're on opposite ends of the scale. Collaboration is a low-dominance trait. Confidence is a high-dominance trait. So this "opposing language" could push ideal candidates away before they even apply.
  • Thanks for your insights @Shannon Howard!

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