Could the wording of your job ad be putting some candidates off?


We all know that we need to pick our words carefully when it comes to work. 

Language matters, and what sounds perfectly innocent or innocuous to one set of ears might sound very different to someone else.  Certain words and phrases can carry multiple meanings and be interpreted in a multitude of ways, which is why the language you use in your job adverts is so crucial if you want to attract a wide range of candidates.

Women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds are often deterred from applying by the use of certain loaded terms in job ads, new research has shown.  If recruiters want to attract the best candidates for their jobs then they need to be smarter about the terminology they use, and that’s where technology could be about to lend a helping hand.

Could AI Help in the Recruitment Process?

One company based in Seattle has developed a new way of analysing job ads in the hope that technology can help iron out unconscious bias in the recruitment process.  Textio uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scan ads and hone in on key words and phrases which might be putting certain candidates off, meaning HR managers can improve the wording of their job ads and attract a wider range of high-quality candidates.

The Textio breakthrough comes on the back of earlier research carried out by tech recruitment firm, TalVista.  Their software flags terms which are seen as either discouraging or inviting, and they found that many candidates had a strong reaction to certain terms without being able to pinpoint why they were drawn in or repelled by them.  Ads were more likely to attract a better range of candidates when they replaced strong-sounding words such as ‘build’ with the more open ‘create’, or when they used softer words and phrases such as ‘relationship building’, ‘help’, ‘adaptable’ and ‘reliability’.

Words to Avoid

According to Textio, job descriptions which called for someone to ‘manage’ a team rather than ‘develop’ it were more likely to attract male candidates, with women unconsciously put off by the more authoritarian language.  Similarly, words such as ‘leader’ and ‘competitive’ were more likely to appeal to men, with the less combative ‘support’ and ‘interpersonal skills’ appealing more to women.

Without even knowing why, some women and those from a black or ethnic minority background may feel excluded by the language used in certain job ads.  Words which could be seen to carry negative connotations could be putting the best candidates off if they fear they might encounter a hostile environment or might not ‘fit in’ with a workplace’s culture.

Why Unconscious Bias Matters

Among the earliest adopters of Textio’s algorithms, Australian software firm Atlassian saw an 80% increase in the number of women it hired to technical roles over the course of two years.

Recruiters are always on the lookout for ways in which they can iron out unconscious bias when it comes to looking for the highest-calibre candidates, and for good reason.  Firms which have a more ethnically diverse executive team have been found to be a third more productive than those which are less inclusive, whilst those with a more gender-balanced boardroom were likely to be around 15% more profitable than those which were male-dominated.

A more diverse and inclusive workplace can, it seems, increase both profitability and productivity, as well as making for a more pleasant working environment.  By using technology to help them, recruiters could enhance their workforce by attracting a broader range of high-quality candidates, regardless of their gender or ethnicity.

About the author

Lizzie Exton writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.

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