Diversity recruitment
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How to get more diversity with better job adverts

31 Jan 2017

Diversity has become more important than ever for employers looking for top talent, but how do you attract diverse candidates? Maureen Lynch, director at Hays Recruitment, explains how your job adverts might be affecting the diversity of your talent pool.

The search for the right candidate is intense, giving birth to phrases like ‘the global war for talent’, ‘the global skills shortage’ and ‘attracting the best talent’.

We all need to stand out from the competition. Traditionally, it has been our work environments, compensation packages, benefits, work-life balance and cultures that have been the bargaining chips.

Over the last decade, another important player has emerged – diversity. Skill sets are important but a diverse workforce can be equally important.

Why diversity matters

A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35pc more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15pc more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

In a global analysis of 2,400 companies conducted by Credit Suisse, organisations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any women on the board.

Another report from McKinsey showed that advancing women’s equality can add $12trn to global growth.

A more diverse workforce is good for business. However, it is also good when trying to attract talent.

Millennials are a big part of today’s debate when it comes to attracting talent today, and in the future. A PwC report said 85pc of female millennials seek out employers with a strong record on diversity.

According to Glassdoor, it’s not just about compensation when jobseekers are evaluating their next move. It found that 67pc of active and passive jobseekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

This means that whether or not your company is interested in increasing its diversity, chances are that candidates are evaluating diversity when they research your company, and during the interview process.

Glassdoor also found that a diverse workforce is more important to minority groups. 72pc of women consider workforce diversity important versus 62pc of men.

It also found that 89pc of black respondents, 80pc of Asians and 70pc of Latinos said it was important to them. What’s more, a significant majority of white respondents say workforce diversity is important.

So diversity is crucial, but how do you attract a diverse workforce? Your job advert is an important place to start.

Why words matter

Words matter and they can be the difference between getting an applicant to apply or not. In a world where there is a shortage of skills, the last thing we would want to do is to discourage a perfectly suitable applicant because of the words we use.

Importance of gender neutral language

Studies have shown that certain words in job adverts can be off-putting, depending on your gender. ‘Ambitious’, ‘dominant’ and ‘competitive’ repel female applications while ‘support’, ‘affectionate’ and ‘understand’ dissuade males.

In 2011, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology analysed job ads in traditionally male fields, including plumbing, engineering and programming, to see if they used stereotypically male words like ‘competitive’, ‘dominate’ and ‘leader’, and if those words dissuaded women from applying.

Researchers compared more than 4,000 job ads and asked women to respond to the postings. They found that “masculine wording in job advertisements led to less anticipated belongingness and job interest among women”.

The study proposed that this phenomenon perpetuates gender inequality in male-dominated fields, hence maintaining the status quo.

A study from job search website ZipRecruiter discovered that removing gender-biased words from job descriptions increased the number of applicants by 42pc.

The study also found that job listings that include gendered wording attract an average of 12 responses, whereas those without gendered wording attract an average of 17 responses.

How do we fix this?

If you want to attract the best candidates and access 100pc of the talent pool, start by being conscious about the recruitment language you use. A useful tool to test if your job ads are gender neutral is the Gender Decoder.

This will tell you whether your job ad is written with more of a leaning towards a female candidate, a male candidate or neutral, based on the language you’ve used to construct it.

Here are some pointers on wording:

Masculine: Aggressive, assertive, ambitious, driven, dominate, independent, leader, objective.

Feminine: Partnership, teach, committed, connected, cooperative, dedicated, dependable, interpersonal, loyal, proficient, responsible.

Repetitive: Strong, proven track record, ideal, expert, manage. (Avoid extreme modifiers).

Jargon: Hit the ground running, self-starter, leverage your expertise, push the envelope, core competencies, best practices, synergies at scale.

Eliminate gendered pronouns: Use second-person pronouns and plural non-gendered pronouns, ie, you, your, you’re, they, them, their.

Remember: it’s all about the person that you are trying to attract when writing your job adverts.

1. Humanise the content. Be creative, share the human side of the position.

2. Provide context. What is unique about your company, your division, your team? What makes your role stand out from the hundreds of others that are being advertised?

3. Establish what the job entails. Elicit excitement, include key success factors that will impact the business and why this person is needed – not just basic requirements for the role.

4. Define ‘what you will need to succeed’. Be clear on your requirements, but don’t list tasks or summaries. Talk to the reader using ‘you’ words.

5. Outline what they will get in return, personal and professional. As well as salary, speak about progression, company culture, perks and benefits.

6. Finally, if you have a diversity policy or you are an equal opportunities employer, say that at the end of your ad. And, if you have related policies, make sure they are outlined on your website.

By Maureen Lynch, director at Hays Recruitment

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