Owen Daniels Inclusive
14th March 2023

How to Write Inclusive Job Ads


Inclusive job descriptions are vital for businesses to attract a diverse workforce.

One of the best ways organizations can work to correct a disparity in their workforce is by broadening the pool from which they are hiring. Less overall diversity amongst applicants = less diversity in shortlist/at interview stage = highly homogenous pool of candidates to select from = inherent lack of diversity in the workplace

Here are our tips to writing more inclusive job descriptions:

Avoid a long list of ‘essential’ criteria

Men apply for jobs if they meet 60% of the criteria, whereas women are more likely to opt out unless they meet 100%. This highlights different ways in which men and women respond to new opportunities—often stemming from deep-rooted systemic biases.

A job ad listing many "essential" criteria tends to discourage women from applying, leaving fewer female candidates for employers to consider.

Long lists of essential requirements can deter applicants who haven't had the chance to build up all of those skills – say, young graduates or people looking to transition into a new career. This by no means shows that they can’t pick up these skills.

Mind your language

To avoid excluding older candidates, it's best to use neutral language when describing your open position. For example—instead of using the term ‘recent grads’ one should say something like "people who have acquired new skills and experience within the last few years".

Similarly, expressions like ‘work hard, party hard’ and ‘tech savvy’ give the impression of the company being better suited for young employees.

In the United Kingdom, one third of the working population is over 50—which means that companies must be inclusive when crafting their messages.

On the other hand, younger applicants too can be subject to bias. Job ads that mention terms like ‘highly experienced’ and ‘extensive portfolio’ also become a barrier for younger candidates.

According to Harvard research, the following words import ‘masculine’ characteristics, and are likely to deter female applicants:

  • independent
  • lead
  • competitive
  • assertive
  • determined
  • analytical

While certain others paint a different picture, generally increasing the female response rate:

  • responsible
  • connect
  • dedicated
  • support
  • sociable
  • conscientious

We should choose our language carefully, so that we are not excluding more than 50% of the population by a simple choice of pronoun.

Use inclusive pronouns

Recruiters know not to use pronouns like ‘he’ and ‘she’ in a job advert, but there are other terms that may indicate the writer's gender without being obvious.

Certain gender-coded words can give the impression that a company is encouraging applications from a specific gender for this role. Similarly, words like ‘competitive’ and ‘leader’ are also considered masculine while terms like ‘interpersonal’ and ‘support’ have a feminine association.

Mention reasonable adjustments for applicants with disabilities

Research has shown that disabled students are likely to have lower academic expectations than their non-disabled peers, even when taking into account similar school performances.

Organizations that champion true inclusivity should make sure they are sensitive to the needs of disabled applicants and offer reasonable adjustments throughout the application process.

Ensuring the accessibility of job adverts is important to ensure they can be read by the widest group of applicants across varying abilities.

The British Dyslexia Association recommends using certain colours and fonts (like Comic Sans, Calibri or Arial) as easier to read than others. They advise avoiding underlining and italics, and instead using Bold to emphasise a point. The suggested font size is 12-14 points.

Avoid asking for a degree

Many companies require a college degree as part of the application process. While this can be a valuable way to screen job candidates, they should also consider whether it's worth rejecting people who cannot afford university fees. Afterall, it is the skills and knowledge that a person has that’s important for a business.  

If you would like support in your hiring process, please contact office@owendaniels.co.uk