Addressing Biased Language in Job Descriptions

By JDXpert - November 08, 2021

Today, many companies are hurting to find workers. There is a critical shortage of talent in various industries, ranging from hospitality to healthcare, leaving many employers looking for ways to attract more potential applicants. With so many already-existing barriers to attracting top talent, companies cannot afford to create even more obstacles by using biased language or jargon in job postings.

Debiasing is the answer to attracting more applicants. There is a growing awareness amongst companies that they need to introduce debiasing into their hiring processes. In response, JDXpert has developed new tools to help our clients do just that.

The Benefits of Debiasing

As early as 2015, research showed that gender-diverse companies are more likely to outperform others by 15%. Improving diversity at your company is not only good for your company’s reputation, but it is also good for your bottom line. Despite the evidence showing the benefits of diversity and inclusion, many companies still struggle to hire candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. One of the culprits is often biasing in hiring practices.

Biasing can shape a company’s norms and impede diversity, recruiting, promotion and retention. Even unintentional or unconscious biases can dissuade talented individuals from applying to your company. What’s more, job applicants can become discouraged very early in the hiring process—often as early as when they see a job posting.

Job descriptions are the first thing a prospective applicant sees when reviewing a job posting. They may feel a job is not for them based on gendered and biased language. This can be a massive barrier to attracting top talent. Today, HR departments need as many applicants as possible, but biased job postings and hiring processes can potentially diminish your talent pool. By debiasing throughout the hiring process, companies can benefit from 100% of the talent pool.

Job Descriptions Can Pave the Way

Job descriptions, the resource on which job postings are based, are the most visible part of your hiring process. Instead of dissuading people from applying for jobs, job descriptions can be a tool to encourage more people to apply. Unfortunately, gendered and biased language is rampant in job descriptions.

Language can often unintentionally convey to the applicant that biases may exist at your company. Overt biases can appear in the form of terms such as “waitress” or “waiter,” which have a gender associated with them. However, there are also more connotative ways that gendered or other biased language pops up in job postings and descriptions.

Words like “aggressive” may signal applicants that a job is for a man, whereas other words signal the job is for a woman. Biases can include gender, race, class, able-bias, and more.

Jargon and excess superlatives can also limit your talent pool. Both can intimidate potential applicants and cause them not to apply for the job.

Take the phrase “work hard, play hard.” This is jargon that could imply a heavy after-work drinking culture. Women and parents might be turned off by this and decide not to apply for the job. Superlatives like ‘expert’ can also dissuade people, especially women, who are not generally as competitive, from applying. Ridding your job descriptions of this type of language can and will encourage more people to apply to positions at your company.

Debiasing Functionality

Companies may attempt to implement manual debiasing by training their staff to recognize unconscious bias and use more neutral language. However, manual efforts may not be enough. A simple tool that identifies when biased language is used and can alert the writer goes a long way to educating staff and debiasing job postings.

During discussions with existing clients, the awareness of biased language in job descriptions has led them to implement manual debiasing projects. However, there are several needs that manual debiasing cannot always address, such as mass reporting capabilities, pronoun use, and words with connotative biases. There was a huge need for a debiasing tool. Clients especially wanted a tool that could alert them as immediately as possible to biased language to inform and educate the users.

To help HR managers de-bias their job descriptions, we have developed a debiasing feature embedded in our new proofreading tool. The Proofing Tool checks for spelling errors and grammar best practices and evaluates biased language. It can suggest replacements based on academic research and our affiliate job description experts.

Gender Bias

JDXpert’s new tool contains a pre-configured library. The range of potential biases includes able, gender, racial, age, class, excess superlatives, pronoun usage, etc.

Furthermore, clients can configure the library to address their company’s area of concerns by editing or adding to the current library to reflect your company’s needs. The library can adapt to the needs of the more inclusive and competitive work environment.

Configure Bias

The debiasing feature can be used while writing a job description. However, to streamline the review process, additional features allow for a mass review and flagging of job descriptions that may contain biased language.

Bias Audit-1

Mass Debias

Once completing a mass review, for example, you may discover that 100 out of 1000 job descriptions in your job description library include biased language. Over time the tool will help reduce this number through training and education.

While removing all the biased language from your company’s job descriptions may seem like an arduous task, it is well worth the effort. JDXpert’s Debiasing function goes a long way to helping your company create debiased job descriptions, expand your talent pool, and build a more inclusive work environment. The long-term benefits of debiasing cannot be overstated.

To learn more about our debiasing functionality and other great features, click here.


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