A job post is much more than a solicitation for applications. It’s often your company’s chance to say hello and make a strong first impression.
A job post can send powerful messages to would-be candidates. Those messages are conveyed both by what you say (and don’t say) and how you say it. And if you’re trying to improve your diversity — and productivity — by attracting more women, it’s important that your company shape your messages carefully.
In the recent LinkedIn Gender Insights Report, we shared behavioral data that shows women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men. So what your job description says is critical. Make sure your welcome mat actually says “Welcome” — rather than “Here Be Dragons.”
Here are three proven tactics that will help you make sure your job posts are enticing women to apply rather than turning them back:
1. Make the language in your posts as gender-neutral as possible
There are no Pulitzer Prizes for well-written job posts, but getting the language and content right is an art — shaped by science. Research shows that stereotypically masculine words or phrases can keep women from applying for jobs. Nouns like rock star, ninja, and black belt may divert some women, just as adjectives like assertive, decisive, analytical, independent, and self-reliant can. The 2019 Ultimate Recruiting Toolbox has handy lists of both masculine and feminine words to avoid and more gender-neutral ones to embrace.
A number of software companies — including Textio, TapRecruit, and Talvista — have developed augmented writing tools that can improve your job posts by reviewing the language and, where needed, suggesting alternative words and phrasings that will better resonate with women who are looking at your position. Cisco reports that since it started using Textio it gets 10% more female candidates — and requires less time to fill positions.
On a tight budget? The free Gender Decoder online tool can also give your job post an initial screening to see whether it’s strongly masculine or feminine. After it shows you that your post for a software engineer includes the word analytical 10 times, individual six times, and assertive and decisive five times each you may understand why women aren’t lining up to apply.
2. Reduce the qualifications down to the absolute must-haves — and rethink any seniority requirements
As noted above, our data found that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men. And a study in the Harvard Business Review shows that women hold back on applying for jobs because they believe that candidates need to meet all the job criteria to be hired and not because they couldn’t do the job well. “What held them back from applying,” HBR says, “was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process.”
So make sure that the listed qualifications are truly must-haves rather than nice-to-haves. Does a candidate really need eight to 10 years of experience? A master’s degree? Fluency in three languages (spoken or coding)? You might also consider defining the job as a collection of performance objectives that a new hire will be expected to achieve rather than as a checklist of skills and qualifications.
Finally, be thoughtful about any seniority requirements you might include in your post. Women have historically had fewer opportunities to take on senior roles, and seniority requirements may inadvertently reinforce existing gender disparities..
3. Include information about salary range and the benefits that women most care about
While you want to strike out unnecessary criteria that may turn women away, you also want to include the information that women are most interested in: salary and benefits.
Last year, LinkedIn’s job description heat map showed that including salary information is more crucial to women (68% of whom cited it as important) than men (58%). Sharing salary ranges may also signal to women that your company is committed to pay transparency and fairness.
There are also a number of benefits — better healthcare, unlimited vacation, and flexible work opportunities (especially work-from-home options) — that are much more important to women than men. Be sure to call them out if you offer them.
Final thoughts: Measure the performance of different job posts and see which changes give you the lift you’re looking for
Cisco monitored the performance of their job posts before and after they started using Textio, and they watched the number of women applicants grow. Follow your numbers too. For example, LinkedIn Jobs allows you to track the view-to-apply ratios for women and men and make the adjustments necessary to get the mix you’re aiming for.
See what happens as you tweak the language in your posts, trimming stereotypical masculine language and replacing it with more gender-neutral phrasing. Reduce the criteria down to the absolute essentials, and start sharing salary ranges and key benefits. You can transform your job posts will from a mere call for applications to a winning invitation for women to come explore what you have to offer.