The importance of gender-neutral language when recruiting

Written by The ATI Team
Last updated January 28, 2021

Despite the thousands of job ads that are published online at any one time, many of them still do not perform as well as recruiters wish. This might partly be due to applicants being put off by the type of gendered language used in those advertisements. Jobseekers may not even realise that they are subconsciously being discouraged to apply.

What employers need to know about gender-neutral language in the workplace

In the past, job titles such as fireman or stewardess were aimed to target jobseekers of a specific gender. However, now occupations like these can be carried out by people who identify themselves as men, women, or any other gender-neutral status.

The evolution of such professions allowed for a substantial change in the way employers advertised these jobs. Titles like chairman or cameraman have now become chairperson and camera operator.

How to use an adequate language in job postings.

Even though we are moving forward to a more diverse and equal world, where individuals are increasingly free to express their ideas and beliefs, many people still hold old-fashioned stereotypes regarding men and women and their differences.

This has a considerable impact on the way we communicate. Research from The Chartered Association of Business Schools shows that several masculine-coded descriptive words are likely to put off female candidates from applying for a new job. Examples of such words include dominate, ambitious, independent, fearless, and challenging. Similarly, other words like dependable, empathetic, supportive, and responsible are regarded as more feminine.

Although it can be appealing to use such memorable words in your job description, it may negatively affect how many applicants turn up at your door. They might feel their personality does not reflect what you are looking for.

Using the right structure for your job advert.

As an employer it is important that you pay close attention to the structure of your job advert. Posting a job online is your first interaction with any potential candidate, you want to make sure you accurately express and represent your business. Therefore, writing an effective advertisement is crucial to finding an employee who connects to your workplace ethos.

Many employers now recognise the benefit of diversity in the workplace. A fantastic way to show this in a job advert, and to attract a diverse range of candidates, is to find space within the ad to state your commitments to inclusivity and diversity.

You can support this statement with evidence that shows how you will make the applicant feel welcome to join your organisation.

Sharing examples of how you promote diversity and inclusion at work will ensure that applicants of different genders and gender-neutral status engage with your job advert.

How to ensure a diverse range of applicants.

Every employer wants the best for their workplace and hopes that all employees understand their role in the company. For this reason, they often list an extensive set of requirements in the job advert, however, without realising this approach can lead to a gender bias.

A study from Harvard Business Review shows that men are more likely to apply for a job regardless of whether they meet all of the requirements listed in the ad. On the other hand, many women tend to only apply for a job when they meet 100% of the listed skills and job responsibilities.

Additionally, according to research conducted by Women in Recruitment, the number of bullet points used in a job ad can also influence the range of diversity among the applicants. Ideally, an optimal gender-neutral number of bullets ranges between one and three per job posting.

Given the advantages of diversity in the workplace, there are a wealth of tips available on our website. For further information, explore our useful resources on how to improve EDI in the workplace.

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Last Updated: Tuesday September 14 2021
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