How Inclusive are your Job Adverts?

CareerHub Offer Sept 22

Equate CareerHub works with employers to make their job descriptions more appealing to women in STEM by removing gendered language and reducing unconscious bias.   

How does unconscious bias affect recruitment? 

Our background, personal experiences and the social stereotypes or inequalities that are deeply embedded across society can have an impact on our decision-making process and cause unintentional biases which can impact diversity in hiring. 

This is referred to as unconscious bias, and it is proven to affect selection decisions in recruitment. People have a tendency to hire people like themselves or based upon their assumptions of other people, rather than the individual necessarily who is the best fit for the job.  

When hiring a new person, the people in charge of recruitment may already have a ‘type’ of person in mind, and this can be illustrated in the job advert and recruitment process without them even realising. Unconscious bias can impact at every stage of recruitment from the choice of language in job adverts, the job criteria, shortlisting process, and interview and assessment stages. It is important that recruiters take the time to reflect on their decisions to ensure they are choosing the best person for the role. 

This is well illustrated in this famous research from Yale which showed that when presented with identical applications, the only difference being one had the name Jennifer and the other had John, all recruiters, including women recruiters, favoured John’s application across each criteria of competence, hireability, mentoring, and recommended a higher starting salary. All the recruiters had training in being objective, but all favoured John’s application over Jennifer’s identical one – on a subconscious level John was deemed a more fitting candidate based solely on his gender. 


Why does it matter?   

Not taking action to remove unconscious bias has a negative impact on women and other underrepresented groups as it can prevent them from applying to positions and thus significantly reducing the talent pool for organisations.  

Yet, diversity is a key ingredient to the success of Scotland’s economy. The data suggest that diversity correlates with better financial performance (McKinsey report) and can lead to better decision-making at work (Cloverpop report).  

The Open University Business Barometer 2022 report reveals that more than two-thirds of SMEs are currently facing skills shortages, rising to 86% of large organisations. Organisations need to find new ways to attract and retain talent. This starts – but does not end – with reviewing the recruitment process and identifying potential barriers to widening the talent pool.  


Is there evidence of the impact of language in job descriptions?  

Yes! There’s been several studies that have demonstrated the impact of language in job descriptions.  

Academic research by the University of Waterloo and Duke University defined a series of words which socially, culturally, and historically carry a stereotypical weight towards a particular gender. The researchers found that language used in job recruitment materials can maintain gender inequality in traditionally male-dominated occupations. 


What does that mean in practice when writing job descriptions?  

Commonly used words and phrases in recruitment materials can reinforce unhelpful stereotypes and inadvertently exclude certain groups from applying for roles. ‘Competitive’, ‘ambitious’, ‘confident’ and even ’ninja’  are common words used in job descriptions, but research tells us that these have masculine connotations, and job descriptions loaded with masculine words and superlatives can put women off from applying. 

Changing the words you are using can already make a big difference on how your job advert and company will be perceived by potential job applicants. Here are some examples:  

Ambitious Forward thinking / Growth mindset 

Assertive Motivated / Positive / Forward thinker 

Competitive Forward thinking / Growth Mindset / (Has a) Vision  

Driven Motivated / Enthusiastic  


But it’s not all about the language you are using… 

There are other things that need to be reviewed and addressed in job descriptions!  

Equate can help you identify other barriers that can prevent women or underrepresented groups from applying. In fact, the structure, components, tone and imagery of your recruitment materials also have an impact on how attractive the job opportunity… and company is perceived by job seekers.  

See for yourself by booking a language review with Equate!  

Special offer – 2 for 1 advert until September 30, 2022.  

  • 2 job descriptions to be reviewed for gendered language and unconscious bias 
  • Publication and promotion of the 2 job descriptions on Equate CareerHub and within our women network (up to 30 days advertisment and promotion) 
  • This offer is available for new CareerHub users 
  • Adverts must be used by 31 December 2022 

To benefit from this offer contact us at using the code INCLUSIVEHIRING22.


What to expect from the language review of your job description?

  • Improve the inclusivity of your job descriptions to widen your talent pool 
  • Understand what can put women off from applying and create more engaging job adverts 
  • Identify unconscious biases and what may be missing from your job descriptions 
  • Use the language review to initiate or continue the ED&I discussion within your organisation 

Why promote your job on Equate CareerHub?

  • Show your commitment to Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) 
  • Get access to a diverse talent pool 
  • Make recruitment a key component of your ED&I strategy