Unconscious bias in the job advert

Reducing unconscious bias in recruitment starts with the job advert. The advert is the first point of contact between job seeker and employer, so it’s vital the ad is inclusive and attracts interest from all qualified talent.

Three instances of unconscious bias in job adverts:

One: Picturing the ideal candidate

With the perfect candidate in mind, many recruiters write the job description based on the type of candidate they want to attract. Some hiring professionals may have a preconceived idea about personal qualities a candidate must have in order to fit the role. However, centring the job description around a recruiter’s definition of a model candidate is subject to bias.

Problem: Aligning candidate characteristics to the job role

  • Subjective to each recruiter’s opinion
  • Builds job description with these thoughts in mind
  • Distracts from candidate skills and experience

To minimise this risk, recruit for skills and experience that are necessary for the job role and when considering job applications focus on the candidate’s ability to perform the job well.

Two: Hiring for culture fit

Culture fit has made a great impact in the recruitment industry. It’s no secret recruiters have made hiring for culture fit their priority but at what cost?

Determining the right culture fit is common practice for lots of recruiters, by aligning employee and employer beliefs, values and behaviours businesses can assess new hires ability to potentially thrive withinin the business.

Often starting with the job advert, culture fit influences how job descriptions are written. Employers try to communicate their workplace culture through:

  • The language they use in the advert (causal and laid back or formal and professional)
  • Company work style (fast-paced or a relaxed office environment)

Arguably defining company culture in the job advert can discriminate against people with different personality traits. Is it fair to discourage applicants because their personality does not align with the companies?

Employers who prioritise culture fit could potentially deter qualified talent away from applying.

Sharing similar interests believes and values are not strong enough grounds to hire. Employers need to prioritise candidate potential and job fit over cultural matches to minimise the risk of bias.

Three: Gender coded language

Sadly, it’s no secret women face discrimination in the recruitment process. Hidden bias occurs in the job advert in the form of gender-biased language. Research shows that women are 50% less likely to consider roles that have coded gender bias.

Pre-application gender bias is categorised into male and female associated terms. Following an in-depth analysis of over 76,929 job adverts, The University of Waterloo and Duke University defined the top three gendered words in UK job descriptions:

Male gendered words:

  1. Lead
  2. Analyse
  3. Competitive

Female gendered words:

  1. Support
  2. Responsible
  3. Understanding

The impact of gender-associated terms in a job description affects greatly the applications employers receive. Stamp out unconscious bias and create a gender-inclusive job advert. Utilise gender de-coder tools to automatically assess advert text for biased language.

Download the reducing bias in recruitment guide:

Reduce recruitment bias guide

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