Equity In Hiring Starts With The Job Description

The Channel Company’s Cass McMann says the first step to hiring inclusively is the job description.


By Cass McMann

The well-cited 2020 McKinsey study on equity and inclusion established that a diverse workforce can lead to higher-performing and profitable teams. Yet questions remain around how to increase diversity in the hiring pipeline.

But is there really a pipeline diversity issue? The racial and gender landscape of the U.S. is changing, with each generation becoming more and more diverse. It is estimated that by 2030, eight years from now, 21 percent of the U.S. population will be of Hispanic or Latinx descent. Women of color will eclipse the majority of all women by or before 2060.

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Recruiting and hiring are key components in increasing organizational diversity and improving inclusion. However, the first step to hiring inclusively is often overlooked: the job description.

[RELATED: 10 Important DEI Trends For The Channel To Keep Top Of Mind]

According to British International Investment’s Gender Toolkit, job descriptions are the most visible part of the hiring process, having the potential to lead into a balanced and broad range of applicants. Yet many hiring managers, recruiters and employers are unaware of implicit biases found in their job postings, thus limiting their “talent pool through the language, structure and information” included—or excluded—in job descriptions. While often unintended, outdated language has the potential to minimize the appeal for applicants originating from historically excluded employee groups. For those looking to expand their employee value proposition, understanding what terms and language are outdated is critically important to a growing global workforce.

When writing job descriptions aimed at improving the employee value proposition, here are a few guided suggestions:

* Be explicit about your company commitment to hiring diverse talent and building an inclusive culture. Having a clearly defined road map for diversity, equity and inclusion is an essential part of attracting talent. However, this commitment should be woven into the framework of the organization. Start with a clear statement that is actionable and can be measured for success.

* Be clear and concise, listing only the needed requirements and limiting industry terms that are not universal. Avoid acronyms, as they narrow the pool of potential candidates. If certain skills are absolutely needed, use qualifying language such as, “an ideal applicant will have experience in …” or “we are looking for someone with a healthy mix of the following …”

* Avoid outdated language and titles. Understand that terms and definitions are always changing, thus it is equally important to ensure language is balanced. When describing roles and responsibilities, subtle descriptive adjectives can be gender-centered or stereotypically attached to whiteness. For example, using terms like “competitive” and “ambitious” are stereotypes of men, whereas “compassionate” and “collaborative” are ascribed to women. While equity in hiring can begin with the job description, it does not end there. Internally, organizations looking to gain equity in hiring are best positioned by:

* Conducting internal audits bi-annually for any racial, gender, age or other biased income disparities by performing an equity audit and compensation comparison. In the U.S., the gender pay gap has gotten better but has not yet closed, with women of color earning the least when compared with white men, who are the top earners domestically as well as internationally. Organizations with a commitment to equity in hiring are best positioned to close the wage gap by enacting wage policies based on objective criteria rather than standards that can be subjective.

* Look for employee candidates who offer culture enhancement rather than ones that offer culture fit. Often organizations work to fill the space vacated when a member of the team moves to a different opportunity. However, an inclusive culture will focus on what skills are missing from the team and how can the culture be enhanced by their new hire. By looking at the job functions of current team members and writing the job description to fill the missing components, a more diverse candidate pool can be utilized.

Simply put, finding equity in the employee pipeline to increase diversity requires examining hiring policies, practices and procedures. Organizations aiming to live out their inclusion mission will be best served by taking steps beyond the talent pool and employee pipeline. They also will be best served in eliminating bias in job descriptions, focusing on equity in wages and searching for culture-enhancing candidates. They are the future of work.

Cass McMann, MHR, is the DEI Community Leader at The Channel Company, the parent of CRN.