Over 50 percent of job postings drive away applicants, especially women

Your job postings may be your worst nightmare, scaring off job applicants with jargon and needless clutter and driving away female applicants. If your job posting is more than 250 words and uses gender bias tones, it is time for an overhaul.

Forty percent of job seekers say they regularly see job titles they don’t understand. Sixty-four percent said they would not apply for a job if they did not understand the title, according to a recent survey of more than 2,000 job seekers by Monster. Fifty-seven percent said jargon puts them off, and one-third said it is confusing. Unbelievable to me was learning that in the era of automatic spell check, 23 percent of job seekers said they had found misspellings in ads, according to the Monster survey.

The words you select in a job posting can drive away female job applicants, which is a disaster if you are trying to diversity your workforce. Academics have known for years that men and women respond differently to various phrases in job postings. The Gaucher-Frey-Kay study found that women tended not to apply for these jobs in statistically significant numbers when male dominated words were used. Moreover, they had a negative view of the company’s work culture and believed they wouldn’t feel like they belonged there.

Conversely, when female-themed words were used, the number of female applicants significantly rose. In contrast, male applicants did not drop off. Men applied in equal proportion to job postings with male-themed versus female-themed words. The obvious lesson here is that if you want to improve the number of women applying for your job postings, use female-themed words to attract women. These words will not deter men from applying to the same jobs.

What are gender-coded words? Below is list compiled from the Gaucher-Frey-Kay study published in a Paycor article.

“The only goal for a job posting is to allow a person to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” says Katrina Kibben, Founder and CEO of Three Ears Media and a contributor to Fortune magazine. Katrina points out that many recruiters don’t know how to write job postings. However, job postings are the currency of their jobs. It is a skill every recruiter needs. Her team focuses on writing and editing job ads and postings for recruiting organizations and training recruiters to write more powerful job postings. Katrina reminds recruiters and hiring managers to write for humans and not about work. “Don’t play ‘buzz word bingo’ with job postings. Don’t use bullets, and no ‘he/she will’ phrasing,” she says.

Katrina highlighted how job postings uses language that drives women away from jobs. Katrina refers to an Expedia and Textio study. In the study, Expedia posted two job postings for the same job. The first with traditional language. The second with gender-neutral terms. The second posting generated significantly more female applicants without losing the number of male applicants.

Speaking at JobSync’s Recruitment Marketing Roundtable, Katrina provided a great paradigm for writing job postings. Katrina recommends four tactics for writing job postings.

Be gender-neutral. Katrina points out that there are many gender decoders on the internet, such as Textio, Taper Recruit, and Kat Mayfield.

Eliminate years of experience for technical and niche roles. Years of experience is “ageist,” she says. Unless there is an experience that is a required criteria, such as working three years as a flight nurse to be certified, don’t list it.  Instead, ask applicants about the experiences they are doing now that would prepare them for this job.

Reconsider the requirement for college degrees after five years of experience. Katrina values education, but she advices reconsidering it when hiring experienced applicants. Katrina points out that after five years on the job, employees are working off of their experiences and not their degrees.

Have no bullets for entry level positions. If the job is for an experienced hire, stop at seven because after seven the number of female applicants drops off.  “Have you ever heard the adage that men apply for positions when they are only 80 percent qualified and women, don’t apply when unless they are 100 percent qualified. It is true”, she says. After seven, we see a psychological trigger point and the number of female applicants drops off.

Certainly, for technical roles, such as pilots, you have to have requirements. Katrina points out, however, that three years at one company doesn’t mean the same for everyone at that company or for someone working for three years in the same role at a different company.

The way you get past this situation, she says, is to have better hiring manager intake. She recommends managers ask questions that prompt the applicant to tell them stories about their experiences, instead of asking for a laundry list of criteria. Here are some questions you might ask product managers in tech: What have they worked on in the past or now that would prepare them for this role? What have they built, before? How many people have they managed? Instead of asking for years of experience, Katrina recommends asking this question, “Please tell me how you used a [tool-fill in] to build a [blank-fill in] to help our customer’s [product or service-fill in].

Katrina also recommends a standard structure for job postings. Job postings should not be more than 250 words, she says. The first paragraph is the job pitch. It should explain the impact the role has on the company or the customer. The second paragraph, which is typically about the company, should list the three things the incumbents will do every day. The third paragraph should explain what the candidate needs to do to thrive in the role. This is your list of no more than seven requirements. If it is entry level, you can skip it.

Paragraph four — if you include it — is your EEOC listing or whatever your lawyers tell you to write. The recruiters only need to write paragraphs one and three. Paragraphs two and four are standard.

Katrina offers an on-demand course on how to write job openings from her website.

In an era when there are shortages for technical skills and diversity is critical, recruiters can no longer afford to lose great job applicants because of poorly written job postings and by using words that limit the number of female applicants. The fix to these problems is easy to implement.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting, managing partner of InnovationOne, and Sales Advisor to MeBeBot. He works with companies to transform HR, implement remote work, recruit executives, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHRConsultant.com. 


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