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How to write an inclusive job advert

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

A recent article by Charity Digital offers some excellent and vital advice on how to put together an inclusive job advert for your charity. We have included the key points below.

A row of letter blocks spelling the word "Inclusion"

Truly inclusive job adverts are a powerful part of more inclusive hiring practices. Here are some practical ways to make your job adverts more inclusive.

Don’t ask for people who’ve done the job before

Do you need someone who’s done this role before, or do you need someone who has the skills and knowledge to be able to do the role? There’s a difference.

Asking for previous experience excludes everyone who’s ever been told “I just can’t see you as a leader/manager/head of team.” And that tends to mean minoritised people.

Keep it simple As many as 10% of us have specific learning disabilities like dyslexia. By some counts, the average reading age in the UK is around nine years old. And all of us benefit from short, clear, well-structured paragraphs. It doesn’t matter if you’re dyslexic, autistic, tired, distracted, or dyspraxic, it’s just easier to scan the page if it’s got clear headings and subheadings. Use simple, everyday words and steer clear of industry jargon. Use inclusive pronouns You don’t need to say “S/he will report to the head of team, who will manage him/her.” It’s hard to read, confusing, and it excludes all the people who don’t identify with those genders. Use the singular they (“they will manage the departmental budget”) or the relevant job title (“the head of team will manage three direct reports”). Eliminate coded language Who’s most likely to respond to a job advert that calls for leadership, drive, assertiveness and challenge? As you might guess, it’s likely to be mainly men. An advert calling for a supportive, collaborative, reflective manager? That’s likely to see more women applying. Coded language sends subtle signals about who an employer is looking for, and it can put otherwise excellent candidates off from applying. Use free browser extensions and websites like the Gender Decoder to see if your advert is gender coded, and seek out more neutral alternatives. Applied uses behavioural science to design fair and inclusive recruitment practices. Check out their job description analysis tool and job description template. Say the salary Not disclosing the salary tends to harm women and people of colour. It’s fine to include a salary range (like “£30 - £35k”), but don’t simply say “competitive salary” or “DOE (depending on experience)". Co-design the advert Improving diversity means different things depending on the makeup of your existing team. Your current team might have a great mix of ages, races, and nationalities, but poor class diversity. You might have excellent socioeconomic class diversity, but a total lack of disabled or neurodivergent staff. Identify the groups you most want to work with. “Collaborate or co-design the job advert with the specific group you are trying to work with” says Emily Horton, founder of More Diverse Voices. “There are some great guidelines out there, but as language and its impact are constantly changing, it’s worth getting people in the room with senior management, paying for their time and asking them what works for them.” Be honest about problems Every organisation has diversity and inclusion issues. Implying that your workplace is perfect is a bit like insisting that you don’t see race, so you don’t see racism or your part in it. In an imperfect world, your team will have its fair share of imperfections. It’s okay – in fact, it’s essential – to own up to them. “Can you link to your EDI policy or commitments?” asks Horton. “Can you link to your gender pay gap reporting or ethnicity gap reporting? Or at least say that you are aware it’s something you need to work on, which indicates a level of transparency and a nod towards the fact that true diversity and inclusion change takes time?” Outline solutions Identifying problems is an important first step, but publishing your ethnicity pay gap doesn’t make it a safer or more welcoming place for people of colour. You need an action plan. While you can’t outline your entire action plan in the job advert itself, make sure you let prospective applicants know that you’re committed to change, and how you’re making it happen. Don’t ask for a degree Access to university isn’t a level playing field. If your job adverts tend to ask for a university degree, ask yourself whether the job really needs one. Or are you just used to hiring graduates? Asking for an unspecified degree excludes huge numbers of people, especially people from poorer backgrounds. If the job needs specific knowledge that’s often learned via a university degree, you could say “must have a law degree or equivalent experience”, and outline specifically what knowledge or skills they would need. Advertise broadly “You can have the best job advert in the world, but if it’s not reaching the right people then it makes it redundant!” says Horton. Don’t rely on the same old channels if you want to reach new and more diverse recruits. Check out platforms with a specific focus like Black Young Professionals, 2020Change, Pink Jobs, or the Return Hub and, if possible, post your advert across a broad range of sites. No woke washing If greenwashing is hiding behind false eco credentials, woke washing is using language as a smokescreen to seem more inclusive than you are. If you’re talking about inclusion, make sure you’re taking concrete steps throughout your organisation - from communications to recruitment, operations to remuneration – to make inclusion a reality. Words alone won’t cut it. “Obviously it’s a good thing if employers are more intentional with how they use language, so they’re not unwittingly creating barriers or biases,” says Nick Parker, founder of language strategy agency That Explains Things. “But ’inclusive writing’ shouldn’t be seen as a quick ’hack’ to make yourself look better. That’s just straight-up dishonest. And if you change your writing but not your culture, you won’t fool people for long anyway.”

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