Subtle bias in job descriptions is more common than you think. And it deters diverse candidates from applying for your jobs. So what is it?

Subtle bias is hidden. It’s a:

“discrete prejudice or preference toward a certain group, person, or thing that can drive one’s decisions and actions.” 


It’s also another word for implicit or unconscious bias.

Here are 3 examples of subtle bias I find most often when editing job descriptions in Text Analyzer:

1. Subtle Gender Bias

Here’s a job description with 83% masculine-coded words. But, the subtle gender bias in this JD is not the use of masculine words like “Chairman”… it’s the use of “him or her.”

subtle gender bias pronouns

5 to 10 years ago, using “him or her” pronouns was more inclusive than just using “him”.

Today, if you’re only using these pronouns in your JDs…you might be excluding gender non-binary candidates. Or deterring them from applying. “He” or “she” pronouns assume gender identification. And not everyone identifies as male or female.

Tip: Replace gender-coded pronouns with “they,” “them, “you,” or “the candidate” to remove subtle bias from your JDs.


2. Subtle Affinity Bias

Affinity bias is a tendency to prefer candidates who remind us of ourselves. This subtle bias is one to watch out for in your interview process. But subtle affinity bias is present in job descriptions too.

One of the most common examples we see in JDs is the “top school” requirement…aka “elitism bias.”

subtle bias affinity or elitism

Ongig flags 2 examples of subtle affinity bias in this job ad that might exclude people who didn’t attend a “top school”:

  • a degree from a top University
  • a degree from a top school

Tip: Replace “top school” language with “a college degree” or name a specific degree that’s required if you want to remove subtle bias from your job ads.


3. Subtle Age Bias

Using words with subtle bias around age makes it more difficult for older people to find new jobs.

“About 58% of workers believe age discrimination begins when they enter their 50s.”

(source: Built In)

This job posting is an example of subtle age bias. The company is looking for a Technical Consultant who is “a digital native.”

subtle bias example age

The phrase “digital native” implies a person born (or brought up) during the digital technology age. It might feel exclusionary to older people (and increase your risk of age discrimination lawsuits). 

Tip: To remove subtle bias based on age in your JDs, replace words like “digital native” with “person passionate about technology.” You’ll find more examples of age bias (and more inclusive replacements) in our post 6 Ways to Avoid Age Bias in Your Job Descriptions.


Subtle Bias happens in interviews too

Other subtle bias examples pop up in interviews, not just job ads. Here are a few examples:

  • Name bias — bias based on information like a person’s name
  • Conformity bias – changing your opinion of a candidate based on the feelings of the rest of the panel 
  • Beauty bias – choosing candidates based on attractiveness 
  • Non-verbal bias – bias based on subtle cues like a “weak” handshake

Being aware of these types of subtle bias, and addressing them with your team helps make your overall hiring process more inclusive.


Why I Wrote This?

Ongig’s mission is to create effective and inclusive job descriptions. This includes removing subtle bias from your JDs. Request a demo if you’d like to learn more. 



  1. 16 Unconscious Bias Examples and How to Avoid Them in the Workplace (by Bailey Reiners)
  2. How Subtle Bias Infects the Law (by

by in Diversity and Inclusion