Are your job description requirements turning off talent? Here are 5 ways changing them boosts applies and brings in more diverse hires:
1. Keep your requirements list simple
If your job description requirements list is extra-long, candidates might get bored and move on. A best practice is to keep your list to 7 bullets or less.
1. If you have an endless list of “required skills,” you might turn off most of your potential hires. An Indeed survey found that 63% of candidates didn’t apply for a job because they felt like they didn’t meet the requirements listed in the job description.
2. An HP study shows women only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the requirements.
Try only listing the key requirements for the role, especially if you want to hire more women. You can always list preferred skills in a separate section.
Here’s a good example of a simple list of job description requirements:
What we’re looking for:
- Excellent deductive thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Ability to motivate groups to complete a project on time.
- Understanding of project management planning and IT procedures.
- Experience with Azure DevOps, Jira, or similar project management tools.
- Proficient with Microsoft Teams, Office Suite, and Project.
It’s a plus if you have:
- Experience managing a team of developers
2. Make your requirements readable
Even if you keep your list of requirements to the “must-haves,” how you write them might make them hard to read.
Ongig’s CEO, Rob Kelly, recommends writing your JDs at an 8th-grade level (or lower) and in plain English to improve their effectiveness by 40%. Writing in plain English makes it easier for everyone to read your “required skills” fast. But also makes it easier for neurodivergent talent to read (e.g., someone with dyslexia).
Try writing sentences with 20 syllables or less. And use bulleted lists. They’re easier to read than long paragraphs of text. But remember to keep your lists to 7 requirements or less.
The words you use also affect readability. Words with lots of syllables or “legalese” (e.g., “in accordance with” or “in order to”) make your JD requirements harder to read.
If you need help trimming down your JDs, Ongig scans for readability and complex words to help make your JDs more effective:
3. Be specific (and literal)
Being specific (and literal) with your job description requirements helps in 2 ways. If you’re specific, it’s easier for candidates to understand what your role requires.
And, being literal is best if you want to reach neurodiverse candidates (e.g., someone on the autism spectrum).
Helen, an activist from Autism All-Stars, says it’s important to remember:
“that autistic people don’t automatically understand what’s implied, only what’s actually said.”
People with autism take things literally, including job description requirements.
So instead of saying something like:
“We juggle a bazillion balls and wear a lot of hats (No, we don’t moonlight as clowns, but you’ll need to stay organized to play well on this team).”
…try this instead:
“You’re organized and able to work with a team on multiple projects.”
Cutting out the clever clown references makes this requirement more realistic, and specific.
4. Focus on skills, not “years of experience”
Asking for “X years of experience” is one of the most-used job description requirements. But removing it from your JDs increases your chances of getting more applicants.
Many job seekers have lots of skills, but they might not have 5 years of experience as a “Software Engineer,” “Customer Service Rep,” or an “Executive Assistant.” Or they may have 9 years of experience as a “Marketing Manager,” but you’re asking for 10. Years of experience is limiting.
A recent LinkedIn pilot program found that a change in focus boosted their talent pool. They:
“hired 13 customer support consultants by removing the basic qualification — 2+ years of customer service experience on email, chat, and phone — from the job description and focused on skills rather than experience or education.”source: LinkedIn Talent Blog
During the pilot, LinkedIn:
- gave potential candidates access to free skills training courses
- did skills-based assessments before interviews
- re-wrote JDs to remove “years of experience” requirements
Most of the consultants they hired didn’t have 2 years of experience, but they had the skills to excel in their roles.
Note: Find more about why “years of experience” limits your talent pool: 7 Things that Will Go Extinct in Job Descriptions.
5. Replace potentially biased language
Biased words can creep into your JDs and keep diverse talent from applying.
For example, saying something like “He or she has a degree in accounting” might exclude (or offend) gender non-binary candidates. Replacing the “he or she” with “you” is more inclusive, and conversational.
Here are some other common examples of biased language I find in JD requirements. Plus some more inclusive replacements to boost your chances of getting more diverse applicants:
|Potentially Biased Language
|More Inclusive Replacement
|Experience hosting brown bag sessions
|Experience hosting lunch and learn sessions
|A degree from a top school
|A college degree
|Must speak native English
|Must be fluent in English
|Experience with master/slave architectures
|Experience with primary/secondary architectures
|Must be a digital native
|Must be passionate about technology
|Ability to walk the warehouse floor
|Ability to move around the warehouse floor
There are loads of words that might contain bias based on race, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc. To make it easier for you to find them in your JDs, Ongig’s software flags them for you.
Each flagged word has a pop-up explaining why it’s flagged, with a list of more inclusive options to choose from:
Why I wrote this?
Our mission is to help you attract top talent by creating effective and inclusive JDs. Ongig’s software flags extra-long lists or sentences and complex or biased words. And, offers tips on improving your job description requirements list. Please request a demo to learn more.
- How Removing Some Requirements from Your Job Descriptions Can Lead to More Inclusive Hiring (by Bruce M. Anderson) — special shout-out to Hung Lee for including this in his newsletter, Recruiting Brainfood!
- Why do Autistic People Take Things Literally? (by Helen of Autism All-Stars)
- Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified (by Tara Sophia Mohr)
- How to Write a Job Description: Data Driven Results (by Bailey Reiners)
- What to Do About Job Seekers Who Aren’t Reading Job Descriptions (by Nancy Gray-Starkebaum)
- How to Write a Job Description (by Indeed)
- How to Write Effective Job Postings: Job Description and Skills (by Recruiting.com)