How to Avoid Bias in a Job Description
Updated: Oct 12
You only get one chance to make a first impression. The job description is your first impression to new talent considering employment at your company. Avoiding unconscious bias and bias, in general, is crucial.
Here are a few ways you can avoid implicit and explicit bias in your JDs
Bias is "the prejudice or unsubstantiated judgments in favor of or against one item, person, or group as compared to another, in a manner that is generally regarded as unfair.” The recruiting process is one of the most visible examples of unconscious bias we constantly encounter. Frequently, job descriptions contain aspects that favor a specific gender, race, physical, or cognitive ability in ways that we may not even realize.
Biased job descriptions restrict not only the applicant pool but also workplace diversity. To build a healthy, equitable, and diverse workplace culture, firms must assess for (and eradicate) bias in job descriptions.
Which Types of Bias Are Most Frequently Encountered in Job Descriptions?
Job descriptions may contain either implicit or explicit prejudices, depending on the nature of the bias.
Different forms of prejudice have varying degrees of influence on the recruiting process. Therefore, to guarantee that future job descriptions are fair and unbiased, businesses need to understand the difference between explicit and implicit biases.
Implicit biases are unconscious prejudices or attitudes toward specific genders, races, religions, civilizations, etc. Because these biases occur underneath the level of conscious mental thinking, people are unaware of their bias or how it affects their actions.
Because implicit prejudices can strongly impact job description creation, engaging in regular anti-bias training is critical. A diverse recruiting committee can review job descriptions to reduce implicit bias and its effect on DEI.
The term "explicit bias" refers to prejudices that are held in mind consciously. There is a greater chance of implicit bias; nevertheless, recruiters should be vigilant to ensure that explicit biases do not hamper recruitment efforts.
Explicit biases are easier to identify than covert ones because they consist of preconceptions and attitudes that are held on a conscious level. To defend the integrity of your diverse staff as well as the reputation of your organization, the leadership of your company should take decisive action to confront explicit bias.
The presence of explicit biases in job descriptions is often significantly less than implicit biases. Even so, it might make its way into face-to-face interviews and resume reviews if employers aren't utilizing the best practices available for doing unbiased recruiting.
Why De-Biased Job Descriptions are important
The job description is the candidate's initial introduction to the organization. As they say, you only get one shot at a first impression. If your first impression makes the applicant feel unwelcome, they are less likely to apply or request additional information, even though they are the ideal candidate for the position.
Therefore, it is essential to eliminate bias from job descriptions. A job description will determine who is and is not included in the candidate pool, and you may miss out on the ideal individual.
Incorporating inclusion into job descriptions can boost the company's diversity, which has been shown to set firms apart.
According to an academic study conducted by McKinsey & Company, businesses with more diverse workforces tend to do better financially than their competitors. According to the article, racial and gender diversity in senior-level teams has also boosted overall profitability and value creation.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are more essential than ever to applicants. Two-thirds of respondents to a Glassdoor survey believe diversity is a vital issue when picking where to work.
This profitable internal diversity begins with an inclusive job description. Being conscious of the phrases and concepts used in your job descriptions is the first step in fostering a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
How to Avoid Bias in a Job Description
1. Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns
This is a quick and easy approach for cleaning up your job descriptions and a simple tip to remember while advertising new positions. The job description should not contain gender-specific pronouns. Use they, their, and you to talk about the candidate. "S/he" can also be used instead of pronouns that refer to a specific gender,
This rule also works for collective nouns. You can easily change words like "guys" to "team" or "folks."
2. Check for Biased Expression
Here, judgment can get more complex. When describing the perfect candidate for a position, job descriptions tend to use language with implicit prejudice. Typical masculine characteristics include "assertive" and "competitive." Women have every opportunity to be assertive in the workplace, but this can also be interpreted as loyalty and support via a 'feminine' lens.
This is equally true in reverse. Words such as "bubbly" and "nurturing" may be included in job descriptions for roles traditionally filled by women to subconsciously boost female candidates and discourage male applicants.
3. Avoid Displaying a Toxic Work Environment
When describing your work culture, the way you use language can give candidates the idea of a "bro" culture with beers after work, conversations about the match day, and, in the worst case, sexual harassment. Phrases like "work hard, play hard," and "banter" will turn away qualified candidates. Think about the wide range of lifestyles your applicants could have and the parts of your work culture that will appeal to many people, not just one generation or lifestyle.
4. Using Artificial intelligence
Frida Polli, a cognitive scientist, addressed both conscious and unconscious hiring bias in an article published by the Harvard Business Review. In her article, Ms. Polli suggested that the use of artificial intelligence could be one solution to the problem of prejudice. The reality is, however, that this strategy depends on so many variables – including AI's ability to learn bias through experience – that it cannot be regarded as the optimal solution at this time.
So far, the human approach hasn't done much better. Lobbying to change corporate policies in a way that would get rid of biased language in job descriptions has turned into a Sisyphean task. Again, despite the best intentions, there is no social evidence that "diversity training," whether required or not, is particularly helpful.
The most obvious component of your hiring process is the job description, which is the document that serves as the foundation for job advertisements. Instead of discouraging people from applying for jobs, job descriptions can be used to attract more applicants.
Eliminating bias takes commitment and a conscious effort.
While explicit bias is often easy to recognize, implicit bias typically isn't. Because of that, the best way to avoid bias in your job descriptions is to have a conscious effort and commitment to eliminate it. Get team members involved who can review JDs- a different perspective may illuminate the bias that wasn't intended. In addition, having a process to check for bias before publishing a JD will help give your team the best chance of putting out inclusive JDs and attracting the best talent from all backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life.
Visit MOSH JD for more content like this for HR professionals.