How Removing Bias From Job Descriptions is Key to Your Company’s Success

Job descriptions are the candidate’s first impression of a company. And if that introduction includes exclusionary language, they’re less likely to apply even if they are the perfect fit for the job.

First impressions are vital, especially when you’re on the hunt for the perfect employee.

That first impression often comes in the form of a job description, and you want to do everything you can to make sure you appeal to all who may apply, so you can choose the most qualified person for the job.

At BioSpace’s recent Building a Culture of Inclusion panel, Dominique McSwain, the equity, equality, diversity and inclusion (EEDI) director for AbbVie’s global R&D organization, spoke about how her company focuses on inclusive recruitment. She said part of the talent acquisition strategy at AbbVie is a newly launched inclusive recruitment education program.

She explained that everyone involved in the hiring process is given guidance on growing the employee workforce representation to meet the goals outlined in the EEDI strategy.

But even if your organization is smaller, there are still ways to ensure your job postings are inclusive.

Marika St. Amand, chief human resources officer at Intellia Therapeutics, also participated in the BioSpace panel. She said employers can diversify their talent pool by working with new organizations and posting the job in a range of settings. Additionally, she stated working with recruiters who prioritize diversity will bring in more diverse applicants.

She emphasized that universalizing job descriptions is something virtually any company can do, regardless of the capital or workforce size.

“This is one of those things where you actually don’t need a ton of money and a huge amount of resources,” she said.

Rather, you just need “a little bit of humility” and the ability to double-check yourself in these types of conversations.

No matter the size of the company in the biopharma or biotech field, there are ways to improve your job postings to help attract a more diverse set of candidates.

Why De-Biased Job Descriptions Are Necessary

Job descriptions are the candidate’s first introduction to a company. And if that introduction includes language that makes the candidate feel unwelcome, they’re less likely to apply or seek further information, even if they are the perfect fit for the job.

That’s why it’s crucial to de-bias your job descriptions. Your company’s job description influences who is and isn’t included in the candidate pool, and you could ultimately miss out on the perfect hire.

Incorporating inclusion into your job descriptions can lead to increased diversity within the company, and it’s that diversity that has been proven to set companies apart.

Academic research from McKinsey & Company found that companies with more diverse workforces tend to perform better financially than their counterparts. Ethnic and gender diversity among high-level teams has also been proven to increase overall profitability and value creation, according to the report.

Diverse and inclusive workspaces are important to applicants, now more than ever. A Glassdoor survey found that two-thirds of people consider diversity as an important factor when deciding where to work.

This profitable in-house diversity starts with having an inclusive job description, and being aware of the phrases and terms used in your job descriptions is the first step toward creating a more diverse and inclusive work environment.

Beware Of Exclusionary Phrases

Biases that show up in job descriptions are most often related to gender, race, class, age and ability.

Phrases as simple as “chairman” instead of “chairperson,” or saying the candidate should be “aggressive and strong” might make women shy away from applying. Words that some companies might deem as fun – including “rockstar,” “ninja” and “superhero” – may also drive women away.

Using only “he” or “she” exclusively might dissuade people who identify as transgender or gender nonbinary from applying. Similarly, using the term “parental leave” is more inclusive than “maternal/paternal leave.” Using gender-neutral terms is a great way to ensure you are not falling into these pitfalls.

Regarding ageism, saying a position “requires three to five years of experience” may dissuade older applicants from applying. Instead, market the job as an “entry-level position” or say “minimum three years of experience.”

Ableism is also a common issue among job descriptions. Many job postings say the candidate should be “strong” or “able to lift 50 pounds” when they would never be required to lift that weight while on the clock. Make sure not to exclude candidates with physical disabilities by using these phrases or terms.

Tools For De-Biasing Your Job Descriptions

Everyone is susceptible to pitfalls that might exclude certain demographics. Fortunately, there are a variety of augmented writing tools that have been made specifically to help with writing unbiased job descriptions.

Ongig’s Text Analyzer, for example, is specifically made to get rid of any biased words or phrases found in the text of job descriptions. The tool can identify and suggest replacements for racially charged phrases, LGBTQ+ biases, age discrimination and more.

Similarly, Textio’s augmented writing tool can identify the tone in a posting to indicate whether it leans one way or another. Almost all postings will have a tendency to lean toward a more masculine-sounding tone, so these tools can help replace certain words to make the posting more neutral.

The JDXpert tool utilizes a pre-configured library to address potential biases that may arise. If your company is especially concerned about a specific type of bias, you can edit the library to reflect your company’s needs.

Using any of these tools will bring to light some of the mistakes that you may have been making in your job descriptions. Since diversity and inclusion are paramount for a successful business, it’s crucial to examine every step of the process that’s bringing new workers into the company.

If you’re looking for professionals in the life science industry, following these tips and posting your job to the BioSpace job board is the best first step you can take to diversify your organization.