Are You Missing Out on Valuable Female Candidates Because of Your Job Descriptions?

By HR CLUB on 30 October 2017

In the context of the international sexual harassment scandal, publicized under the #metoo hashtag, the issue of how women are conditioned and discriminated against in the recruitment process, starting with the very job descriptions they are reading, has become more current than ever.

Studies such as this have indicated that organizations with a high percentage of female executive directors and board members enjoy a return on assets and on capital up to 74% higher. However, errors - whether conscious or not - that occur during the recruitment process, starting from the very wording of vacant positions announcements, can prevent a company from attracting and retaining valuable and qualified women candidates.

For example, it has been shown that the use of words perceived as masculine, such as "assertive" or "aggressive", can cause women who are perfectly qualified for the job to not submit their resumé. This is because, while men apply to jobs for which they are 60% qualified, women apply only to jobs where they feel 100% qualified, according to the phenomenon known as the "confidence gap". If women perceive that they do not fit perfectly with the description of the job, both in terms of skill and personality, they give up, while men are less concerned about this match.

Therefore, it is important to use neutral language in describing a job. A phrase such as "We are looking for an aggressive and ambitious salesman with 3-5 years of experience in approaching top 100 companies" can be reformulated by "We are looking for an enthusiastic person with very good relationship skills and proven sales results in the corporate environment ". A good way to check if your recruitment ad is appealing to both sexes is to ask for feedback from both women and men in the organization. At the same time, it is advisable that the job ad focuses on mandatory ("must have") requirements, such as having a degree in a certain field, and not on "nice to have" features, which many times represent unrealistic expectations anyway.

Other ways in which the design of your recruitment ads might drive away valuable female candidates include, but are not limited to:

  • Using male metaphorical terms such as "ninja" or "rockstar" for a job title;
  • Specifying details of job responsibilities that make it clear that women who are married or with children are not preferred;
  • Including disguised sex hints, or misogynist jokes or photos.

Research has shown that an ethical recruitment system leads to a higher quality of recruited candidates. Although not illegal, the above-mentioned practices represent a concealed form of discrimination that can deprive the company of high-potential employees and can also affect the employer's brand. As Potter Stewart, former judge of the United States Supreme Court said, "Ethic is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do."


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