Diversity & inclusion – how to write job ads that appeal to a broad talent pool

On average, a job seeker only spends 49.7 seconds reading a job advert before dismissing a position. In many cases the reason for the dismissal is in the wording used – a subconscious perception that the ad is aimed at a particular gender/age group/ethnicity, etc. This means that you could be missing out on a lot of suitable, highly skilled applicants.

Why is diversity important?

The benefits of a diverse workforce is well documented, and is increasingly becoming an industry expectation. There is a reputational benefit, and many candidates now ask about a potential employer’s diversity and inclusion values. Having a clear strategy in place will be important to firms in a world where talent attraction will become more and more competitive.

Aside from talent attraction, diversity is proven to increase creativity and problem-solving, and with it also profit, as people with different backgrounds bring different ideas and solutions to the table. Harvard Business Review found that diverse teams are able to solve problems faster than teams of cognitively similar people. Online decision-making platform Cloverpop found that when diverse teams made a business decision, they outperformed individual decision-makers up to 87% of the time.

Taking the above into account, having a diverse workforce will actually, in turn, increase business and profits. So, how do you build a diverse workforce? It all starts with your job adverts. Here’s how to write ads that appeal to a broad talent pool…

Be honest

Benefits, and particularly flexible working arrangements, are important to applicants. Let people know of any attractive benefits or provisions on offer, as they are a considerable selling point, and not mentioning them can deter candidates from applying.

Likewise, if you offer flexible working, mention it. A report conduced by BIT found that while 30% of companies offered it, only 5.5% actually used the phrase ‘flexible working’ in job adverts. This is more important now than ever, as in a post-COVID world, flexible working will be expected, and firms will need to develop competitive working models in order to compete. Making sure you advertise it is imperative for attracting talent.

Watch your language

how to write job adverts - diversity & inclusion

Certain words and phrases can attract particular groups of people, and so it is important to consider your choice of words. For example, ‘adaptable’ and ‘dynamic’ are often seen as stereotypically young, whilst the words ‘dedicated’ and ‘knowledgeable’ are stereotypically older. The BIT report found that older applicants are put off by ‘younger’ language, but less so the other way around.

Similarly, phrases such as ‘strong English-language skills’ often discourage from people of a certain background or religion from applying.


This one may seem obvious, but it is often done unintentionally. Studies have shown that most women will only apply for jobs where they meet 100% of the criteria listed, whereas men will apply if they meet 60%. Therefore, consider what the ‘must-haves’ of the job are, and leave out things that aren’t essential. Language can also be gender-coded, thus reducing applications. Below are some examples:

Female-coded words: understanding, compassion, empathise, support, dependable

Male-coded words: outspoken, aggressive, dominant, lead, competitive

For example, the male-biased phrase “Who thrives in a competitive atmosphere…” could be changed to “Who is motivated by high goals…” and the female-biased phrase “Support a team” could be changed to “Work alongside a team”.

A Gender-bias decoder, like this one, is a great way to check your adverts.

Cut the jargon!

One of the quickest ways to put off a candidate is using too much unnecessary technical terminology, or acronyms only used and understood at your company. This often makes applicants feel unqualified, even though they could be able to the job very well.

Make it accessible

Could someone with dyslexia understand that font? Is an audio version available? Can it be accessed from a phone? Are paragraphs too long for online readers? We highly recommend doing trial runs of all your adverts to make sure they’re easy to use and available to everyone.

The aim of this article is not to criticise, but to enable you to improve the diversity and relevance of the applications you receive. People’s focus has shifted, especially since the Coronavirus crisis began, and diversity and flexibility have become even more important. No firm can afford to ignore this in a talent market which is set to become more and more competitive.

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