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Avoiding coded language in hiring notices

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2022 | Employment Law

You would never intentionally put out a job listing that’s biased against certain groups of people, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing it accidentally.

The language you use in a job listing can not only dissuade certain viable candidates from applying but can also leave your company open to claims of discrimination due to gender, gender identity, age and race (among other things). With the increased scrutiny on companies these days when it comes to diversity and inclusivity, it pays to be proactive about avoiding “coded” job listings that may seem to say something you didn’t intend.

What kind of wording do you need to avoid?

It may surprise you to learn how easily biased language can creep into your job posts, but consider these examples:

Gender-coded job listings

When you hear something like, “Caring and kind human resource manager” do you picture a man or a woman? When you hear the same ideal applicant described as “confident and direct” do you picture a man? Women are typically described in nurturing terms, while job ads that stress assertiveness can be perceived as geared solely toward men.

Age-coded job listings

The term “digital native” and “recent graduate” might as well scream, “We’re only interested in hiring you if you’re under 30. You may already know to avoid those terms but what about “go-getter,” “high-energy” and “tech-savvy?” Those are also terms that can tell a candidate that you’re only looking for young people.

Race-coded job listings

Phrases like “needs strong English skills” and “neat, tidy hair and clothing required” are often decoded as “immigrants and people of color need not apply.” It’s far better to aim for neutral language like “good communication skills” and “professional appearance” which is much more inclusive.

Decoding your job listings is one step toward avoiding discrimination lawsuits. However, mistakes happen. If your company is facing a bias claim, find out what you need to do to protect your future.