Best Practices

How to Write Gender Neutral Job Descriptions to Mitigate UB

June 2020

Job descriptions are the first touch point between a prospective candidate and the company. The tone, language, and the details that are included (or excluded) in your job description creates an image of the company and what it would be like to work there.

This report highlights key items to consider when creating gender neutral job descriptions to mitigate unconscious bias.

Assess Current Job Descriptions and Job Posts for Inclusive Content and Intent

Job descriptions are the first touch point between a prospective candidate and the company. The tone, language, and the details that are included (or excluded) in your job description creates an image of the company and what it would be like to work there.

There has been significant research around specific language that tends to be more appealing (subconsciously) to men versus women in job descriptions.

Certain words or phrases tend to drive away female job seekers, especially when overused or used repeatedly, and especially in more male-dominated fields.

To many women, masculine-associated words alert them to the possibility that they may not fit or may not belong. Although these “gender words” take up a very small proportion of the total words in a job description, and taken individually these words and phrases will not on their own turn away a job seeker, once a few of them are sprinkled throughout the listing, we may have a problem.

On top of this, studies have shown that potential job candidates do not realize the presence of gendered language, and they tend to attribute their disinterest in a job to personal lack of interest in the job or just general lack of appeal.

Key Items to Consider

• Catch yourself (and others) if you find that you are using shortcuts to make quick decisions about whether a “type” of person would or would not fit a role.
• Be careful to avoid letting one or two historical examples of candidates from a specific background form the basis for evaluating all others.
• Consider “widening the net” and pay extra attention to examples and data from a variety of schools, especially schools that you don’t historically or typically recruit from.
• Check job descriptions for gender-biased terminology that may discourage women from applying.
• When you find evidence of success with preferred sources, intentionally look for examples of where those sources may have also disappointed.
• Ask colleagues from underrepresented groups (e.g., ERG members) to help you identify potential weaknesses in current recruiting and hiring strategies.
• Review your job descriptions. Are job descriptions excluding some groups that could be perfectly qualified?
• Take another look at the ‘must haves’ (requirements) vs. the ‘nice to haves’ (preferences). For example, do you really have to have 10 years of experience in X, a degree from a specific set of schools, a Master’s or a PhD, or all-hours and/or weekend availability (which may automatically screen out many people)?
• Examine the specific words that are used. Some job postings, particularly in male-dominated fields, are sometimes inadvertently written with male pronouns, or suggest hyper-masculine behavior (problem-fixer, competitive, dominate, ‘Type-A’) is required or rewarded, potentially signaling that women need not apply.
• Leverage technology to audit your job descriptions for potentially biased language. Use inclusive language that demonstrates your values and embraces diversity. Go beyond the typical EEO non-discrimination statement found in most job descriptions to provide a fuller description of the company’s commitment to D&I. If possible, include information on the diversity of your existing workforce and emphasize the importance of experience working with diverse populations.

Tech Tools and Apps to Consider

There are a wide array of technology, tools and resources available to reduce hiring bias and create neutral job descriptions. Just a few are highlighted below.

While software apps are effective in identifying unconscious bias, organizations must supplement those efforts with unconscious training and awareness for recruiters and hiring managers.


Blendoor captures candidate data from your existing applicant tracking systems and/or online job boards. Candidate profiles are then ‘blendorized’ – displayed without name, photo, or dates to mitigate unconscious bias. The app matches companies with the most skilled candidates regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity. Blendoor also tracks how candidates move through the interview process—noting when a candidate is eliminated or gets hired. The app uses the
information to better match candidates in the future and identify at what stage bias may have come into play. Blendoor also offers BlendScore, a metric that ranks top companies based on diversity data, pay equity, and benefits like maternal and paternal leave. The metric serves as a tool for job seekers looking for diverse companies, but also informs companies when they need to make changes.


GapJumpers online technology platform enables hiring managers to hold blind audition challenges. In the challenges, job applicants are given mini assignments that are designed to assess the applicant for the specific skills required for the open position. All submissions are evaluated and ranked, and the top-performing submissions (minus any applicant identifiers) are then reviewed by the hiring manager who selects candidates to bring in to interview. The result: About 60 percent of the top talent identified through GapJumpers’ blind audition process come from underrepresented backgrounds. (source: GapJumpers)

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