Why does the language you use in job ads matter?

Ever read a job description and thought, “this isn’t for me” despite having all the necessary skills and qualifications? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone. Sometimes there’s no real explanation as to why a job description puts you off. The company, industry and job spec could be what you were hoping for, but the words and way they describe the role, company and expectations can have a lot of influence.

The truth is the language you use in your job advertisements really matters. A well-written job ad can be the difference between someone applying or not, and using specific terms within them can alienate particular candidates. It can leave them feeling unsuitable for the role, as though they aren’t a good cultural fit for the company or aren’t as qualified as they should be (when often they are). Words have a lot of power.

In a candidate-driven market, employers cannot afford to lose candidates at the application stage simply because they used jargon or biased language. Therefore, getting the language right in your job adverts could be a vital part of ensuring you attract suitable candidates. For example, a recent study by LinkedIn found that over 50,000 job descriptions on LinkedIn include the word “aggressive” to describe sales goals, the workplace or desired attributes. However, the same research found this could deter almost half of women from applying. If tech businesses are serious about diversifying their teams, whether that means hiring more women for STEM roles or looking to hire from more minorities and diverse backgrounds, then a deep dive into language and tone of voice is necessary.

Research by LinkedIn looked at how different genders responded to different word choices. It found that both men and women seem to relate most positively to strong, performance-based descriptors. For example, the top 3 words for men and women when describing themselves in a job interview were: “hard-working” (58% of women & 49% of men), “good at my job” (48% of women & 42% of men) and “confident” (42% of women & 40% of men). It also found that 1 in 4 women would be deterred from applying for a job if described as “demanding”. All of this evidence proves that the words you use can directly impact the number of applications, meaning job descriptions, interviews, and onboarding take more care and consideration regarding language. Here’s why:

Appeals to a Wider Range of Candidates

Many people think writing a job ad is easy. But in fact, there’s a science to it if you want to ensure you’re being as inclusive as possible and portraying an accurate representation of your employer brand. Paying attention to the terminology used in your talent branding can help you to attract and retain more diverse teams and create a more varied working environment. It can improve diversity in all senses, from cultural or gender diversity to simply appealing to people from different backgrounds. For example, people without the same university education or industry experience may be more likely to apply if you reduce the use of jargon, elitist language and industry-specific terms that may confuse them or make them feel unsuitable.

Sets the Tone for Your Employer Brand

However, this isn’t just an issue of diversifying but also creating an accurate representation of your workplace. Language sets the tone throughout your hiring process, from job ad through to interview and onboarding. The words you use reflect who you are as an employer just as much as the imagery, animations and content you put out into the world. Your employer brand relies on the tone of voice you use in all of your communications, from job ads to social media posts; using the wrong words or tone could change perceptions entirely. Some employers can be tempted to write funny, pun-based job descriptions or throw in words like “Rockstar” or “Ninja” to try and look fun when in fact, their workplace is anything but.

Helps Candidates Find Your Vacancies

Another reason you need to be careful with the language in your job advertisements is SEO. Now that most job ads are online, candidates need to be able to search for them to apply. So, using fancy job titles or filling the ads with your own, more creative terminology won’t help prospective candidates find your vacancy. It’s one thing to try and use language to stand out, but in the world of search engines and keywords, having unusual wording will just mean no one finds you. Therefore, you need to research popular job titles within your industry to ensure that yours are in line. You should also look at specific skills and keywords like “social media”, as filtering these into your job adverts will help candidates see them while they search. By creating consistency with the rest of your industry or jobs market, you’re not only ensuring that candidates find you, but it also makes the role much more transparent. Making up your own terms or job titles can confuse candidates and prevent them from applying.

Tips for Writing More Inclusive Job Ads

Have a Refined EVP and Guidelines

If you know who you are as an employer, it should be easy to communicate this through messaging. Any good EVP and employer brand development includes messaging guidelines to ensure the right tone of voice and the right imagery and visual identity. It’s crucial that you put the right image of yourself out there as an employer, and having these guidelines will help you. They’ll also help to inform your job descriptions. If you base your adverts for open vacancies on your employer brand comms and social media guidelines, you have a great starting point. It will ensure that potential candidates get an accurate and consistent view of your company and set the appropriate tone of voice for the rest of your job advert. This will help encourage the correct type of person to apply with you, people who share your company values, mission, and work ethic.

Up Your Proofreading 

Never assume that just because your job description matches up to your EVP and brand guidelines that it will be inclusive and have no bias. Words can easily slip through the net, and therefore, like with any piece of written comms, it never hurts to have a second pair of eyes look over it. Really, you should ensure that as many people as possible read your job ads before you make them public. Asking a diverse range of employees to give your job adverts a proofread may take time, but it will provide an opportunity for any questionable terminology and language to be flagged. For example, if a female employee says they wouldn’t apply based on the draft you put in front of them, then you’ll know that your choice of words needs work. Or, if some of your employees are less sure on a specific term, it may be worth removing. A more comprehensive range of perspectives and viewpoints will help you create a job advertisement that not only reflects your brand but is relatable to talent from a wide range of backgrounds.

Avoid Jargon

It can be tempting to try and be fun in your job ads or fill them with loads of jargon to help you emphasise that you’re a fun employer or you know what you’re talking about. But, sadly, it could prove the opposite. For one, it may show candidates you’re not serious about the jobs if you try to be too witty and can create a misleading image of your organisation.

Then, there’s also the issue of industry jargon. If you use industry jargon in your job ads, you could exclude people who have the necessary skills but don’t know the terminology. In such a competitive talent market, this isn’t a risk you can take. Also, if your company has its own jargon, which you might not be aware isn’t industry standard, candidates may be left thinking they’re not suitable for the role as they don’t understand. Using these terms can severely limit your talent pool and reduce the number of applications you get through.

Outsource Recruitment

RPO providers know how to write job advertisements that reduce bias and appeal to broader audiences. With tools that can analyse language and professional copywriters on hand, RPO providers can craft job specifications and descriptions with ease. They know which terms to avoid as they hold bias and have industry experience, which helps them understand specific skills and terminology. Therefore, if you’re struggling, it may be worth enlisting one. Unlike contingent recruitment agencies who will advertise a single job for you and craft a generic description to accompany it, RPO providers take the time to understand your employer brand and EVP. Even if they didn’t develop your Employee Value Proposition, their recruitment teams would integrate with yours to ensure that all of your communications and job descriptions capture the essence of your employer brand and portray an accurate image of you as an employer.

Talent Works are a tech specialist RPO provider which works to help businesses scale through finding the best talent. Our flexible approach to RPO can be scaled up or down depending on your recruitment demand, meaning if you need to fill one or one hundred roles, we can help. With in-house research teams, copywriters, designers and digital marketers working alongside our resourcing teams, we can ensure job ads are not only written well without bias but that they gain as much traction as possible in a crowded market.

To find out more about our flexible approach to tech RPO or our services from employer branding to digital attraction, contact us.