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We’re finding ourselves in a time when recruiting top talent continues to be increasingly more competitive. But when you truly think of your company’s  “top talent,” what does it actually look like? If your workforce generally consists of individuals from similar backgrounds, it may be time to look at inequities in your recruitment process to determine where you’re losing quality, diverse talent. You may be surprised to find that you’re using implicitly biased language in your job descriptions – and you didn’t even know!

Implicit bias is typically is an aversion or held stereotype against a specific demographic or population. The key here – it’s unconscious! You don’t realize you’re adding it in.

Let’s walk through ways you may be utilizing (and how to eliminate) racial, religious, age, ability, affinity, and gender implicit biases.

Racial Bias

You may think it’s standard but using coded language in your job description such as “professionally groomed hair” or “native English speaker” can discourage diverse talent from completing an application with your organization. Why? Because though they may meet every other qualification, it may be difficult for them to comply with this unnecessary requirement due to their race.

Instead of….                                       Try this….

Professionally groomed hair          Business casual appearance

Native English speaker                    English-language proficiency

Ninja/Master at X                             Well-versed with X

 

Religious Bias

Similar to racial bias, religious bias can occur for candidates who identify with a religion outside of what is most common in a community. Language that aligns with just one religious group or unknowingly eliminates members of another should be avoided.

Instead of….                                       Try this….

Clean-shaven                                     Professional appearance

Cultural fit                                          Aligned values

 

Age Bias

Though it is illegal to discriminate against applicants who are 40 years or older under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), that doesn’t necessarily stop age bias from shining through in job descriptions. Age bias is a form of unconscious bias in which a hiring manager may gravitate away from a particular candidate based upon stereotypes around a person’s age or generation. An example could include a hiring manager assuming that an older candidate may not be as competitive with a “tech-savvy” role. Is this the case? Of course not! The key is to focus on the skills of the role and not the (perceived) characteristics of the person. To do this, be sure to replace any outdated language in your descriptions that may inherently deter candidates who are outside of the “prime-age” labor force range.

Instead of….                                       Try this….

Tech-Savvy/Digital Native              Versed in X software/hardware

Seasoned                                            Minimum of X years of experience

Energetic                                           Dynamic/Determined

Recent college graduate                 Entry-level position

Grandfathered in                             Exempt from X change

 

Affinity Bias

Affinity bias is the act of hiring individuals who are just like you. That is, people of similar interests, backgrounds, and experiences. The candidates you relate to. The challenge here? If you only hire like-minded people, you only have like-minded ideas and therefore sacrifice innovation.

Affinity bias can also look a bit like socioeconomic bias. With the current state of the American workforce, we generally see societal members with affluent backgrounds holding more leadership and decision-making roles within organizations. Since affinity bias outlines that like is drawn to like, the cycle of hiring candidates with similar affluence is perpetuated – even if it’s unconscious. Therefore, if a hiring manager perceives a candidate of lower socio-economic status as different from them, they are less likely to continue in the hiring process. But more on Socio-Economic Bias later.

The solution? Be intentional by identifying the characteristics of a candidate that you relate to and then determine if those characteristics are critical to the role at hand.

Instead of….                                       Try this….

Top college/Ivy League                    Accredited four-year institution

Similar background                           Similar skillset

“It” factor                                            Ideal candidate will have X skills

 

Socio-Economic Bias

Socio-Economic Bias is frequently present in the hiring process when hiring managers make assumptions about a candidate’s ability based upon their economic status. Continuing with our explanation above, by eliminating verbiage that clearly guides the applicant pool to reflect to certain socioeconomic status will innately improve the inclusivity of your hiring process. Check out examples below that may be contributing to this bias.

Instead of….                                       Try this….

Reliable transportation                   Ability to travel to and from work site

Articulate/well-spoken                   Public speaking skills

High School Diploma                      High School Diploma/GED

Must provide own computer         Equipment provided to hire

 

Ability Bias

Ability bias is our tendency to gravitate away from candidates who require reasonable accommodations due to a disability. This bias circulates around society treating individuals without disabilities as the norm, and therefore those with a disability are abnormal.. Beyond just encouraging equal opportunity employment within your organization, it’s important to remove exclusionary language from your job descriptions that may allude to being an unaccommodating employer and ensure that all qualified candidates are empowered to apply.

Instead of….                                       Try this….

Must be able to lift/carry 50lbs     Must be able to move 50lbs

Talks to customers                           Communicates with customers

Able-bodied individual                   Nothing – do not use

Strong                                                 Reliable

Level-headed, even-tempered       Pragmatic

Gender Bias

Gender bias is based upon how an individual is treated based solely on their perceived gender orientation. Though it may not be intentional, employers can infuse gender-coded language into a job description based upon the gender identity that they feel is a ‘fit’ for that role, which will result in any other gender identities being less likely to apply.

In addition to avoiding gender-specific pronouns, an organization can ensure job descriptions are gender-inclusive by swapping out gender-coded language and jargon that is typically associated with a specific identity. Below are some examples of this.

Instead of….                                       Try this….                              

Salesmen                                             Sales Representative

Must wear slacks                               Business casual dress code

Assertive/Aggressive                        Intentional/Purposeful

Powerhouse/Hustler                        Highly effective

Team player                                       Teammate


We’ve walked you through a quick look at some of the most prevalent biases that are commonly seen in the job description and hiring process, but these aren’t all of the biases that affect us day in and day out. In fact, there are 188 cognitive biases that impact our judgments and can skew our decisions – all of which we’re unaware of!

The first step is to understand that everyone is impacted by this and the second step is to proactively counteract our own instincts in order to create a more equitable and inclusive hiring experience for everyone else. Why is this important? Because you may just be unconsciously deterring the best candidate you may ever find. Anything less than intentional inclusion is inherent exclusion.

We’ll dive a little deeper into equity in the workplace, the Talent Partnership, and more through a series of blogs. If workforce development sparks your interest and you’d like to learn more, don’t forget to follow along! Have specific questions? Reach out to Taylor Davis, Director of the Wichita Falls Talent Partnership & Military Liaison at taylor@wichitafallschamber.com. 

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