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Tips for Creating Inclusive Job Listings — From an Executive Recruiter

The COVID-19 pandemic cost the U.S. an estimated 22 million jobs, but recovery appears on the horizon. As job boards once again begin to flood with listings and eager jobseekers, it’s important for companies to create job ads that not only stand out but also avoid subtle mistakes that could alienate diverse talent.

Stephanie Womack

Stephanie Womack, executive recruiter at The Hershey Company (No 21 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020), offered DiversityInc Best Practices advice on crafting job listings and descriptions that will attract a diverse — and qualified — pool of candidates.

Avoid subconsciously exclusive words.

Terms like “guru,” “ninja,” “dominant” or even “rockstar” may be well-intentioned attempts to add excitement to a job ad and describe the ideal, highly skilled candidate. However, these terms actually carry unintentional gendered and possibly negative associations. Womack said certain words traditionally conflated with masculinity can make it hard for jobseekers who don’t identify with those terms to see themselves in the position.

This kind of wording can also come with other connotations that don’t always align with the company’s mission or that particular position— and might turn people off. Words like “ninja” are more connotated with someone of physical prowess than marketing or computer programming skills. Do you really mean to say your ideal candidate has a “high IQ,” or can they simply be a creative thinker with a desire to learn?

“You don’t want to be limiting in what you’re trying to convey,” Womack advised.

There are a number of different online tools that can help you comb through your job listings for gender-coded and other subtly biased words, but overall, it is best to play it straight and thoroughly explain the position rather than relying on snappy and irrelevant terminology.

Use words that reflect your company’s culture.

Avoid internal jargon that could trip up or intimidate candidates — but do use words that reflect your company’s true culture. While jobseekers are working to prove they are worth hiring, your company should be working to prove it’s worth working at.

For example, Womack said, The Hershey Company’s purpose is simple: to make more moments of goodness  She said the Hershey culture is purpose-driven and it’s permeated every department across the business and it attracts the kind of people not just for the job but those who are focused on being part of something bigger.

“We want to make more moments of goodness. It’s those small, special moments that can be cherished for generations,” she said.

So, when she is recruiting to fill positions, Womack always makes sure job candidates know that Hershey is about more than making candy. It’s the moments of goodness we make for consumers and our values of togetherness, integrity, excellence and making a difference that motivates our employees.

Internally, Womack explained the company also works to meet that goal. Leaders work to create a close-knit collaborative environment where people can be authentically themselves. Throughout the pandemic, the company used the hashtag #StrongerTogether to convey its team-oriented environment on social media. Hershey also recently introduced a refreshed inclusion strategy reminding employees that inclusion is #InAllOfUs.

“We believe in being authentic and real and we’re also a very data-driven organization,” she said. “Those are some of the cultural attributes that we try to convey.” Making people feel they can contribute to society and do good while also succeeding at their jobs allows each person to bring their full selves to work and create connections with people.

Utilize partnerships.

Where you disseminate job listings is just as important as the description and keywords in your actual  listings. Womack said at Hershey,  we partner with numerous diverse organizations to showcase our opportunities.  The organization has long-standing relationships with Thurgood Marshall College Fund, historically Black colleges and institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions, the National Black MBA Association and the Association of Hispanic Professionals – Prospanica, among others.

The reason for the added outreach is clear: organizations that uplift the academic and professional achievements of underrepresented communities have connections to talented individuals.. Before COVID-19, Womack said Hershey even took those efforts one step farther, frequently sending out representatives to conferences where the company could then recruit from these diverse networks. During the pandemic, Hershey has been participating in virtual recruiting events.

Hire for a “culture-add” — not a “culture fit.”

If you’re hiring for a cultural fit, you’ll simply be hiring someone who is already similar to the rest of your team. You could be missing out on candidates who will offer new perspectives and experiences you have not already considered. Leave the clichéd term “cultural fit” out of your job listings.

Womack said companies should instead focus on looking for people who will add to the culture of the team, not simply blend in.

“What unique things can this person bring to our organization, that are going to be insightful, creative, and add value, to help us continue growing our business and do good by helping others?” Womack said.

Ultimately, Womack said Hershey is looking for lifelong learners who the company can attract and retain, a message it works to convey in its job listings.

“We’re not just hiring for that current opening,” she said. “We’re looking for talent that can be cultivated and grown within the organization for a meaningful, successful career.

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