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Want More Job Applicants? Use Gender-Neutral Wording

Want More Job Applicants? Use Gender-Neutral Wording
Credit: Tashatuvango/Shutterstock

If you want to attract more job candidates, try making the language in your job listings gender-neutral.

A study from the job search website ZipRecruiter discovered that removing gender-biased words from job descriptions increased the number of applicants by 42 percent.

According to research from the American Psychological Association, words such as "support," "affectionate" and "understand" are examples of feminine wording, while words such as "leader," "aggressive" and "ambitious" are considered masculine.

The ZipRecruiter study found that job listings that include gendered wording attract an average of 12 responses, whereas those without gendered wording attract an average of 17 responses.

"When companies remove gender-biased keywords, the payoff can be huge," Jeanne Anderson, senior vice president of product marketing and optimization for ZipRecruiter, wrote on the company's blog.

The research found that masculine wording is much more prominent than feminine wording in job listings. Overall, 70 percent of the job listings examined included male-biased words, the study found. [See Related Story: Writing a Great Job Description Results in Better Hires]

Previous research on gendered wording in job listings published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that this level of imbalance has the largest effect on women.

"The results of these studies demonstrate that masculine wording in job advertisements leads to less anticipated belongingness and job interest among women, which, we propose, likely perpetuates gender inequality in male-dominated fields," the study's authors wrote.

The ZipRecruiter research showed that some industries are more likely to have gendered job listings than others. Specifically, the business industry leads the pack, with 94 percent of job listings including gendered wording. The science and engineering, technology, finance and insurance industries were the other sectors with large percentages of gendered-worded job ads.

When broken down by location, South Dakota had the most male bias in job ads, and New Jersey had the most heavily female-biased ads.

To help employers, ZipRecruiter offered several examples of how to turn gender-biased phrasing into more neutral wording:

Male-biased phrasing

  • Change "we're looking for strong…" to "we're looking for exceptional…"
  • Change "who thrive in a competitive atmosphere…" to "who are motivated by goals…"
  • Change "candidates who are assertive…" to "candidates who are go-getters…"

Female-biased phrasing

  • Change "we are a community of concerned…" to "we are a team focused on…"
  • Change "have a polite and pleasant style…" to "are professional and courteous…"
  • Change "nurture and connect with customers" to "provide great customer service"

"Ultimately, ZipRecruiter's data confirms that the simple act of reframing your ad offers tremendous upside for employers — and ignoring these simple keyword fixes could be limiting the talent that's attracted to your business," Anderson wrote. "If you want to make the most out of recruiting candidates, take the extra time to edit your description and make sure you're keeping the doors wide open."

The study was based on the analysis of millions of job listings on ZipRecruiter.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.