Job Adverts – Why Does Wording Matter?

Job Advert Wording
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Could certain words in your job adverts be preventing people from applying for your vacancy? We consider what to look out for when writing a job advert to ensure you’re attracting a wide and diverse range of applicants.

Considering Word Choice

The Phoenix Group, which owns Standard Life, is reported to have dropped the word ‘energetic’ from its job adverts because it was concerned that it may put off older people from applying. It is also apparently planning to replace the word ‘innovative’ and replace it with ‘contributing new ideas’ or ‘problem solving’.

Why Has It Made That Decision?

There are two reasons, both related to the pandemic. The first is that there are a substantial number of employers seeking to fill vacancies, the number of job vacancies is currently at a record high as employers are trying to keep up with increased demand as the economy re-opens.

The other reason is explained by Phoenix Group chief executive Andy Briggs, who is the Government’s ‘business champion’ for older workers. He warned in February 2021 that older workers had been disproportionately hit by the pandemic. It was felt that words such as ‘innovative’ may put off older applicants.

What About The Effect on the Gender of Applicants?

A survey conducted in 2019 on behalf of LinkedIn found that 52% of UK women would be put off applying for a job if the workplace was described as ‘aggressive’, compared to just 32% of men. 24% of women surveyed also said they would be put off by the term ‘born leader’ being used in a job advert, compared to just 17% of men.

Despite this, the survey, which polled 1,008 employees and more than 250 hiring managers in the UK, found that two in five (40%) employers never considered gender when writing job adverts, and 44% do not track or measure the gender of those registering interest in job postings.

What Do Your Job Adverts Say?

Reflect very carefully on the wording in your job adverts. You need to be deliberate with the words you are using in job adverts, interviews, social media and in the workplace itself if you wish to attract, build and retain a diverse team.

You could consider testing the job advert wording you propose to use on a range of current staff as a focus group. Also consider whether you are just using your job advert wording because you have used it previously – is that a good enough reason?  

It’s also worth getting help from outside your organisation. We have recently run some very well received training courses on recruitment which cover, amongst other things, unconscious bias. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss that training with us, or how else we can assist you.  

If you would like to discuss any way that we can help you with any questions you have about recruitment, please contact Sarah Martin in our team on 07799 136091.