There's a whole class of new tools designed to help you take various bias out of your job descriptions and job postings. While there are many benefits to these tools, there are some challenges.
How are your job descriptions these days? They suck, right? Well, let's start this conversation with a couple of definitions:
—Job Descriptions: These are the common everyday items that drive a bunch of stuff in your HR back office. They are a legal document, meant to establish the bonafide job qualifications you need in a role, and the basis for how you match jobs in compensation surveys. They also probably do 100 other things, but I started with what I know best.
—Job Postings: Oh! Now I remember! You also use your job descriptions in all their legal, boring state as your job postings in your recruiting process. You actually just upload these and use them in your ATS, in all of their "must be able to lift 45 pounds" glory.
It's OK to have boring job descriptions. It's not OK to have boring job postings, at least not if you want to compete for talent vs the competitors in the marketplace who are a lot like you. Job postings matter, and if you get them right, a funny things happens:
Good Job Postings in the recruiting process attract the people who can be successful in your company and the role in question.
AND NOW WE COME TO THE CATCH.
You should stop using racist and sexist and other "ist" labels in your recruiting toolbox, including your job postings. The new anti-bias tools for job postings help you do that. Hard to argue with the intent of this. Many of you have thoughts on this. That's OK, stay with me.
Let me say it plainly for the folks who want to jump on this hard: I'm for any tool that decreases direct or indirect bias. Cool? That's me. So let's dig in on the rest of what these tools do and the challenges beyond identifying racial and gender bias – because there are some.
Long before George Floyd in May/June of 2020 and the social unrest that followed, there were a variety of tools for Talent Acquisition that claim to use artificial intelligence, data analytics, and industry benchmarks to analyze potential bias in job descriptions/postings. These tools (I'm linking a broad Google search here) scan your job postings and give you suggestions to reduce the following concerns:
Gender Bias – whether the job is going to attract a disproportionate amount of male or female applicants
Racial Bias – assumptions due to name or location
Insensitive Words – opportunity limiting words
Readability – ease of consumption
Sentiment – the tone (positive, neutral, or negative)
Word Count – is your job description too long for your industry standard?
THIS JOB IS HARD, CAN I TELL THEM HOW HARD IT IS?
That's kind of the point of this post and my concerns about these tools. You can't really tell someone about the challenges of working for you, according to these tools, if you take all their suggestions that are listed above. Don't go hard in the paint related to a realistic job preview, because that's going to run afoul of the following items in the types of job posting/job description graders I described above – sentiment, insensitive vibe, the words and readability.
Kind of like ALL CAPS headers in the article you're reading.
Level of difficulty and what the applicant has to do to perform at a high level in the job is going to come across as aggressive, at times insensitive, and might run a little bit long. The job description Artificial Intelligence grader is going to HATE IT.
I'm 100% supportive of eliminating gender, racial and every other type of bias. Let's do that in our recruiting collateral. However:
WORK IS HARD. IT'S EVEN HARDER WHEN YOU'RE NOT TRUTHFUL ABOUT WHAT'S UP.
The reality is not everyone can be successful at your company, and you don't want everyone to work there.
I think you should tell the truth: Work at your company is hard. If fact, it's a bit of a freak show at times, full of chaos, moments where you don't have all the tools you need, and occasionally, creative conflict.
Job description/job posting graders that scrub your text for the items above are useful. But keep in mind they have no clue what it's like to work in your company. You'll pay the money for the insight, then their robot/text scrapers/hot word lists are on to the next client.
You? You're left to find top talent with job postings that are something akin to the flavor of an unsalted cracker.
I've worked with a lot of powerful women and talented people who aren't white. The common denominator? They all are more than capable of performing as well (or better) than me in tough environments.
The right person—regardless of gender, race or orientation—can kick a** in a tough job. Let's not pretend that they don't deserve the truth, told at times in a way that might sound aggressive or negative to the most critical eye or technology.
It's called real talk. If you're fancy, it's called differentiation.
IN CLOSING: BE WARY OF PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT TELLING THE HARD TRUTH IN A JOB POSTING IS BAD
If you listen to the experts/bots/AI layers in the area I'm covering above, they'll encourage you to serve up a flurry of careers content that's vanilla (ironic). What you really want is more flavor and color in that content than a stocked freezer at Baskin Robbins.
Don't be racist or a misogynist. Don't discriminate. Have a plan for DEI, and go get candidates who don't look, think or sound like you. Use the parts of the tools that help you check your traditional materials.
But don't be boring in your career collateral. Tell the hard truth, and the people who can do the job (across all Title VII identifiers) will be drawn to you.