The language used during the hiring process has a greater effect than most people realize. Companies that have a workforce with a balance of male and female employees have a number of advantages. These companies tend to have more creativity and productivity. It also creates a culture that cultivates inclusiveness, teamwork, and a sense of belonging.
Language Is Important in Job Descriptions
The importance of language starts with the job description. Many job descriptions include language that can alienate entire groups of people. For example, the words used in job descriptions affect the percentage of men vs. women who apply for a position. Words like “aggressive” and “competitive” often deter women from submitting applications, while words like “collaboration” and “cooperative” often appeal to women more than men. Yet, gender-neutral language isn’t the norm.
How Language Matters During the Interview Phase
Language is also important during the interview phase. People differ in how they want to be perceived by hiring managers. Surprisingly, the top three descriptors are the same regardless of gender. The three most common descriptions used by candidates to describe themselves in interviews are “hard-working,” “good at my job,” and “confident.” The story changes after we move past the top three. Women also overwhelmingly want to be viewed as “competent,” “smart,” and “qualified.” They also want to be seen as likable and supportive.
Meanwhile, both men and women want to be associated with soft skills and understand that hiring managers often prioritize soft skills over hard skills. Both men and women also want to be seen as ambitious and powerful. Yet, the media uses words like “powerful” and “ambitious” to describe men far more than they use them to describe women. This negatively affects how empowered women feel in the workplace.
Language Impacts Benefits
Men and women share the same priorities when it comes to benefits: salary, flexible work hours, annual leave, and medical coverage, with salary being number one. Women, however, tend to seek out positions with flexible work hours and remote working opportunities more actively than men do. If your company’s culture doesn’t emphasize flexibility, you will likely alienate many female candidates.
Most companies want a gender-balanced workforce because they understand that increased diversity creates a stronger, more effective company culture. Yet, many companies struggle to attain this goal. One of the first steps a company can take to resolve this issue is to rethink their use of language. The fact is language matters at every level of the hiring process. If you use words without thinking of the implications, you may accidentally be discouraging great candidates from applying to work at your company. The key is to understand what candidates are looking for and go out of your way to make your language more neutral.