Language in job adverts could be costing employers talent

Research finds that businesses are still not considering how the words they use can affect the diversity of applicants

The language employers use in job advertisements could be dissuading a more diverse range of candidates from applying, new research has suggested, as experts urge businesses to think more carefully about the words they use.

A survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of LinkedIn found that half (52 per cent) of UK women would be put off applying for a job if the workplace was described as ‘aggressive’, compared to just 32 per cent of men. 

Similarly, 24 per cent of women surveyed said they would be put off by the term ‘born leader’ being used in a job advert, compared to just 17 per cent of men.

The poll also highlighted differences in the way men and women responded to the benefits highlighted in job adverts and during interviews. While salary came out as the top concern for both men and women, women ranked some additional benefits higher than men.

Nearly two-thirds of women (61 per cent) put annual leave as a top priority, just 48 per cent of men did the same. Similarly, 54 per cent of women listed flexible working as a top priority, compared to 47 per cent 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 per cent) employers never consider gender when writing job adverts, and 44 per cent do not track or measure the gender of those registering interest in job postings.

“Getting the wording of an advert right can be key for attracting the right candidate,” said Rosie Campbell, professor of politics and director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King's College London, who worked with LinkedIn on the study.

“Getting the wording of an advert right can be key for attracting the right candidate. Previous experiments have demonstrated that the use of certain types of masculine coded language reduces the likelihood that women will respond to advertisements,” she said.

Campbell added that while the use of gender-skewed language has appeared to have decreased over time, it still became more common as the seniority of positions advertised increased.

Janine Chamberlin, director of talent Solutions at LinkedIn, said: “With unemployment at its lowest level for decades - talent professionals need to be deliberate with the words they are using in job adverts, interviews, social media and in the workplace itself if they wish to attract, build and retain diverse teams.”