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What’s a coded job listing?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2022 | Human Resources Consulting |

These days, most companies recognize the value of an inclusive workforce – but many companies still don’t realize that their job postings use unintentionally “coded” language that discourages really good candidates from applying.

Worse still, even accidentally biased wording in a job listing can expose your company to claims of discrimination against older workers, immigrants, people of color, women and other protected classes.

How do you avoid coded job descriptions?

Basically, you have to think in terms of what sort of imagery you’re creating in your job descriptions and aim for neutral language that’s all-inclusive. That means:

  • Swap out language like “native English speaker” with “fluent in English” to avoid discouraging immigrants from applying simply because they have an accent.
  • Avoid wording like “work hard, play hard” when describing the company culture, which can indicate that the company is unfriendly to women, married people and parents.
  • Look for wording that could be interpreted as leaning toward either male or female job candidates. Terms like “compassionate and kind” are typically associated with women, while “aggressive go-getters” are typically seen as male.
  • Excise wording that could be interpreted as biased against people of color or certain religions. Phrases like “tidy hair and professional dress only” could be seen as code for “no natural hairstyles” and “no hijabs.”
  • Use gender-neutral job descriptions, like “chairperson” instead of “chairman” or “operations specialist” not “operations guru.”

It isn’t always easy to get your job listings right – and many companies struggle to keep pace with the rapidly changing cultural shifts and sensitivities that have to be acknowledged in the modern workplace. A proactive approach and appropriate legal guidance can help you minimize the chances of discrimination lawsuits in the future.