TalVista FAQs

Find answers to common questions

Job Descriptions

What should I include in a job description?

Each job description should be written to encourage the broadest and most diverse talent pool to apply for the open position. The TalVista Job Description Optimizer will identify problematic terms and offer up suggestions to replace problematic terms without changing the context of the job description.

The main thing to keep in mind is: Make your content meaningful—it is critical that your job description includes only criteria that is truly important to job performance—every line you include wields a huge impact on the diversity of the individuals choosing to apply for that job.

Why shouldn’t I list more than 3 job requirements?

In an internal study at Hewlett Packard,women applied only for jobs for which they believed they met 100% of the criteria listed; while men in the study applied for the job if they believed they met 60% of the required criteria—that means while men are likely to apply when they meet most of the requirements you’ve listed, women are likely to review the required and preferred list and then only apply if they meet all of them. Listing less than ten total qualifications and three or fewer requirements is a critical job description best practice to follow.

Why shouldn’t I list “years of experience”?

As described above, women tend to apply for jobs only when they feel they meet 100% of the criteria. Imagine Mary in this real-life example: She reads your job description’s requirement for “3-5 years experience working in a service provider environment.” Only having 2.5 years experience and interpreting your requirement very literally, she hesitates to apply. Now Paul, also with just 2.5 years experience, applies for that job.

Consider also the possibility that Mary who didn’t apply had a better overall resume than Paul who you are now interviewing—all because of a slightly narrowing choice made at the job description stage. Avoiding listing years or only listing the minimum number rather than a range is a critically important job description best practice.

What do you mean when you say some terms are “inclusive” and some are “problematic”?

The Twitter-sphere generated a host of anecdotal evidence of the effect of job description language on female applicants when a Tweeter posted the question “If you’re a woman or minority in your field, what language turns you away from job descriptions?” From “rockstar” to “work hard play hard,” hundreds of replies voiced examples of off-putting gendered language that has become increasingly common in job descriptions.

In 2011, Aaron Kay from Duke University and Danielle Gaucher and Justin Friesen from University of Waterloo released a seminal study demonstrating that subtle wording differences in job descriptions can affect who applies for a given job. The researchers found that including more feminine-themed language in a job description, or minimizing masculine-themed language in a job description results in greater interest among potential female applicants.

Consider the differences between these two variations on a sentence in the same registered nurse job description:

Masculinely worded

“We are determined to deliver superior medical treatment tailored to each individual patient.”

Femininely worded

“We are committed to providing top quality health care that is sympathetic to the needs of our patients.”

The results showed that descriptions with more feminine wording were more appealing and would get more female applicants than descriptions with more masculine wording.

We know that individuals considering applying for a job are looking as much in a job description for clues about a company’s environment as they are at the role itself. For example, a woman reading a job description boasting a company’s “beer Thursdays” or “foosball competitions” may assume a company is most friendly to people from a certain type of background. Use TalVista’s getting started to create a job description that strikes a gender-neutral tone and that better conveys to your potential applicants: “We are a company that values all kinds of people”.

To expand on the list of terms that Dr. Kay published as “masculine” and “feminine”, TalVista has surveyed thousands of participants on the gender-leanings of the most commonly used terms in job descriptions on the web today. In addition, we’ve conducted surveys that have found that including growth mindset language and talking about a company’s social contribution can attract other under-represented groups including people of color.

We help you look out for these words by labeling terms “inclusive” and “problematic.” Keep in mind that when Dr. Kay’s team looked at the effect of job descriptions with an inordinate number of feminine words, men’s interest in applying for those jobs went unchanged; in other words, it is likely that you can’t add too many inclusive terms. Also, you don’t need to get rid of all uses of the problematic terms, just add inclusive terms to counterbalance them so that you achieve an overall balance of inclusive and problematic language.

Why do you suggest saying “salary negotiable”?

Research economists Andreas Leibbrandt and John List showed that a major cause of the pay gap between men and women is that women are less likely to negotiate. They uncovered in the study that when a job description mentioned “salary negotiable”, the pay gap between men and women hires closed by 45% because women became more likely to negotiate their starting salary.

How does TalVista calculate the job score?

The algorithm calculating your job’s effectiveness helps you assess how well you’ve implemented job description best practices. The score adds points for content that will attract a broader pool of applicants and subtracts points for content likely to alienate some applicants.

Positive points are earned by having inclusive language and other job description best practices for attracting more female and minority applicants; negative points are earned from problematic language, like citing “years” required too often and listing too many “requirements”.