21 Jun 2018

Hostile Job Adverts

I saw an article on BBC online recently.  Very topical.  'Why do some job adverts put women of applying'.  I actually thought I'd mistakenly logged into the Daily Mail online....but of course I hadn't.  So I continued reading.

Essentially the article was highlighting that words do matter.  That there are lots of unconscious biases out there.  Apparently when reading job adverts, the word 'manage' is more attractive to men than women.  And that if a woman reads the words 'coding ninja' she will assume that the business is a hostile working environment for a woman.  Similarly, the word stakeholder is a problem word (for me)...  It's a personal favourite, particularly in writing job adverts for Digital Project Managers - context - 'being able to manage multiple stakeholders'.  Apparently the word stakeholder serves as a signal to people of colour that their contributions may not be valued.  Eh? That's what the data says

The article had an interview with an 'augmented writing software' business.   They review job adverts and highlight any wording that might have a masculine/feminine bias and then adapt it and suggest alternatives. Heck,  I thought, are they not reading too much into it?  I tap out job adverts within minutes.  I treat writing job adverts as part of the job, if I thought too carefully about it, I'd never get anything done.

So I wanted to make a couple of points on the blog.

1.  Don't read too much into a job advert.   From my perspective (a recruiter), it's a tool that I use to attract candidates to a role.  I only ever advertise real jobs. I don't use fake adverts to attract people to non existent positions. Why would I?  The respect I get from my candidates is through having relevant and real positions for them.  I use the advert to get across the salient points on the role.  Job title, location, core requirements and a bit about the business environment.  I don't write chapter and verse - that's the function of a job description.  I write enough to give the job hunter enough to whet their appetite or to find out more about it.

2.  I don't consider a response to a job advert to be an application.  Now some recruitment cowboys are different so you need to exhibit caution here.  However, for me, the next step is to talk the candidate through the role, the requirements, to give them the name of the employer, the job description.  This is where we review the working environment and try to ascertain if the fit is right.  This is the bit where I earn my money.  I'm working for the client to ensure I get the right individuals in front of them and I'm working for the job hunter to make sure it's not a 'hostile' environment.  I wouldn't make any assumptions on that from a job description!  

3.  The upshot here is to keep an open mind about any job until you have more information.  Most job adverts are written by time poor recruiters or HR Managers.  They'll be like me, tapping out the essentials without relying on software to tell them if they're attracting the right people.  I'm pretty old school when it comes to recruitment. It is truly all about the person, and that's all about chemistry and personality and that requires communication - not software.

4.  The software is extrapolated by a couple of other businesses to extend to job descriptions.  It all sounds very complicated - rewriting job descriptions to the nth degree.  I don't disagree that getting recruitment right is essential to business productivity and efficiency. Getting the right people to do the right jobs is hugely important.  However, in my experience, the best job descriptions and role profiles are the simple ones that state the role and responsibilities clearly.  It doesn't need to be complex.  

Anyway, I've tried not to rant.  I'm afraid I do use words like manage, competitive, commercial and stakeholder in writing adverts.  My feelings on this topic are similar to my feelings on personality profiles and psychometric testing.  But that's another blog and I fear I may not be able to avoid a rant there!

Happy Job Hunting and don't over-think it. If the job looks interesting, give the recruiter a call.