Have you been feeling that some position you are hiring for is returning a low amount of interest? Are you noticing a lot of promising talent shying away from applying? You may not even know how many people have perused your ad before they decided to move on, but you may have an inkling that the response rate is much smaller than the talent pool for your industry.

Whether that’s the case, or whether you’re just setting out to create a new job ad, we have some helpful tips to guide you on creating strong compelling calls-to-action for prospective employees.

Many things can make your ad seem biased or drive potential workers away. You need to make sure that not only is the position itself attractive, but the language you use to invite applicants is as well. Many subtle choices in verbiage can raise flags for jobseekers, so it is critical to understand how a bias can be misconstrued to avoid appearing unwelcome to certain demographics. Otherwise, you risk losing out on having the widest possible of options, narrowing your chance at getting that perfect person for the job.

Stick To The Facts

Your ad should never promise more than you can reasonably deliver. The consequences of being unable to follow through will always be far worse than any advantage over-promising might provide in the hiring process.

Broad, sweeping statements such as “we have the best benefits”, or “we pay the highest wages in the industry” should be avoided at all costs. There are two main reasons for this:

First, that you could be liable in the case of discrimination claims, fraud, implied contract and specific provincial law claims. These can arise either because you supposedly enticed someone to leave their previous job with promises you cannot deliver on, or because your language supposedly implies a hidden agenda when it comes to hiring someone from a certain demographic, such as excluding parties of a certain age, gender, religion, or race.

Secondly, your choice to embellish your job offering can have a negative psychological effect on readers. They begin to see your ad as too-good-to-be-true. Doubt about seemingly undeliverable items will cast a shadow over even the things you can reasonably provide.

All in all, it is best not to make ANY promises if you can avoid it. Lay out the job details and explain any points that are open to negotiation, such as salary. Otherwise, stick to the facts.

Avoid Targeted Language

Neutrality is your friend when it comes to posting a job ad.

You may not recognize initially that your word choice can already begin to say things about your job offer that are only implicit. Targeted words single out demographics and exclude others, by nature.

Todd Wulffson, Orange County managing partner at Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP, points out that words like “fresh” or “energetic” can be code for young. Words like “strong” or “sports-minded” can be code for male; and “strong English-language skills” can be code for no foreign employees desired. 

You should keep your disclosure of requirements neutral and related strictly to the professional standards your position calls for. Examples of appropriate requirements include: “Bachelor’s degree required,” “5 years’ experience minimum,” or “must have strong communication skills.”

Consider Listing Through An Agency Or Job Posting Service

If you are feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about implied bias or potential legal concerns with your job ad, there are many resources designed to help you raise awareness and attract talent while helping you mitigate the risks.

An agency like ReStart can help you decipher the best description of your position and unglue the requirements from biased language. Not only that, but they can connect you directly to motivated jobseekers based on criteria such as qualifications, licensing, and desired industry; key points to ensuring satisfaction for both you and the employee, without the need to worry about navigating potential pitfalls from unnecessary misunderstandings.

Gender Neutral Terms Matter

This should go without saying, as you would never want your ad to make you appear sexist in your hiring practices. 

However, the way to implement gender neutrality in your phrasing is not always intuitive. Most people simply use both binary terms, for example: “Every candidate will be judged on his/her merit”. Not only does this read less naturally, but there is a much simpler and involving way to approach your terminology.

Using the second-person not only removes gender from the equation, but also allows for the jobseeker to feel as though they are engaging with you directly, creating a basic but important connection for keeping their attention and interest. You could try rephrasing the previous example to something like: “As a candidate, you will be judged on your merit.”

Alternatively, plural/third-person conjugation is acceptable as well, though perhaps less engaging. The example, in this case, might look something like this: “Every candidate will be judged on their merit”.

Both options surpass the issues raised by gendering your job ad at all.

Take Your Time

You may need that vacant position filled yesterday, but you can save yourself a lot of potential trouble and time down the road if you just take the time now to get your ad in order. Slow and steady wins the race, so to speak.

You should get extra eyes to review and help edit your ad material. This could include your HR, legal counsel, other managers, etc. Obviously, passing around the material will prolong your ad placement, but not without good reason.

Rushing things also tends to make you feel you need to embellish the ad with lots of bells and whistles, which, as we reviewed earlier, is bad practice. Your company should already have a brand and identity that any potential applicant can study on their own. So don’t think of the ad as marketing for your business, more of an awareness piece about your job opportunity.

As such, keep things brief, succinct, and simple. Include a link to your website where people can examine your already approved material.

Todd Wulffson, who we quoted previously, says “There are potentially hundreds of people waiting to dissect every word you say in a job ad to determine whether your company can or should be sued for the perhaps biased language you included”.

Whether intentional or not, you can be held up to any double standard which your ad projects. You also miss out on good candidates when you cast too small a net. Taking time to review your ad in context with the advice mentioned here is critical to ensuring you protect your company, and keep building your team with the best of the best.