5 Tips for Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions

by Danielle Gauthier

Posted September 16, 2020

The benefits of creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace culture are undeniable – and many. As we mentioned in our recent blog post on how nonprofits can achieve DEI success, companies with greater diversity in their staff and management teams out-perform those that don’t, achieve higher levels of profitability, and are more likely to have superior value creation (McKinsey).

But how do you attract a diverse candidate pool? Inclusive job descriptions are key. A job description does more than describe the open position; it’s an opportunity to communicate your organization’s values and culture, and how all candidates can thrive and succeed as part of your team. Consider these tips:

Highlight your organization’s commitment to DEI

Consider including a designated paragraph or section to highlight any information that displays your organization’s commitment to DEI. For instance, perhaps you have a mentorship program for people of color, an internal DEI committee, annual unconscious bias trainings, etc. Naming these initiatives helps candidates truly understand the depth and sincerity of your commitment. Consider, also, including an equal opportunity statement that is thorough, clear, and ideally, written in your own words.

Name any inclusive benefits offered

Benefits such as paid parental leave, flexible work arrangements, childcare subsidies, etc., play an important role in fostering diversity and inclusion. Including these benefits in the job description means candidates will understand your commitment to inclusion from the very start. See below for an example of how our company highlights our benefits to candidates.


Only list “must haves”

Rethinking—and simplifying—your candidate criteria is key to attracting a larger and diverse pool of candidates. Spend time thinking about candidates’ “must haves” vs. “nice to haves,” with inclusion in mind. A lengthy and specific list of requirements can discourage potential candidates from applying, especially those who possess transferrable skills, but may lack direct experience. Furthermore, truly sticking to only the “must haves” helps convey that you welcome candidates who possess the required skills but are still growing and learning. See our recent blog “Why DEI Success Doesn’t Start With The Hiring Process” for additional tips on creating your candidate criteria.

Avoid gender-specific pronouns

This is a simple—but effective—change you can make to your job descriptions: use ‘they’ instead of ‘he or she’ or ‘s/he’ to be more gender inclusive. ZipRecruiter found that gender-neutral job descriptions received 42% more applications on average. 

Swap out jargon and gender-coded language 

While many of the words below may seem innocuous, studies have shown that certain words can encourage male applicants and discourage women, minorities, and older candidates. Consider swapping out the words below for any of the more neutral alternatives provided by OnGig:

  • strong – sound, steady, excellent, solid
  • drive – energy, inspiration, guide, steer, push, run, deliver, energize, inspire
  • lead – head, top person, manager, run, head up, manage, steer, grow, pioneer
  • analysis – investigation, study, test, testing, research, data
  • analytical – systematic, thorough, thoughtful, deductive, statistical, data
  • driving – motivating, energizing, inspiring, guiding, steering, pushing, running, delivering
  • individuals – people
  • proven – established, known, demonstrated, reliable, successful, trusted, tested
  • workforce – teams, workers, members
  • decisions – choices, conclusions, judgments, moves, outcomes, steps, actions

Development Guild DDI recognizes that diverse voices, perspectives, and experiences are required for the greatest impact, and we are committed to supporting and strengthening DEI industry-wide—through our work as nonprofit consultants—and internally as a firm. Learn more.


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