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We’re all biased. Here’s how we ensure job adverts aren’t

  • Publish Date: Posted about 2 years ago
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Job adverts are laden with potential bias landmines. From the language used, to requirements listed, and where they are posted, attracting a truly diverse range of candidates starts with exactly how you’re advertising roles. 

I recently had a chance to speak with Kianna Briggs, Senior Talent Acquisition Business Partner at Mediabrands, and Lydia Brazil, Senior Manager Talent Acquisition US and Global Inclusive Hiring at BMG to find out how they approach job adverts to ensure they are reaching, and welcoming, a diverse talent pool.

There’s lots of conversation around bias in language, be it gendered, or biased towards a specific age group. How do you both approach the language you use in job ads? 

Kianna: I remember when I first started out in a recruitment agency, there was very little conversation around what biased language was; and to be honest we didn’t have the experience to write good job adverts! We used the word ‘rockstar’ a lot - that’s one I’d definitely avoid today

Now I take a lot of care in the language we use. ‘Fast-paced’ - does this mean it will be a difficult environment for someone with kids? ‘Family feel’ - is this another way of saying cliquey? Personally, I would much rather a company that values my personal development over whatever a ‘close-knit’ culture is. 

Lydia: There are the obvious ones like ‘digital native’ - it’s interesting because if I see words like this in ads I’ll ask managers about it - and often it’s not really what they wanted to say. I think you need to move away from fluffy buzzwords, and stick with the specifics - what does it actually mean to describe the ideal candidate as ‘enthusiastic’? People show their enthusiasm in very different ways. You have to stick with descriptions and skills that are measurable when it comes to the interview process. 

I think another big one is using lots of internal jargon and acronyms; you’re immediately creating bias against people outside of your industry - and usually it’s a really simple thing that you’re trying to explain! There’s no need to make it complex.

How do you guys address biases around education, how often are you advertising roles with a university requirement?

Kianna: Very rarely. In the past we noticed when hiring managers wrote their job adverts they would include university requirements, as the experts it was our responsibility to educate them on why to avoid this. They’re a lot more receptive now and we very rarely see this on our adverts - and we get more applicants because of it! We do sometimes see this requirement on finance or legal roles but for all our digital roles we no longer add a university requirement. 

Lydia: This is something that I’m passionate about -  we barely ever have education requirements. Unless it’s for a position where you absolutely need a qualification, then it just doesn’t need to be there.

Kianna, I know you lead on employer branding in your team - how do you make sure Mediabrands is positioned as a great place to work outside of job adverts? 

Kianna: You have to proactively highlight that everyone is welcome.At Mediabrands we have 5 different OPEN networks covering pride, women, the environment, mental health and a heritage network (which I lead). We’re really proactive in shouting about them and celebrating how amazing these networks are and the value they add to the business. We want candidates to know that Mediabrands welcomes everyone and there is a place for them in any of our ERG’s.  

Also, we have interactive culture booklets for each individual agency, they feature people with different backgrounds, and different levels of experience, explaining more about life here. Advertising can feel like its own world to the people outside, so the goal is to demystify what we do!

Another crucial element is where roles are actually posted, how are you both making sure that you’re actually reaching wider talent pools? 

Kianna: Making sure you’re posting on job boards specifically dedicated to reaching under-represented candidate pools. We’re partnered with MEFA (Media For All) - an organisation which represents ethnic minorities in the media and advertising industries. We advertise all of our jobs through there. We’ve run really great events with them too - we just had one on the role of advertising agencies during Ramadan! 

Lydia: We’re still working on developing partnerships with job boards globally but it’s definitely a focus. In the UK I worked on developing partnerships with organisations like: Black Young Professionals Network - we recently did a webinar with them on transferring your skills into a career in music, Evenbreak - we had their founder do an event with us very recently, LGBT Jobs, and more. 

Looking to read more on the key issues in people and talent? Check out the rest of our People Experience blog posts here. 

Molly West

Molly West

Community Manager, People Experience Division