Jul 02 2021

Language Matters: The Science Behind Inclusive Job Ads and Why it's Crucial for Business Growth

“It is not only demonstrated through increasing revenues, but also backed by psychological principles stating that buyers behaviour is influenced by their empathetic response - whether a person empathizes with, or feels close to, a brand. ”

by  Hayley Bakker, CPO & Co-Founder, Diversely.io.

Globally, advertising expenditure has sky-rocketed and Asia Pacific is no exception at a total spend of almost USD 200 billion last year. Companies are heavily investing both time and money into SEO and ad words, 95% of Google’s revenue comes from this source.

Why are companies spending this kind of money on advertising? Because they believe their content if formulated correctly, can and will persuade target customers to buy.

It is not only demonstrated through increasing revenues, but also backed by psychological principles stating that buyers behaviour is influenced by their empathetic response - whether a person empathizes with, or feels close to, a brand. Let’s take a look at Nike’s ‘Just do it’ tagline and campaign. One of the 1988 campaign’s objectives was to target all Americans – regardless of age, gender, or physical fitness level. The success of ‘Just do it is often attributed to its tagline being ‘universal and intensely personal’ as opposed to many of its competitors at the time.

The current talent crunch in many major hubs, as well as Korn Ferry’s workforce projection, show a significant problem on the horizon: 85 million jobs globally will go unfilled by 2030. Isn’t it therefore time, right now, for companies to start rethinking hiring strategies and (rewriting) job descriptions to attract and appeal to a broader talent pool?

Hiring Competitive Edge

  • Untapped Talent

Companies are beginning to revisit their hiring strategies and considering new ways to broaden their talent pool, either through increased exposure within their current target groups (incl. referrals) or by tapping into entirely new talent groups. Some of the greatest untapped talent pools include women, returnships, experience (40+), people with disabilities, and immigrants. So why are these groups remaining untapped in certain industries?

  • Words Matter

Research shows that the words people use do reveal a lot about their social and psychological state. It even reveals differences in the way ethnic groups or men and women use everyday language. Women, for example, use a more communal style of speech than men and make more references to social and emotional words. Ample evidence suggests that belongingness — feeling that one fits in with others within a particular domain — affects people’s engagement within a domain.

  • Appealing Job Description

A review of a random sample of job descriptions shows that male and female themed words are differentially present in job ads that are typically associated with and attracting men versus women. Diversely.io is a unique tool that helps managers and recruiters to not only identify [gendered, racial, age] themed words in their job descriptions but more importantly suggests an alternative, more inclusive language. Why?

Well-balanced and carefully worded job descriptions that appeal to a broader talent pool – or in some cases a different, more specific, talent group – will attract more (suitable) applicants and increase companies’ competitive edge when it comes to hiring.

"Work hard, play hard” instead of “Work smart, play more”

“Inviting English native speakers” instead of “Inviting fluent English speakers”

“He/ she will work directly with…” instead “You will work directly with"

  • Our Training Models

At Diversely.io, we train and ‘feed’ our machine learning models with labelled and tagged job description data from our research partner Nottingham University’s Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics. University researchers have used existing scientific findings on the relationships (correlation) between phrases and demographics to analyze and tag bias (or coded) language.

  • Appeal and Structure Score

Every job description is scored based on its appeal and structure. Diversely’s appeal score ranges from 0 to 100, where a score of 100 reveals no bias and therefore a highly inclusive job description and a score of 0 reveals highly biased language across the entire text. Below the scoring, our analyzer will show you the diverse areas in which your job description text is demonstrating bias, across gender, age, and social background.

How Does It Work?

  • Bias Coded Phrases

Our ‘Diversely Job Description Analyser’ identifies and highlights bias, also known as coded phrases, in job description texts. Bias in layman terms it is the inclination or tendency to lean in a certain direction towards a certain thing. Bias is not by definition negative and in this context simply suggests that a job description might lean towards, or has the tendency to appeal more to, a certain demographic.

  • How to use Appeal and Bias to Achieve your Goals?

1. Seeking to attract broader talent to your organisation? Go for an overall high appeal score

2. Are women under-represented in your organisation? It’s fine to have a lower appeal score, as long as your bias phrases are feminine

3. Is your organisation and talent pool usually very young? Again, it’s fine to have a lower appeal score, as long your bias phrases are mature/ experienced

Your Next Hire

To win in the highly competitive talent market of the (near) future, companies and hiring managers will need to understand their current workforce and gaps, identify broader and untapped talent pools and update their approach and language to appeal to and attract more diverse talent. These are great first steps, but to truly become competitive, employers need to go a lot further, considering how their current teams and company culture welcome and create a sense of belonging for new employees from varying backgrounds.

Hayley Bakker is the CPO and Co-Founder of Diversely.io, a platform that uses tech to reduce bias and provide data to increase workplace diversity through hiring.

As a former consulting and finance professional, Hayley brings tech experience gained from launching her talent off-shoring start-up, Colibri Growth, to lead the product and tech elements of Diversely. Co-founding Diversely with the company’s CEO Helen McGuire in April 2020, she is following a long-held passion to find a sustainable solution to workplace inequality; an area she has a demonstrated history with as MD of Girls In Tech in Singapore from 2018 to 2020.

With a vision for the company to reduce workplace bias for all those from under-represented groups by creating a scalable, global solution through the use of AI-driven tech, Diversely successfully completed its pre-seed round in November of 2020 and has a ten-strong team working to deliver online solutions for its clients globally. With Hayley’s finance, tech and product background, she is a fierce advocate for under-represented groups in this space and continues to host, speak at and join events globally on the topics of diversity, equality and inclusion in tech.

Hayley has an academic background in engineering and finance and began her career at an international bank in Hong Kong. Another five years spent in consulting - in M&A and business transformation - in Amsterdam and Singapore, led her back into banking, working with business, product and tech to make Standard Chartered Bank globally more client-centric, cost-efficient and a better place to work. Concurrently, she picked up new core skills including human-centred design, agile methodologies and UX/UI design.

Hayley is a polymath with a passion for globe-trotting, splitting her time between Amsterdam and Singapore where she lives with her partner and key supporter in life, Jeroen. She is an accomplished athlete, enjoying everything from a casual jog to ultra-marathons and loves reading - especially with her book club - and exploring new places. She thrives on meeting new people and sharing ideas. LinkedIn


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