Job Postings, Company Reputation, & Marketing

Even before someone applies for a job with your company, they may have already formed an impression of it based on opinions from people in their networks; your advertising, marketing, and communications; interactions with current or former employees; stories they've seen in the news; etc. The list goes on.

How they view your company and whether they believe they could succeed within it will significantly influence their decision to apply at all. It will also affect their confidence and motivation throughout the application process.

In short, your ability to attract diverse talents starts even before you begin recruiting. Additionally, your career website pages, job descriptions, and application communications play a huge role in forming first impressions.

Facts and Data

  • Company websites, especially career sections often depict homogenous cultures. In tech, for example, they show images of young (often white or Asian) men, and office spaces marked by ping pong tables and alcohol. Even among companies that provide great healthcare, parental leave, or childcare options, those benefits are often not mentioned [Paradigm]
  • Women are turned off by masculine job postings; men don't care either way. ZipRecruiter studied their own data and found that postings with gender-neutral wording received 42% more responses than either feminine or masculine postings. And yet 70% of listings across all job categories contain masculine words. In particular, business, finance, healthcare and insurance all showed a strong inclination towards masculine action words [Zip Recruiter]. Researchers in Germany found basically the same thing: if the ads contained words like “aggressive,” “independent,” “assertive,” “determined,” and “analytical,” women found the job unappealing whereas men were unfazed by feminine or neutral wording [Time]
  • Women are more likely to take job descriptions as requirements. A commonly cited fact is that "women apply for jobs only when they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men apply when they meet 60% of them". One researcher did a follow-up poll of 1,000+ professionals (men and women) to better understand this statistic. She found that it wasn't that women didn't think they could do the job well (only 10% of women and 12% of men named this as a reason for not applying to a job), but rather that women were (A) almost twice as likely not to apply because they were following guidelines about who should apply and (B) that women were three-quarters more likely to not apply from fear of failure [HBR]

Men and women have different reasons when NOT applying to jobs  [HBR]


Telstra, the Australian telecommunications provider, recently developed a female talent strategy that includes a newly launched website featuring real role models, pertinent advice for career-oriented women, and targeted recruiting messaging for this audience (for example, highlighting a proactive approach to gender pay equity). The communications provider has seen a double-digit increase in the number of job applications from women [BCG]

Gender-neutral job listings do the best [Zip Recruiter]

Take Action

  • Use gender neutral language, avoid extremely masculine words, balance feminine and masculine words. Avoid extremely masculine words altogether (“ninja,” “rockstar,” “IT wizard”). Change or balance typically masculine words ( “aggressive,” “independent,” “assertive,” “determined,” and “analytical”) with more feminine ones like “responsible,” “dedicated,” “sociable,” and “conscientious”. This has been found to increase female applicants without causing a significant reduction in male applications. [Time] [BCG] [Paradigm]. Use a service like textio that can help you do this
  • Have job postings only contain the truly required skills. Because underrepresented candidates can tend to see job duties as absolute requirements when others see those duties as malleable, only include the essentials. Additionally, elitist language (e.g., “Expert skills” or “Top university” required) and vague descriptions (e.g., “Good product sense and intuition,” “Entrepreneurial experience”) can easily dissuade otherwise-qualified candidates who just aren't familiar with that type of language [Paradigm]
  • Review and improve career sites. Companies should review their career sites and make updates to depict a culture that is inclusive and welcoming to all employees. Including photos of employees from different backgrounds, highlighting inclusive perks and benefits, and explicitly referencing that the company values a diverse, inclusive culture are all best practices [Paradigm]
  • Educate employees on how to talk about diversity and why it’s important to the company. Because candidates’ first impressions about a company often arise through interactions with current employees, having a workforce that understands and is able to talk about diversity is important [Paradigm]
  • Ensure that company spokespeople represent a diverse workforce. A company’s overall reputation, and specifically the external perception about how people from underrepresented backgrounds fare at the company, can be a significant factor in attracting diverse applicants. Have diverse company representatives speak on panels, talk about products, etc. If you don't, it sends a subtle message to members of underrepresented groups that they do not belong in the company, and that they are unable to be successful there [Paradigm]