Widening the net: How to write a great job ad and attract more diverse talent

By Lina Arshad

The job advert you put out can be the make or break for the type of candidates you attract to the role, so dedicating the right time, resource, and effort to writing it is crucial. Not only do you need to properly communicate all the requirements to draw in candidates fit for the job, but what some companies neglect to realize is that you also need to consider whether the job advert you’re putting out is welcoming to talent from all different backgrounds.  

The need for a diverse workforce is a particularly pressing issue for the tech industry, which was long known for being a white, male oriented field with very little opportunities for women, or people of color. And while there is definitely still an imbalance, we’re starting to see many improvements already in motion.  

And if you’re among those companies who are looking to improve their diversity efforts further, or looking for your next hire, widening the net during your recruitment search is a great opportunity to do this. And it all starts with what you write in your job ad.  

In this blog, we’ll be sharing our expert tips for writing a great job ad that will yield quality, diverse candidates.  

Why is it important to write a good job advert? 

More often than not, candidates are using job search engines, like Indeed and LinkedIn, to find roles that suit them rather than heading to specific companies to check whether they’re hiring. While the latter does sometimes happen, in many instances, your job ad will be the first time a candidate hears of your company or is able to learn a bit more about it, so it acts as a perfect opportunity to make a great first impression.  

Your job ad is the cornerstone of your hiring process, so if you’re creating it with the minimum effort and detail required, it’s not likely to stand out and get people applying. This is particularly the case given your ad will be on popular websites and platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn where there will be even more competition and pressure for you to stand out, as your ad is likely to appear next to opportunities at other businesses. The overall implications of not having a good enough job advert is that your roles could be left unfilled for far longer than you can afford them to be—especially given the industry is also battling a digital skills gap and talent shortages from the Great Resignation. It’s so important that you’re taking the necessary time to build a job ad that’ll not only grab attention, but also attract people from all different walks of life.  

With the demand for Microsoft candidates skyrocketing, and the talent shortages applying extra pressure to this demand, competition is ramping up significantly between businesses to see who will win the race for talent.  

In short, your job advert paints a picture to a candidate of what your company does, what you expect of them and what they will get in return from you, as well as outlining your company culture. So, it’s crucial that you do a good job of describing what you’re looking for and what you’re about in order to yield the maximum amount of quality candidates, rather than rushing into a decision you later regret—especially  considering Zippia estimates the average cost of a single bad hire equates to $14,900. 

What basics should your job advert include? 

If it’s your first time drafting a job advert, it’s just as important to cover the basics as it is to put the exciting stuff in there, too.  

This means that as well as all the great perks and benefits new starters will get, you need to remember to list the following: 

The job title you’re hiring for 

This should be at the top of your job advert or within the first sentence of your body content so that candidates that aren’t suitable won’t apply for a job they don’t meet the criteria for.  

The roles and responsibilities involved 

Remember that different companies have different ways of referring to what is essentially the same job role, so it’s important to pick out the key skills needed and who the successful candidate may be working alongside to paint a clearer picture of the role. 

The salary 

Although this is sometimes left to be discussed and negotiated with shortlisted candidates, recent research by Reed found that 78% of people would be put off applying to a job that didn’t explicitly show the salary—so being clear, even about the range of pay, is important to include. Plus, there are some states including California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Rhode Island that have made pay disclosure mandatory, or have some rules around it so by not doing so, you might actually be acting unlawfully. 

The location 

If you’re operating in a full-time office or hybrid work environment, it’s key that you mention where you’re based so candidates can consider travel. If you’re looking to hire a remote worker, make it clear that they can be based anywhere (whether that’s in the world, or within the country). 

The essential skills and qualifications needed for the job 

It’s important to mention whether a candidate needs to have a certain certification to qualify for the job, or whether there’s specific skills or experience with certain programs they need to do the role. Without this knowledge, it’s a guessing game for candidates as to whether they fit the bill or not. So take the opportunity to make it as clear as possible to them.  

A company introduction 

Although they’ll likely do their own research once they know what your company is called, it’s helpful for you to outline what your company does, and what you’re all about in the job advert. It’s a great opportunity for you to show a bit more personality than your company website’s About Us section might.  

Feel free to mention any initiatives you’re part of that celebrate diverse groups, or any charity work your business is linked to as this can show candidates a better insight into your values and visions than just describing the company can.  

Five tips for attracting more diverse talent with your job ad 

While you might not have ever considered job adverts as contributing to the lack of diversity in certain industries, when it comes to the things you may not have second guessed when writing them, they could be having a massive impact on who does and doesn’t apply for your job vacancies.  

Here, we’ll be sharing five of our top tips to ensure your job adverts avoid doing this and that you’re giving your diversity talent acquisition strategy the best chances of being a success.  

1. Think carefully about the language and imagery you use

When we’re set on making our job adverts as creative and standout as possible, we’re sometimes at risk of using language that can be interpreted as holding certain connotations to certain groups of people. For example, research by Textio has found that using colorful language like “looking for a tech ninja” and adjectives like “competitive” and “fast-paced” can add unintentional gendering to your job advertisement, making them appeal more to male candidates than female ones.  

And given that research from Deloitte has predicted that large global technology firms, on average, will reach just 33% female representation in their workforces by the end of 2022, there’s clearly much more we can be doing to level the playing field for all genders. 

Similarly, using “othered” language, that denotes a non-disabled or neurotypical workforce can make those who have disabilities or neurodivergent candidates feel less confident in applying. As can language that ties the candidate to a certain age group. For example, specifying that it’s a “great opportunity for a student” can put off older candidates from applying, and asking for “mature candidates” can have the same effect on younger people. 

The imagery of people that you use in your marketing materials can leave some groups feeling unwelcome and therefore, more hesitant to apply. For example, if Black men and women don’t see enough representation of other Black men and women in your company, they’re going to assume the company isn’t that serious about diversity, or rather the opportunities for people of color to succeed in your organization are limited. The same occurs when you’re only showing non-disabled people in your marketing materials. You need to be inclusive, not just at surface level, but understand the stigmas around certain groups of people and the underrepresentation they are typically faced with. 

When it comes to being loud and proud about people from all walks of life and abilities, remember that some disabilities and neurodiversity can seem hidden or be completely invisible, so being proactive and explicit about how you cater for those with invisible conditions is particularly important to ensure anyone considering applying can see themselves as part of your business. 

2. Leave out desirable experience and skills

A common theme we see across job advertisements is the presence of both essential and desirable skills, but by including these you can create some confusion as to who feels suitable or unsuitable for the role.  

Although it’s great to know if someone will have some extra skills on top of the ones that are non-negotiable for the role, leave this up to the candidate to tell you. By adding non-essential skills to your job ads, not only do you make it look more daunting and overwhelming to read, but it can easily be confused in some people’s minds as they needn’t bother applying unless they also have the desirable skills.  

In fact, research has shown us that when it comes to interpreting the requirements of a job ad, men and women often think differently—which could cause further diversity issues, and even undo some of the great work the tech industry has done so far to try make the playing field more level and less gendered. A frequently cited study published in the Harvard Business Review has long been used as evidence for women needing more confidence when applying to jobs, with the report showing that women will only apply for jobs they meet 100% of the criteria for, whereas this figure falls to 60% for men.  

But further analysis of this study found that women are more likely (15%) to report “…following the guidelines about who should apply”, compared to 8% for men. Although a bit more open to interpretation than the previous cited figure, it does seem to be indicative of how men view a job’s written requirements as more mutable factors than women do.  

Similarly, think about the implications that adding certain information can hold for certain socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, if a degree isn’t necessary for the job role, don’t include it as a desirable element. In doing this, you can put off potentially great talent that hasn’t been able to pursue higher education.  

If you’re stuck on whether to include something in the role criteria, think about whether it’s something they’ll use or need to utilize on a daily or weekly basis—if it isn’t, then it isn’t essential. And if it’s something which when absent, business could carry on as usual, then again, it isn’t essential. 

3. Be okay with challenging your decisions

We all have our own beliefs about things, and many of these are a direct product of our upbringing, or societal norms—so sometimes these can form unconscious biases where your brain has been programmed to automatically believe them or think them, without you being consciously aware that you are thinking them. But the ability and willingness to challenge your decisions can make all the difference and ensure unconscious biases don’t seep into your hiring choices.  

Although it’s starting to become less commonplace for these exact reasons, many resumes will still detail candidate names, locations, and things like their places of education which can drum up unconscious biases and perhaps make you pick one person over the other, even if they’re not necessarily the best fit for the job.  

When it boils down to the ultimate decision-making, consider why you’re picking one candidate over the other. Did they have better technical skills than the other candidate? Or are you simply basing it off which candidate went to university? Doing self-reflection and analysis of your own thoughts can be a little uncomfortable but is the key to becoming a diversity advocate and developing both personally and professionally.  

If you want extra reassurance that your own unconscious biases haven’t interfered, having other members of staff sitting in on interviews can help to ensure you have made an informed decision based on the candidate’s abilities and suitability for the position.  

This is a practice that isn’t just great for hiring managers and leaders but is something you should encourage all employees to do among themselves. Having unconscious biases is something we can’t always help, but not letting them direct the choices you make or the way you act towards people who are different from you is crucial to establishing an inclusive and diverse workforce that others will want to join. 

4. Highlight your inclusivity policy and diversity commitment

Actions speak louder than words, but it’s important that you do share the formalities you have in place to encourage and support diversity and inclusivity in your job advertisement. This doesn’t necessarily mean writing paragraphs about your policies but presents a good opportunity for you to mention any perks, benefits, or initiatives you have that go hand-in-hand with your inclusivity efforts.  

Certain groups already feel excluded enough as it is and won’t feel comfortable asking questions about certain topics if you don’t volunteer the information first. For example, you can attract working moms and dads to your ads if you mention flexible working schedules as this means they have more control over childcare hours and can work around their parental duties—as can mentioning parental leave.  

Our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22  found that the desire to work remotely was enough for 19% of Microsoft professionals surveyed to consider leaving their job for a new role. On top of this, when asking end users specifically about the perks they would want to be present before accepting a role, they reported homeworking (38%), and flexible working hours (22%) among the top reasons. So, you might just cast the net even further than you originally thought by mentioning perks like this.  

Of course, letting candidates know that you’re an equal opportunities employer is important, and if you sponsor any charities, or are part of any initiatives, groups, or panels that aim to tackle diversity issues, then don’t forget to mention these as well!

5. Define your remote or hybrid work strategy

The cost of living is just getting steeper and gone are the days where candidates are willing to move to a location on a low salary just to secure a job. In fact, flexible working arrangements are now expected to be part of the standard employee perks that should be offered 

And while this has meant fewer faces in the office at any one time, it’s given employees more control and flexibility around their own schedules and has meant they can create a better work-life balance. Not just this, but by removing the need for employees to live or be willing to commute to your office location, you cast the net far wider when it comes to your recruitment strategy. Now, instead of limiting your talent pool to those who are within commutable distance, you take down the geographical barriers, and welcome in professionals from all parts of the country—and in some cases, the world.  

By acknowledging the rise in remote working and mentioning your own take on flexible work arrangements, you are sending the message to candidates that they are welcome to apply, despite where they live or whether they’re able to afford or make the journey to the office, as this won’t be necessary.  

Diversity and inclusivity shouldn’t be treated as buzzwords in business. It’s so important that as a business leader or hiring manager,  you’re aware of what the implications of a diverse team are and how they can not only benefit your own business but improve attitudes across the ecosystem.  

Professionals shouldn’t be defined by their upbringing, preferences, or beliefs, but rather what they can do and how motivated and passionate they are to work with you and in the industry you’re operating in.  

Need more advice? Check out the hiring advice section on our blog. There’s plenty of expert tips and tricks to ensure you’re recruiting the right way. Or, you can check out our blogs exploring diversity in the Azure and Dynamics ecosystems for a more in-depth look into how inclusive your field of interest is. 

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