September 6, 2017

Can science help you write a better job description?

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Are you sick of getting the same kind of applicant? Writing a great job description is extremely important if you want to attract a broad range of quality candidates. As anyone who’s tried to write one can attest, it’s also really hard work.

Can science make it easier?

 

We already know from a first-of-its-kind study from researchers at Duke and the University of Waterloo, that very subtle language choices can have a big impact on who applies for a job. Specifically, they found that too many masculine-themed words make women, on average, less likely to apply. That’s why Talent Sonar helps you balance language so that you don’t inadvertently turn-off half the talent pool.

 

Pretty nifty. Okay, science, what else have you got?

 

At Talent Sonar, we set up two experiments to test whether we could significantly increase the likelihood that people of color applied for a job. Nerd-out with us below to see what we found.

 

Experiment #1: Highlighting Your Company’s Social Contribution

 

The Study: We conducted a randomized controlled trial where participants from underrepresented groups were randomly assigned to an “experimental” condition or the “control” condition. In the experimental condition, participants read a statement that highlighted the social contribution of the job. In the control condition, no social benefit was emphasized.

 

 

  • Social contribution: We are a community of passionate, purpose-led individuals. We deliver products to address our clients’ most important challenges, all while seeking to create positive change in big and small ways for our customers, our employees, and society. No matter what project you work on, you’ll be contributing and making a difference. Are you ready for a career with a sense of purpose? Click here to view our open positions.
  • Control: We are a respected firm with strong brand recognition. We deliver products to address our clients’ needs, all while focusing on quality and efficiency. We are revolutionizing the industry by creating faster and more advanced products and services. We’ve put the pieces in place to be become the premier destination for clients. Are you ready to join our team? Click here to view our open positions.

 

 

The Sample: Results are based on 140 participants. We were specifically interested in how job candidates from underrepresented groups respond to job descriptions: Black/African-Americans make up the largest share of race/ethnicity represented. Almost half of respondents are 30-44. The majority have a college degree or more.

 

Study Sample Characteristics
  N %   N %
Treatment Condition Income
Social Contribution (71) 49% 0-29K (24) 17%
Control Condition (69) 51% 30-49K (41) 29%
Gender 50-69K (32) 23%
Female (65) 46% 70-99K (25) 18%
Male (75) 54% 100-150K (14) 10%
Race 150K+ (4) 3%
Black (84) 60% Education
Hispanic (46) 33% High school (4) 3%
American Indian (7) 5% Some college (31) 22%
Multiple / Other (3) 2% 2-year college degree (18) 13%
Age 4-year college degree (63) 45%
18-29 (55) 39% Post-grad degree (24) 17%
30-44 (66) 47% Job Level
45-59 (18) 13% Entry (17) 12%
60+ (1) 1% Intermediate/Associate (51) 36%
Middle Management (50) 36%
Senior Management (11) 8%
Owner/Exec/C-level (6) 4%
      Other or missing (5) 4%

 

The Results: The results of the experiment suggest that candidates from underrepresented groups respond more positively to company profiles that highlight social contribution than company profiles that do not. Respondents who saw the social contribution condition were

  • more likely to say that that company seems like a great place to work,
  • more likely to say they shared the company’s values,
  • and more likely to believe that the company has a diverse workforce.

 

(These positive associations with highlighting a company’s social contribution are statistically significant and held even when controlling for education, gender, household income and job level).

 

Experiment #2: Highlighting Growth Mindset

 

When companies have a growth mindset, they believe that talent can be developed. Research shows employees at such companies are more empowered, committed, collaborative, and innovative. On the other hand, companies with a fixed mindset believe and act as though talent walks in the door fully formed. They are looking for the “genius” or “ideal” candidate; what they get are employees more prone to cheating and deception.

 

The Study: We conducted a randomized controlled trial.  In the experimental condition, participants read a job description that highlights the company’s growth mindset. In the control condition, they read a job description with a fixed mindset.

 

    • Growth mindset: “We believe talent can be hiding in all kinds of places. If you don’t have all of the skills listed here, but have a strong desire to learn, we have a team of amazing people who will be happy to teach and support you.”

 

  • Control: “We are always looking for talented people to join our team. If you have the skills and a strong desire to contribute to our team, we’re looking for you.”

 

 

The Sample:  Results are based on 160 participants. We were specifically interested in how job candidates from underrepresented groups respond to job descriptions: 60% of the sample identifies as Black, 33% as Latino/a. About 40% of respondents are 30-44. The majority have a college degree or more.

 

The Results: The results of the experiment suggest that job candidates from underrepresented groups respond more positively to jobs that indicate a company has a “growth mindset” than when a job description indicates a company is looking for “innate talent.”

 

Respondents who saw the job description featuring growth mindset were

  • more likely to say that that they would enjoy the job,
  • more likely to say they wanted the job
  • and more likely to believe that the company has a diverse workforce.

 

Interestingly, more highly educated respondents tended to give growth mindset job descriptions higher marks.

 

(These positive associations with highlighting a company’s social contribution are statistically significant and held even when controlling for education, gender, household income and job level).

 

Tl;dr: There are evidence-based ways to attract a broader pool of qualified candidates to your roles. Our experiments show that, in addition to balancing gendered language, highlighting your company’s social contribution and growth mindset in job descriptions leads to more interest from minority applicants.

 

Ready to start your own experiment? Try Talent Sonar’s Job Analyzer to improve your job descriptions for free, today.