Employers today can’t afford to turn away any qualified job seekers. Yet a dated approach to job postings could be narrowing your talent pool more than you realize — even undermining efforts to build a diverse, inclusive workplace.
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Here’s how to upgrade your job postings in 2023 to remove barriers to employment, attract more talent and get better hiring results.
Rethink Job Posting Best Practices to Widen Your Talent Pool
Despite reports of a cooling demand for workers, Indeed Hiring Lab data indicates that it remains strong. Meanwhile, labor force participation is dropping in the face of historically high job openings, with nearly two open jobs for every unemployed person in the U.S. — and the talent supply problem will likely persist long-term, according to the recent Hiring and Workplace Trends Report 2023 from Indeed and Glassdoor.
Today’s job seekers are not only scarce but increasingly selective. They have the power to demand more from employers, including better pay and benefits, flexibility and a work environment that supports greater well-being. As Indeed SVP of Environmental, Social and Governance LaFawn Davis puts it, “Recruiting strategies that were once ‘good enough’ are now looking threadbare and tired.”
Companies that make strategic changes to widen their talent pools will thrive in this environment. The job posting is an essential recruiting function that can act as either a gateway or a hurdle to employment.
Erin Hendrick, director of global delivery, talent attraction programs at Indeed, says the key to creating more inclusive, attractive job postings goes beyond simply avoiding coded language (gendered or biased wording that may discourage applicants from applying without being overtly discriminatory), though she notes that plays an important role.
Though many recruiters don’t realize it, “things can become unintentionally exclusionary around aspects like requirements and preferred skills, as well as years of experience,” Hendrick says. “That’s the core barrier for many job seekers, because it’s often the baseline recruiters use for screening people in or out.”
So what can recruiters do to draw job seekers in? According to Hendrick, here are the top job posting mistakes to avoid in 2023:
Mistake #1: An Exhaustive List of Preferred Skills and Qualifications
Job postings that contain dozens of “preferred” or “desired” skills and qualifications send a signal that discourages many people from applying, Hendrick says, noting that women in particular are less likely to apply for a role if they don’t check every box.
The best practice? Limit the requirements for each job posting to only the most essential, ideally no more than five. Here’s how to narrow your list down:
- Determine the make-or-break skills or habits for success in each role. It may be imperative that applicants speak Spanish fluently — but do they really need to be a spreadsheet master, or is that a teachable skill? If something is just a “nice to have” and not a “must have,” leave it out.
- Ensure requirements can be fairly assessed. If you can’t assess a qualification based on someone’s resume or during a screening interview, then it’s probably not worth putting in. For example, even if an applicant recalls a time they were “calm under pressure,” this is likely something only on-the-job experience will prove.
- Ditch the tired tropes for more specific skills. Replace overused phrases like “must be flexible” or “good at multitasking” in favor of more specific abilities. Which five will enable you to screen candidates in or out?
Mistake #2: Focusing on Quantity of Years Over Quality of Skills
As you’re narrowing down your list of qualifications, ask yourself whether including “years of experience” is really necessary. Setting the minimum too high can exclude promising young talent or those facing historical barriers to employment, while setting a maximum too low can deter older workers from applying, even giving the impression that your organization doesn’t support seasoned talent.
Instead, focus on measuring the quality of applicants’ accomplishments and skills, not the quantity of time they’ve spent on the job. Carefully consider the specific abilities, characteristics or habits that spell success in each role, and then hire specifically for those, whether through skills tests or tailored interview questions. If you’re not quite ready to let go of this requirement, Hendrick recommends using an open-ended number, such as “2+” years of experience instead of “two to five,” in order to hire more inclusively.
Worried about fielding too many overqualified applicants? Hendrick says there’s a solution for that.
“The reality is, if you’re also transparent about pay, duties and responsibilities in the job posting, then candidates can make their best assessment if that works for them, saving time for both job seekers and recruiters,” she says. “That’s where pay transparency and years of experience really go hand in hand.”
Mistake #3: Arbitrary Degree Requirements
Degree requirements pose a significant barrier for job seekers who may have on-the-job experience and hard-earned skills, but not a college education. Almost two-thirds of U.S. adults 25 and older do not have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Since this includes a greater percentage of Black (72%) and Hispanic (79%) people than white (58%) people, degree requirements disproportionately screen out underrepresented applicants. Those with only a high school diploma experience 77% higher unemployment rates than those with a bachelor’s degree.
In 2021, Indeed helped break down this barrier by removing degree requirements for eligible job profiles that meet internal degree-removal guidelines. Hendrick says shifting the focus from degrees to skills-based hiring has helped to widen Indeed’s pool of applicants, and she encourages employers not to default to requiring a degree just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”
“If you’re focused on one particular degree program or university and not on skills and characteristics, you’re likely hiring more of the same,” says Hendrick. “It’s really about opening the aperture for engaging, attracting and hiring a wider pool of qualified applicants.”
Here are some key questions to ask when deciding whether a four-year college degree (or more) is really necessary to include in a job posting:
- What skills and knowledge does someone absolutely need to do the job? Are there ways these can be obtained outside of formal education?
- Who else in your organization has been successful in this position, and what was their background? Which helpful habits or skills did they exhibit?
- Can you define why a certain degree level is required? For example, does the job legally require specialized education?
- Could removing degree requirements result in hiring people who are unable to perform the role at the level required?
- Are you requiring a master’s degree when only a bachelor’s level of education could suffice? (Do today’s bachelor’s degree programs teach the necessary skills, and your degree requirements are based on outdated data?)
- In what skills and successful habits are you willing and able to train someone?
To open the door to people with nontraditional backgrounds without removing the degree requirement entirely, consider adding the phrase “or the equivalent in experience” and think about other ways this experience might be gained. For example, could a military veteran’s skills translate to a civilian job?
The most successful organizations in 2023 and beyond will remove unnecessary barriers in job postings in order to tap into richer pools of talent and build more diverse teams.
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