Fair play – watch out for inadvertent discrimination in your recruitment adverts

When you’re writing a job advert, you obviously want to use language that will attract candidates. However, you need to be mindful that the words you choose won’t be considered discriminatory in terms of age, sex, race or disability.

Even if you’re keen to increase representation and diversity in your team, be cautious about specifically asking for a certain candidate profile in your advert, unless there is a genuine occupational requirement. It’s also important to watch out for inadvertent discrimination – phrases such as “would suit a mum looking after children” or “we’re looking for a young apprentice” are potentially discriminatory because they refer to the candidate in terms of sex and age.

Describe the job, not the person

A sensible way to approach writing your recruitment advert is to concentrate on describing the job and what the candidate will be required to do, rather than the type of person who might apply. For example, you might be recruiting for a job that requires lots of manual activity, but you shouldn’t say the candidate “must be physically strong”. Instead, consider the specifics of what you want the candidate to do: you could say “the job includes lifting up to 70kg”, and the candidate can then explain in the interview how they’d do that.

Also keep an eye on the words that describe the job – in everyday conversation, we still use words such as “handyman”, but it’s not a good idea to use that in a recruitment advert because it discriminates in terms of gender.

The role you need to fill might require another language, but be careful not to mention specific nationalities – use phrases such as “German-speaking” or “must be fluent in Urdu” rather than assuming or implying that someone from a certain geographical background will be able to speak a certain language.

“Experienced” doesn’t always mean “older”

If you’re looking for someone who’s already capable and familiar with the requirements of the job, rather than someone you’ll be training from scratch, experience is vital. However, don’t attach a specific length of time to this experience, because that implies the candidate will be of a certain age. Suggest we amend to However, don’t attach a long period of time in terms of experience as this may prevent candidates of a particular age from applying.  Just because someone has done a job for a long time doesn’t make them best in terms of capability.

At the other end of the scale, an apprentice doesn’t necessarily have to be a young person – someone embarking on a career change could be doing so at any stage of their life. Apprenticeships are available to people of any age. Also, keep an eye on talking about the qualifications you expect a candidate to have. Naming old exams immediately discriminates against younger candidates, so say something like “or equivalent”.

Finally, remember that even if you’ve worded your advert to ensure that it will appeal to disabled candidates, make sure the interview venue, facilities and tools to do the job are accessible too.


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