A compliant job description not only helps your organization with compliance, it can also provide pay transparency, reassure candidates, and improve your recruiting efforts. It widens your candidate pool to include all qualified applicants, regardless of race, gender, nationality, demographics, sexual orientation, or background.
To show you what we mean, here’s the story of one (fictional) company’s experience writing a compliant job description. It’s a simplified example, but it’s grounded in actual law.
WidgetWidget’s un-compliant job description
WidgetWidget is a mid-sized company in an enviable position. They need to hire a customer service manager to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for the company’s products. WidgetWidget makes…you guessed it……thermonuclear reactors. Just kidding, they make widgets.
The fictional WidgetWidget is a great place to work, by all accounts. They take care of their employees, believe in equality, and are committed to complying with labor and employment laws in the U.S., where they are based. In fact, they work hard to maintain a supportive, welcoming workplace for employees of all stripes. However, they’re having trouble filling positions at the moment.
This is their second attempt to hire a customer service manager. The first round was a dud, yielding a single phone interview and no hires. Disappointed, WidgetWidget’s recruiting team thought they’d underestimated how tight the job market in their area had become for employers.
True, it was definitely a job seeker’s market, but that wasn’t the only factor. They didn’t realize it at the time, but they’d inadvertently deterred some qualified job seekers from applying. After taking another look at their job description, they saw that they hadn’t conveyed their inclusiveness well enough. They made a few tweaks to the job description and reposted it, with much better (fictional) results.
ADA-compliant job description?
If a worker has a disability but can still do a job, don’t they deserve a fair shot at getting that job? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says they do.
When (fictional) job seeker Alan read WidgetWidget’s initial listing, he liked what he saw and felt he was qualified to do the job. But he didn’t apply.
Alan is hard of hearing. He does fine in one-on-one conversations in person or over the phone, but he struggles in spaces with lots of background noise. WidgetWidget’s initial job description mentioned “a friendly, bustling work environment.” Alan cast his mind back to one of his previous jobs that was like that and decided to take a pass.
Fast-forward a few weeks. Alan comes across WidgetWidget’s second (revised) listing for the customer service manager position. He immediately sees a change to the wording, which now reads “a friendly yet quiet work environment.” In his mind, the job went from a hard no to a hard yes with just that one change.
Guess what? Alan applies.
Does it matter how old someone is if they can do the job? The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) establishes that it doesn’t matter.
As (fictional) job seeker Bebe was reading WidgetWidget’s first job description, she could tell she was qualified. But she had some concerns.
Bebe is 60 years old, just a few years away from “traditional retirement age” (in quotes because people aren’t retiring like they used to). She has no plans to retire, but she’s conscious of her age and worries about employers favoring younger candidates. What stood out to her in WidgetWidget’s first job description was the request for a candidate with “high energy levels.” In her mind, that signaled a preference for someone younger. She didn’t apply.
A few weeks later, she reads WidgetWidget’s second job description, which makes no mention of candidate energy levels. Instead, it simply lays out what the role’s workload is. Reading it, Bebe thinks it’s a reasonable amount of work for her.
And you know what? She applies.
This one should go without saying, but we (unfortunately) still need to say it. It’s not okay to discriminate against a candidate based on race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. And the Civil Rights Act (CRA) enshrines that idea in law.
When (fictional) job seeker Chesa perused WidgetWidget’s initial job description, she felt qualified and interested. But she also felt uneasy, so she didn’t apply.
Chesa is of Filipino descent with dual American-Phillipine citizenship. Bilingual, bicultural, she is keenly aware of the potential for discrimination against her because of her heritage and accent. WidgetWidget’s initial job description lacked a diversity statement while including a requirement for “excellent communication skills.” No diversity statement is a red flag for Chesa. Meanwhile, a communication requirement made her worry about her accent. She didn’t apply.
Fast-forward again. Chesa is skimming WidgetWidget’s new job posting, and she sees a diversity statement that wasn’t there before. She also notices that the communication requirement is gone. She likes the job, and she decides to give WidgetWidget the benefit of the doubt.
You guessed it. She applies.
WidgetWidget’s new job description
While WidgetWidget, Alan, Bebe, and Chesa are made-up, the ADA, ADEA, and CRA are not. It’s also worth mentioning that candidates don’t often give job descriptions a second look, which means you’re better off getting it right the first time.
WidgetWidget started with an un-compliant job description that didn’t result in a hire. But after a few simple changes, WidgetWidget’s job description was compliant and attracting the diverse and qualified applicants they’d hoped for.