Inclusive language in job adverts a ‘win-win’ for employers and jobseekers
New report shows that only 5.5% of job adverts mention flexible working, which risks deterring both younger and older applicants.
The new research suggests that inclusive language in job adverts will widen the talent pool and avoid deterring potential applicants.
Only 5.5% of job adverts mention flexible working, according to a new study by the Centre for Ageing Better, despite this being a huge draw for potential applicants. Advertising these benefits, and ensuring that the language of job adverts is age-inclusive, is vital to maximising the range of applicants.
The report, which looked at the impact of different kinds of language in job adverts, also found that, while most age-stereotypical language didn’t have a strong effect on whether or not people would apply for the job, it did affect whether applicants’ felt they would be a good fit with the job and the company. Words like ‘innovative’ and ‘adaptable’ had a negative impact on older applicants’ confidence in the success of their application, while the phrase ‘looking for someone who is technologically savvy’ made them feel like they wouldn’t fit well with the company, for example.
Conversely, the research found that using language which appealed more broadly to older applicants did not deter younger applicants. In addition, the inclusion of benefits such as generous pension contribution and flexible working opportunities made older workers more likely to apply.
Previous research by the Centre for Ageing Better has found that despite many employers stating diversity and inclusion were important to them, few had strategies or approaches specifically aimed at making the recruitment process more diverse and inclusive in the context of age. Other research by Ageing Better also found that ageism in the recruitment process has a profound impact on older jobseekers, with over a third of people in their 50s and 60s feeling at a disadvantage in applying for jobs.
Employers need to ensure that the whole of their recruitment process is inclusive of all ages, or they risk missing out on the skills and experience of older workers. But they also warn that age-inclusive job adverts are not a panacea, and fully addressing ageism in recruitment requires a range of other actions
Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“Applying for a new job when you’re younger feels like an opportunity, applying for a job when you’re older can feel like a risk. This new research highlights the importance of employers thinking really carefully about the language they use in job adverts. Words and phrases which we commonly associate with younger people can put older jobseekers off applying, or make them feel less confident about their chances of success.
“As our previous research has highlighted, ageism in the recruitment process is damaging for both jobseekers and employers, meaning businesses are likely to miss out on the skills and experiences older workers can bring.
“This report shows that making the language of job adverts inclusive and attractive to all ages is a win-win, making older workers more likely to apply without deterring younger jobseekers. In particular, advertising flexible working is a big draw for over 50s looking for work, and will help to attract a wide range of candidates.”
Johannes Lohmann, Head of Work and Finance at the Behavioural Insights Team, said:
“Older workers are a highly valuable part of the workforce. Unfortunately, labour market dynamics aren’t always conducive to matching older workers with the most relevant opportunities, to the disadvantage of employers, workers, and society at large. Behavioural approaches can help us understand those market dynamics and design better solutions for them.
“In particular, the way job opportunities are presented can have a profound effect on how people decide to respond to them. Working closely with the Centre for Ageing Better, we have found that older jobseekers can be put off from considering jobs, particularly if job ads focus on factors that they view as more relevant for or representative of younger applicants.
“To attract older workers, employers should be thoughtful about how they present job opportunities. We hope this report will give employers relevant evidence and practical advice on how to make the most of the opportunity.”
Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser at the CIPD, said:
“It’s crucial that employers establish the people management policies and practices needed to recruit, train and retain an age diverse workforce, and harness the skills and experience they have effectively. When recruiting, employers should be thoughtful about how they present job opportunities and make the language of job adverts inclusive and attractive to all ages. The study also shows that a very small proportion of job adverts mention flexible working, despite this being a huge draw for potential applicants. We would encourage employers to use the tagline ‘happy to talk flexible working’ in their recruitment wherever possible.
"Flexible working supports inclusion and diversity in the workforce. The CIPD recently launched its #FlexFrom1st campaign, calling on organisations and the government to introduce the right to request flexible working from day one of employment to support opportunities for all.”