Words matter. And if you're looking to hire a diverse workforce, the language in your job posts could be working against you.

Job descriptions that contain growth oriented language, which emphasizes learning and hard work, tend to result in faster hiring and in more women hires, according to a recent study by diversity strategy firm Paradigm and Textio, which makes software to help companies optimize job posts to find more diverse applicants. In contrast, language that describes definitive, often superlative, traits discouraged both genders from applying and was more likely to result in hiring a man.

The study distinguishes between two types of mindsets: Those with a fixed mindset see talents and abilities as black and white--you either have them or you don't--and those with a growth mindset. The latter describes people who look at a job description and think talents and abilities can be learned and developed.

The makeup of an applicant pool is less about candidates' gender mindset as it is their reaction to the perceived mindset of the hiring company. When a company used fixed language like "genius," "high performer," uniquely talented," and "overachiever," candidates, especially women, were less likely to apply to a job, thinking the company would not be able to overlook any lack of skill or experience.

What's more, jobs postings with fixed mindset phrases filled 11 times more slowly than those with growth terms. The phrases with the worst impact on time-to-fill metrics were "super smart," "best and brightest," "highly intelligent," and "high performer."

So what works better? Add terms that indicate growth potential like "learn new things," "highly determined," and "commitment to improvement." Job posts containing phrases like "learn new things," "highly motivated," "love learning," and "strive" were filled five times faster. Jobs for which women were ultimately hired were twice as likely to contain this type of language.

Published on: Nov 11, 2016