Field report: Why women (and men) really don’t apply for your job

Two months ago we started working on an interesting problem.

There was a disproportionate rejection of female applicants at interview stage.

Debriefs showed that managers believed, the rejected applicants would be great for the company, just not for this role.

6 out of 10 managers was actually surprised at how wide the gap was between what they needed and what the applicants could offer.

We suggested to isolate and intervene at the two most probable points of mismatch: job description and screening.

The point of job description surprised the client, because last year they reworded all JD’s to be inclusive using software designed for that. And even removed some “nice to have” requirements.

The Missing Link
Have you ever considered that inclusive language might just be one part of better Job Descriptions? That another part is missing, to create full impact?

There is a somewhat obscure bit of research that gives insight into what that missing link might be.

This debunks the oft cited idea that women only apply if they’re a 100% confident they can do the job.

40% of women surveyed, don’t apply because they self select out on qualifications.

With the client we redesigned their JD-structure to become more appealing beyond just words.We focused on the issue of qualifications.

Most JD’s list skills, required experiences, academics, competencies, and personality traits, with a little about duties and responsibilities.

So, we worked back from the hiring manager. Defining what output people must create. And we also learned that some of the scrapped “nice to have’s” (due to tech changes) actually were now “must have’s”.

After this update, we started wording job success and outputs. Not skills.

This removes potential barriers for people to self select out.

Yes you are right to think this took a bit of work.

But after 2 hiring cycles there’s a drop in dismissals due to competence mismatch. With the screening intervention still to come.

So for our client the work was worth it.

Many of us work on job description language.

To help, we’ve shared some research and our approach, because it could help make JD’s more inclusive, impactful and effective.

If you’d liked this and you’d to know more about how your JD’s can be improved. Email us @ and schedule a complete briefing.