How to Write an Inclusive Job Description for Gen Z

Learn how to create a persuasive job description that attracts and engages early career job seekers.

Many of us are familiar with those cringe-worthy job descriptions that describe ideal candidates as “ninjas” and require employees to be “flexible multitaskers” to mask various responsibilities or challenging work. On the other hand, we’ve also seen overly technical job descriptions that make candidates’ heads spin just trying to understand the responsibilities at hand.

But what makes one job description more appealing to Gen Z than others?

Crafting methodical, transparent, and inclusive job descriptions that cater to what your ideal candidates look for at work is paramount, along with transparency into prerequisite experience, coursework, and skills. In this blog, we’ll explore how to create effective, inclusive job descriptions for Gen Z, including tips on how to post your jobs and proactively build professional relationships with job seekers.

What’s in a job description?

What do you think of when you hear “job description?”

Job descriptions give candidates detailed insight into a role and its responsibilities so they can explore key competencies and decide on whether they would be a good fit. Job seekers rely on job descriptions to evaluate an employer’s culture and get a sense of their alignment to the mission, purpose, and sense of belonging. More often than not, a job title and description are a candidate’s first impression of your company, and as a result, can either attract or limit qualified applicants depending on the language you include.

Best practices for writing inclusive job descriptions

It’s important to note that using inclusive language and being transparent are key tenets of a high-performing job description, but they’re not the only components you should focus on.

1. Capture the right talent with a relevant job title

Treat potential job titles like keywords, and ensure that your title in the job description is consistent with everywhere you post and promote your role. When evaluating potential job titles, consider how students might search for your role. If you’re hiring for a position your industry commonly refers to as a “Business Development Specialist,” for example, but you label it “B2B Corporate Sales,” you could miss out on potential pipeline. 

In addition to your job title and description, students want to know what it takes to be successful, and what it’ll be like to work alongside your team. The Job Details page on Handshake provides an excellent opportunity for transparency, where employers can include helpful information about the application process, eligibility, employment duration, job type, benefits, values, and other indicators that help candidates evaluate their potential qualifications to the role.

In addition to responsibilities and experience, employers can include the job type, duration, benefits, and helpful information about the application process.

Job descriptions are prime real estate to provide a sneak peek into your inclusive culture, employee resource groups (ERGs), mentorship opportunities, and other exclusive experiences your employer offers that propel early careers.

2. Focus on skills, not schools or experience

Despite the historic gap in talent supply and demand—thanks to the “Big Quit”—recruiting teams are having trouble attracting talent. But pipeline isn’t necessarily the problem. 9m+ early career job seekers are actively exploring careers on Handshake. To resonate with them, you may need to rethink what’s required to be successful in your roles.

While 5 years of experience may be desirable, college students and recent graduates with less than 3 years of experience won’t be eligible to apply. With Gen Z, shift your focus from experience to coursework, skills, and certifications. And from recruiting at a few core schools to unlocking access to jobs with a wider, nation-wide talent pool. Once you evaluate necessary skills, Handshake Student Search can help you narrow down your search to find students that meet your ideal requirements.

Employers that post a job on Handshake will receive candidate recommendations based on their job preferences via a weekly email digest and in the Matches tab of their job.
Job Matches on Handshake proactively provide employers with a list of candidate recommendations based on the job criteria.

Also consider that men are more likely than women to reach out to employers about potential opportunities, even if they don’t meet all requirements. Instead of years of experience, highlight skills that a student can learn on the job. This alleviates the challenge for candidates who might lack all required experience but who are eager to grow professionally and learn on the job.

It can be tempting to list preferred majors, but doing so can be off-putting to students who don’t define their careers by their major. Plus, many students don’t yet know the variety of roles that their major can map to. Women pursuing STEM or business-related majors like Computer Science or Entrepreneurship tend to submit fewer applications relative to their representation on Handshake. The bottom line is, to attract more candidates who are qualified for your roles, you’ll need to expand your criteria.

3. Craft an inclusive job description that resonates with Gen Z

Gen Z—the most diverse generation yet—represents nearly a quarter of the global workforce, so it’s no surprise that more than 60% indicated that they either always or usually research company leadership diversity. And 60% of non-binary individuals and women strongly agree or agree that they wouldn’t apply for a role where there’s a lack of gender diversity, according to a Handshake Network Trends report.

Early career job seekers want to work for inclusive companies that value them, which is why it is important that your job description highlights your company culture. While your mission statement and overview of your culture can show off an inclusive culture, you’ll want to make sure the language you use in your job description is inclusive, too

When it comes to writing inclusive job descriptions, industry experts recommend adopting gender-neutral language. According to a Glassdoor Economic Research report, applicants may feel disconnected from phrases like, “Work hard, play hard,” “rockstar,” and “hacker.” Stick to gender-neutral titles and keywords that provide more insight into the role, like “full-stack developer” or “project coordinator,” and are intuitive to Gen Zers who may be actively searching those terms to find jobs.

Your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts show candidates that you value their uniqueness and embrace an inclusive work atmosphere, but it can also mean attracting more applications from qualified students.

Our research finds that women in STEM apply to more jobs when inclusive language is reflected in the job description; keywords like “compassion,” “kindness,” and “empathetic” result in up to 15% more applications from this group, while keywords like “demanding” and “competitive” were found to detract up to 5% of women in STEM from applying.

4. Adopt inclusive hiring practices to broaden your reach

Getting a full-time job following graduation is a top priority for college students. However, with so many early career job seekers juggling personal responsibilities alongside remote learning and/or work, Gen Z is prioritizing their mental health and family.

Pandemic aside, some students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, are more likely than others to have higher priorities that get in the way of their success. GPA cut off, rigid application windows, and requiring additional documents can deter the best and brightest from going down an extensive application process. Show candidates that you understand their priorities by clarifying compensation and opting to recruit year round, which gives them the time they need to complete an application.

Refresh your Employer Page on Handshake to spotlight photos and videos of your diverse team and employee resource groups and highlight any DEI initiatives or headlines from the press.

Next, understand that Gen Z is laser-focused on rapid growth: 75% believe that they should be promoted within a year. Students want to know what their career path could look like. And the best way for employers to do that is to show, not tell. That’s where your ambassadors come in, who tend to be tenured individuals across the company who launched their career at your organization.

Some of your ambassadors may be alumni from schools where you actively recruit or from student organizations you actively partner with, but all ambassadors have the ability to provide 1-on-1 transparency and authenticity that only they can provide.

5. Show off the perks of working at your company

Most of us work to pay our bills and enjoy life, so it’s not surprising that salary is the number one motivator for staying in a job for both women and men. In addition to giving candidates what they want, be transparent about what you can offer. Displaying salary or salary ranges in a job post is the most compelling factor that attracts Gen Z to apply, especially if your salary is more competitive than your talent peers.

Salary isn’t the only part of the job’s benefits you should reveal though. A company’s perks and benefits play a large role in whether candidates accept a job offer. Are your employees allowed to work from anywhere, or do you offer relocation packages so they can work at HQ? Is the role full-time or part of a work-study program? As Gen Zers explore where to live, how to start paying off student loans, and which industries appeal most to them, these are important details that lead to more informed decisions.

If you require a dress code, is it discouraging applicants who want to show off their natural hairstyles or express themselves with visible tattoos? If you require in-office attendance, do you offer a bus stipend for applicants who may not be able to afford a car? Cultural and racial biases can surface in these requirements, whether it’s by requiring a native English speaker or not allowing head coverings of any kind.

An inclusive job description goes beyond listing skills, responsibilities, and prerequisites—it truly gives candidates valuable insight into the qualify of life candidates can expect by joining.

“Competitive differentiators like flexible work schedules, ERG lead compensation, mental health support, and learning and professional development stipends are some of the ways employers can show candidates that they value inclusive hiring practices.”

Cat Pastuhov, Senior Talent Brand Manager at Handshake

Posting your job description on Handshake

Now that you have effective best practices for writing more inclusive job descriptions under your belt, post your job on Handshake.

If your job description is truly methodical, transparent, and inclusive, that first impression should make way for more meaningful conversations. Employers on Handshake can give candidates an opportunity to meet, ask questions, and get to know the company by attaching their availability calendar to their posted jobs, which gives interested students the chance to schedule 15-minute Virtual Info Chats.

This can be a game-changer for students from underrepresented groups who may have questions about the job description, reservations about what the culture is really like, or whether they’ll receive equal compensation as their non-minority counterparts.

From first impression to ‘Let’s connect!’

Once you’ve posted a job, employers can view their Job Matches—a list of candidates recommended by Handshake who fit the job’s preferences. Matches give employers the ability for employers to save time by easily identifying target candidates based on their job criteria. Identifying these candidates is the first step in building more meaningful professional relationships with Gen Z.

Employers can invite recommended candidates to apply to a job or hop on a short, 15-minute Virtual info Chat to ask questions, meet real people, and get more information about a job’s responsibilities and prerequisites. Soon, employers on Handshake will be able to see how their jobs perform with unique insight into their applicants, job views, and job reach in their Job Overview page.

Handshake Premium employers receive more robust analytics plus access to an Applicant Analysis Report within their Talent Engagement Suite, plus more robust features for engaging with recommended candidates through Candidate Hub.

Next steps this spring

Writing the perfect job description takes practice and patience—it isn’t one and done.

In this recruiting landscape, you are likely writing more and more job descriptions each day, which means you have dozens of opportunities to learn and iterate from. To write engaging, inclusive, and clear job descriptions that get candidates excited to apply, evaluate your job title and description’s performance to explore how your messaging resonates with your ideal talent segments and adjust accordingly.

If your job description is methodical, transparent, and inclusive, you’ll find more success in attracting your ideal candidates.