Develop Diverse’s Pil Byriel on Exclusionary Language in Recruitment

Liz Marchetti
Develop Diverse’s Pil Byriel on Exclusionary Language in Recruitment

In August 2021, we spoke with Pil Byriel, co-founder and CSO of Develop Diverse, a software platform that helps businesses to improve the diversity of job applicants by analyzing and improving the inclusivity of language in their hiring content. 

Pil shared her expertise on biases in talent acquisition, specifically the impact that unintentional language choices can have on the candidates we attract (or don’t).

Pil’s insights originally appeared alongside those of 11 other talent acquisition experts in our eBook, Reimagining Recruitment. You can download your own copy of our 50-page guide for free here. 

Below is a small snippet from our conversation with Pil:

Our Biases Are in Play Before We Even Start Hiring

“It’s an important thing to acknowledge that we all have biases — that’s human. Biases are our brain’s way of creating patterns. They help us navigate the world, and cross the street without getting hit by a car. But biases can become an obstacle, especially in recruitment or talent attraction.

“For example, many organizations struggle to hire female leaders. But we already have a list of specific behaviors we think a leader should show, which are usually associated with the male gender. So before we even start looking, we’re associating that role with a male hire.”

Biased Job Descriptions Discourage Everyone

“When more than 0.6% of the total text in a job description is biased, it actually discourages underrepresented groups from applying — and these are the candidates whose diversity of experience we know will bring the most value to our companies. These candidates will read through the text and not have a sense of belonging — they’ll feel that your company is not a place for them.

“It’s really impactful to see how this works in practice. Our client did an A/B split test, putting out their original job advert as it’s usually written, and an alternative that’s optimized with inclusive language. Not only did they see a significant increase in female applicants with the inclusive advert, but an increase in male applicants too.”

Cultural References Can Be More Alienating than You’d Think

“I see a lot of job descriptions highlighting Christmas lunches and Friday bars — which very implicitly refer to alcohol and specific cultural events. But if you haven’t grown up with these traditions, it can feel exclusive and may discourage somebody who could be a great addition to the team.”

The Structure of Your Job Description Can Be Biased Too

“We also have to think about how we make job descriptions more readable — for example, we can use bullet points to make them more accessible and engaging to neurodiverse people, such as those with dyslexia.”

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