Your Application Page and Inclusivity

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The wording on your job listings can invite applications — or turn good candidates away. An inclusive approach will attract the best people.

Your Application Page and Inclusivity is part 3 of 4 in the series Humane Resources.

Your application page may not be the first page someone sees on your site — but it will be the page where potential new hires make a decision as to whether or not to complete your application form. It's the last point of recruiting new hires. Making it both informational and inclusive isn't challenging if you know what to do.

Start with your images

Our eyes are drawn to images first, so make these the best representation of your company and your values that you can. Remember that people want to “see themselves” working at your company, so seeing people that look like them (women, BIPOC, disabled, etc.) in the images you use helps a lot. Whenever possible use photos of your teams and not stock images on your application page, but this isn't always possible if you're starting with a small fairly homogeneous team.

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Words matter

The words you use on your application page are words to recruit your new team member. In addition to the job description, the language that you use to frame the job and the company can come across in many different ways. You can either be inviting to everyone, or come across exclusive and elitist, without even meaning to.

So how do you address this?

  1. Have several people from underrepresented groups — either within your company or from outside — read your recruiting page and give feedback.
  2. Hire a specialist in recruiting underrepresented people to give you feedback or do a full audit on your recruiting strategy, including your application page.
  3. Check for inclusive/exclusive language. Are you using gendered language? “Bro” type language? Do you reference things that are exclusive like the annual volleyball tourney? Do you use hedging language like “do you think you're a fit?” or “If you think this is for you” or even “consider applying?” This kind of language will cause self-doubt and may cost you the perfect candidate.
  4. Is your recruiting page and application accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies? To truly reach underrepresented populations, you need to be accessible to those who require screen readers, high contrast, larger print, and other perceptual aids.

Your application

Although the application itself might seem pretty standard, I can attest that they vary widely from employer to employer. What's prohibited to ask (by law) in the United States may be acceptable in other countries. While I won't speak to legalities (as your locale will dictate that), I can speak to trends that need to stop in order to increase inclusion. You can refer to this SCORE article for even more information about inclusive hiring.

  1. Don't ask for a date of birth on the application.

    I understand that it seems easier to ask for the information you ultimately need for hiring paperwork, but asking for some information just to make it easier for you is actually exclusionary. Requiring a date of birth (or asking for it at all) invites accusations of age discrimination.
  2. Don't ask for a photo of the applicant.

    Once upon a time this was standard practice in colleges and universities as well as within corporations. Then discrimination cases climbed, and colleges and universities had to stop this practice. You should, too. When an applicant has to submit a photo, it can play into your unconcious biases and can, ultimately, leave you open for racial, gender, and disability discrimination law suits.
  3. Don't ask about families.

    Although I don't see this as often, asking about someone's family situation absolutely is illegal in the US, and it can also lead to discrimination cases.
  4. Don't ask for gender.

    See #2 above. Especially from women, those in the trans community, and non-binary applicants, this is something that introduces bias in your hiring, and feels exclusionary to applicants.
  5. Don't ask about disabilities and/or medical conditions.

    Absolutely do not ask applicants to self-identify or disclose any medical history. Trust people to apply for positions they know they can do. Introducing bias here is also problematic.
  6. Don't ask about race/ethnicity.

    This one should go without saying, but asking applicants to identify their race or ethnicity is not apropriate.

Asking for information after someone has been hired for statistical reporting may be fine, but never include those questions in your application — or your interview.

Final thoughts

You want to hire the best person for the position, and that's perfectly fine. You can only do that, however, if your application page doesn't exclude applicants and is inviting to every potential candidate.


If you have questions about diversity, underrepresented groups, and how to be better at inclusion, stick with us. We'll be sharing a lot. If you're a member of Post Status, you can join us in Post Status Slack in the #hr-talk channel. You may also reach out to me on Twitter where my DMs are always open, and I'm always happy to serve as a resource. —Michelle

Also in Humane Resources:

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