Crafting Better Performing Job Adverts

Avoid vague cliches and focus on competencies and behavioral signals to see your quality of hire soar.


The language we use in job descriptions can subtly perpetuate unconscious biases, unintentionally discouraging qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. By understanding the impact of biased language and adopting better performing writing practices, organizations can attract a wider pool of talent, build stronger teams, and deliver a more accurate response from job advertising--measurably improving your Quality of Hire.

“Passionate Rock Star who is Tech–savvy and Energetic”

Many terms commonly found in job adverts can introduce biases related to gender, age, appearance, passion, and work style. These include:

  • Gendered language Words like "rockstar," "killer," “grinder” or "aggressive" can perpetuate gender stereotypes. These words can also repulse more thoughtful, introverted candidates who may be perfect in achieving the goals of the role.

  • Age-related terms Using phrases like "young and energetic" or "tech-savvy" can signal biases against older or less tech-experienced applicants.

  • Work Hard, Play Hard Describe your culture in a meaningful way beyond this 1990s cliché and instead show the values your company stands for and avoid this unprofessional mistake.

  • Vague clichés Phrases like "wear many hats" or "fast-paced environment" often hint at chaotic workplaces, demanding workloads, or limited resources. Try to define “fast-paced,” including what the “many hats” actually are.

  • "Passionate" While often used with positive intent, demanding "passion" can be unrealistic and exclusionary. Some highly competent individuals may demonstrate commitment and excellence without displaying overt passion. My rule of thumb is, if you can’t measure it, you shouldn’t require it.

Organizations need to shift their focus towards competencies, behavioral signals, and inclusive wording choices. This approach aligns with the increasing understanding that demonstrating a candidate's ability to perform is a better indicator of their true potential than relying on subjective terms. For example, “someone I could have a beer with” is a phrase many recruiters hear and it can muddy the waters for the hiring team. Of course you want to like the person you are going to work with, but let’s make the hiring decision on measurable metrics and performance.


  • Identify core skills and knowledge Start by outlining the specific skills and expertise required for the role. Avoid vague or subjective terms and focus on actionable and measurable abilities. The success of your hiring process begins with building a thorough Job Analysis. This will help you see through the great interviewers that won’t be a great fit. Using a validated competency framework (I love Korn Ferry) can help you identify the true best fits in any region or country.

  • Emphasize relevant accomplishments Prioritize specific accomplishments and projects that showcase the candidate's abilities, rather than focusing on years of experience.

Behavioral Signals:

  • Highlight transferable skills Emphasize soft skills like problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, and communication. Look to the candidate's past experiences to understand how they have exhibited these qualities. Use “how did you do that” questions to understand how relationships are nurtured and leveraged.

  • Describe desired work behaviors Provide concrete examples of how the ideal candidate would approach tasks, handle challenges, and contribute to the team. Examples can be provided in the way previous projects were approached, or in how they might handle a specific hypothetical scenario.

It's important to be mindful of words like "passion" and "energy" that can carry subjective, and sometimes, exclusionary connotations. Instead, focus on dedication, commitment to excellence, and enthusiasm toward the company's mission. Additionally, you can reframe "energy" as a "bias to action" to emphasize initiative, proactive problem-solving, and results-oriented behavior. To ensure objectivity and fairness, incorporate competencies that have been validated for gender, age, and background.

Benefits of Accurate Job Adverts

  • Greater diversity Focusing on competencies, behaviors, and inclusive language creates a more objective hiring process that mitigates bias and attracts a broader pool of qualified candidates.

  • Better Hires Aligning the description with demonstrated actions results in a more accurate representation of the role, reducing mismatched expectations.

  • Enhanced candidate experience Provides clear guidance on desired qualifications, making the application process more transparent and engaging. You will feel much more confident in your choices and set the new hire up for success.

By adopting competencies and behavioral signals, organizations promote equitable hiring practices, attract the best talent, and build diverse, high-performing teams. This approach requires careful examination of current language, training in inclusive practices, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

There are validated tools on the market, some big enterprise-level, and some more scrappy for startups and SMB. Our team can help you navigate this complex market to ensure you are deploying the best talent strategy for your organization. Reach out to TalentWyze today.

Remember: The key to crafting truly inclusive job descriptions is to focus on what a candidate can do and how they approach work - not on who they might be.