Top tips to attract female talent
It can be difficult to attract female talent, but the benefits are huge. Here are some simple ways to making your hiring process appeal more to women.
It is commonplace for organisations to scratch their heads in confusion and wonder why they don’t attract female talent for their jobs. This is even more surprising because we know that HR is predominantly composed of women. Then you see bemused male recruiters posting questions in their LinkedIn streams, querying research that has been around for a while.
So let’s look at what we know.
Data led recruitment
Research tells us that using male coded language deters women from making applications. So any business that wants to attract female talent needs to get some basics sorted. The first is language selection. Work carried out by Kat Matfield and Textio spells out the need to avoid male coded words like “ninja” and replace it with more female coded language. This can increase female applicants by 23%. Men are also not put off from applying for gender neutral adverts or even female friendly ones.
Just one software tweak can increase applications in total by 25%. Instead of firing off un-targeted adverts, it clearly makes sense to put some thought into them as well as other role related documentation, such as job profiles. I even saw one male recruiter on LinkedIn referring to this as “writing like a lady.” This illustrates a need for a deeper understanding. It’s about communicating with a target market in the way that they will respond, like any other marketing strategy. Companies producing Segways would use different language marketing to teens than to seniors.
Women need different information
The main issue is that male coded recruitment practices are used to try to attract female talent. It may work sometimes for those women who are gender bi-lingual and can speak “Mench.” These women are comfortable in male dominated environments and are not deterred by language use. They probably don’t even notice it. But junior women may not be so familiar. They have also been raised with different expectations. So to strengthen the female talent pipeline, recruiters and hiring managers need to put some effort into what works for women to increase the number of female candidate applications.
We know there are certain factors resonate with women job applicants that may not be necessary for men. Organisations need to apply the information that we know will generate interest with women or at least quell their concerns.
Tips to generate interest from female candidates
I’m grouping the 12 key ways to attract female talent listed in the infographic above:
#1 Publicise your female friendly processes and systems. Women are put off by inflated qualifications that seem to be required for any opening. Be clear about what competences are mandatory and which ones are desirable. Even specify that candidates that don’t meet all the requirements will be considered, although some HR contacts have concerns about that. Research suggests that men will apply for a job when the meet only 60% of the criteria (I would say even less in some cases).Women will only apply if they meet 80-100% and tend to follow guidelines. Focus on what women will be required to do in the role rather than what they may have achieved in the past. Share which elements of your processes are female friendly including unconscious bias training for all involved in the hiring decision. Add your organisation’s support of gender balanced short lists.
#2 Showcase female role models. Demonstrate that women work successfully in your organisation and give profiles of role models on your career page. Publish the numbers of women who work in your organisation. These can even be added to a profile or at least with a hyperlink to the appropriate web page.
#3 Be clear about benefits early on. If you have flex working and other benefits will women especially appreciate, publish them up front. Many women don’t like to ask for fear of repercussions. Those fears are valid.
#4 Highlight the support you offer women. Mentoring and sponsorship programmes are key, plus a zero tolerance on sexism and sexual harassment. Show you have closed, or are closing the gender pay gap, and be clear about the the potential career progression opportunities for women.
#5 Reference social proofing sites with positive feedback for your organisation. If you have an internal survey reference that too.
#6 Male champions. Highlight your leadership commitment to gender balance and diversity as a whole. Showcase that the men in the organisation are supportive. Many aren’t. This is particularly important to Millennials. 30% have already left a job for one with an more inclusive culture. (Deloitte Pulse 2017)
Check out 3Plus Unconscious Bias training to help create a bias conscious culture in your organisation.
Why this works
Following some basic strategies will result in positive outcomes:
- Showcase the benefits women can enjoy. You get more applicants because the information targets the positive factors that influence their decision to apply. You are likely also to improve the quality of any applicants because today’s top female talent has multiple choices, so that are in the upper position. There is a war for female talent.
- Allay concerns. Many women self-de-select when faced with ambiguity. Understanding what those concerns are and going out of your way to be transparent and provide relevant information will overcome any reluctance to apply.
- Change your referral systems. 31% of openings are filled via network referrals. We know that men tend to refer male candidates. Specifically target the female market and ask your male champions to refer women candidates.
- Fish where there are fish. Broaden your network so your organisation can extend its reach. Don’t go fishing for female talent in the same narrow pool where you already know there will not be many suitable women applicants and then complain about it. This requires diverse networks.
Audit your processes
There is a tendency to commit to one way of approaching a challenge and then waiting for it to be over before monitoring the results and deciding how well this is working. Instead, run parallel searches to find what works best. Research from LinkedIn indicates that when female job seekers know how many other people had applied for a position “increased the likelihood that they would also apply.” This made no difference to the number of male applicants.
Transform your culture
In some companies despite the increase in women at a junior level, they are still leaving mid-career. It’s not enough to bring women in, if once they get there the culture is stacked against them. If you treat women well even if they do leave, encourage them to write positive comments on social proofing sites. If they are unhappy they will share that experience. Research suggests that women will share a negative experience 32 times compared to a man who will share only 3 times.
If organisations want to protect their employer brand they need to focus on the workplace experience for women not just the hiring process.