Removing Bias from Job Postings

I almost didn’t go to college. I didn’t love high school. I had average grades and a decent SAT score, but I just didn’t like school. I had no interest in all the subjects they forced me to learn. Plus, the day I turned 16, I figured out I could make money with my time.

That was the end of school for me. Thank God I turned 16 late in my junior year long after most of my friends or I may not have graduated. I actually started to skip classes just to go work. I wanted money and high school seemed like a dumb place to waste time.

Because of my determination, I was offered a full time job the day I turned 18. $40k to work at American Eagle as a manager, no degree required. I was ecstatic. I remember rushing home to tell my mom only to see this look of horror wash over her face.

Immediately, she grabbed a laptop and mapped my lifetime earnings. She showed me that around 35 – 40, the age I am now, earnings would plateau. I wouldn’t be able to make more than that.

College Criteria: Why Can’t We Keep Up A Salary Without A Degree?

So, my money-hungry ass went to college. I earned a bunch of debt and paid money for books only to get a percentage of the cash back at the end of the semester. I paid to earn.

But what if that conversation with my mom had gone differently? What if we were just trying to pay bills and she encouraged me to make money now? What if I never got that degree? I’m still the same smart, hard-working person I was. Why couldn’t I make that money?

It makes it really clear to me how lucky I am to have been afforded the privilege of going to college. It also makes it clear how silly that thought process is in the first place and how biased we are toward a privilege not afforded to every person.

Delete Degree Requirements To Delete Bias

If you want less biased job posts, you need to reconsider those degree requirements.

Did your candidate learn something in their degree program that they’ll be using every single day? Is it something that they can’t possibly learn by Googling or practicing? If yes, sure, include the degree requirement. But unless the answer is 100% yes, don’t do it.

I say this as a person running an entire company who has never cited a college text book.

Let’s be honest. Most degree programs don’t align with a position’s workload. If you want to hire a doctor, a lawyer, or someone with a license, that’s one thing – those degree requirements matter.

But if you want to hire an experienced marketer, HR professional, or software engineer that’s already five years into their career? No way. You’re just cutting off qualified candidates with your bias – because guess what? College is a privilege, not a right.

Write about experiences this person has had that would qualify them for the job, not their privileges. Create contexts for people to self identify. Really crazy idea: tell the truth about what you really need.

I can bet it’s not a college degree.

We can’t keep doing things the same way and expect things to change when it comes to bias – especially privilege bias. That’s not how the world works.

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Kat Kibben View All →

Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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