Inclusive Language in Job Descriptions

Page Summary

  • When preparing job advertisements, use only gender-neutral language and avoid gender-coded terms.
  • Keep acronyms and jargon to a minimum.
  • Promote job benefits directly in the advertisement, especially those aimed around child-care and mention your organization’s efforts to promote an inclusive and diverse workforce. 

A job description often provides the first insight to a candidate, about the organization, goals, and values at EPFL or at any company. An organization committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment should reflect this goal in any of its job descriptions. By using inclusive language, you can encourage a diverse pool of qualified job seekers to join your candidate pool. 

Here are a few inclusive language principles to follow when writing job descriptions.

Use Gender-neutral Language

Unless it is required for context, a candidate’s gender should play no role in any job application. Furthermore, a job description should avoid using grammatically gendered terms that may reinforce preference/exclusion towards any specific gender.

   Avoid This      Instead Try

The generic “he” and “his”

The candidate should be proficient in Python, MATLAB, and Microsoft Office. He will develop … His tasks will include …


The candidate/the applicant will develop Their tasks will include

You will develop Your tasks will include

She/He will develop His/her tasks will include …*

*Some people may not refer to themselves as She or He; so avoiding these pronouns actually includes more candidates.

Terms beginning with the prefix man.

  • Manpower, man hours, to man

Use alternatives to these terms:

  • Workforce, staff hours, to operate

See the full list of alternative terms in our glossary here.

Another type of gendered-words to avoid are gender-coded words. These are nouns or adjectives, which are often only used to describe one particular gender.

  • Nouns such as rockstar, hacker, ninja and adjectives like leader, self-reliant, decisive, aggressive are terms that resonate more with male candidates in job descriptions.
  • Adjectives like dependable, bossy, feisty, compassionate, modest, committed, on the other hand, are more commonly applied to female candidates.

Job descriptions with male-coded words attract men to apply for those positions, while simultaneously discouraging women from applying. However, changing male-coded to female-coded terms does not deter men from applying for those positions.

Avoid Jargon, Acronyms, and Complex Phrases

A large organization like EPFL has many terms and acronyms that are unique to its workplace. To someone coming from a different working environment, EPFL’s jargon and acronyms may not be familiar and this may deter some candidates from applying.

When introducing acronyms in a job description, ensure that the expansion of the acronym is used the first time that the acronym is used.

  • At the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) we believe in a diverse environment. Employees at the EPFL are granted …

Keep job descriptions succinct. Avoid superfluous adjectives when referring to a candidate or the position e.g. “The motivated candidate will stringently monitor all expenses …”. Use the active voice instead of the passive voice to shorten descriptions.

Specifically Promote Benefits including Parental Benefits 

Many job simply descriptions at EPFL state:

  • “We offer a competitive salary and benefit, defined by EPFL scales and regulations.”
  • “Salaries and benefits are internationally competitive.”

Neither of these statements provide any information for any candidate. They put the onus on the candidate to search and find what benefits are available. More impactful descriptions would include:

  • Our salaries are competitive (link to salary scale at EPFL).
  • Our benefits include (link to benefits overview for staff at EPFL):
    • Paternal leave: One month.
    • Maternity Leave: Four months.
    • Possibility for remote working: 20% of contract. 
    • Holiday: 5 weeks.
    • On-campus childcare centers.

Add the Equal Opportunity Policy of EPFL/your Group to the Job Posting

If you want a diverse workforce, then you must encourage diverse candidates to join your team. Often this can be done by adding a statement to your job description like the following that emphasizes that you are committed to a diverse work environment:

  • EPFL is an equal opportunity employer and family friendly university. It is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. We are committed to increasing the diversity of our environment and strongly encourage women and underrepresented minorities to apply.

While this phrasing is found in open faculty position descriptions at EPFL, few job advertisements for technical staff, scientific staff, or PhD students mention any statement regarding diversity. For non-faculty positions, it is equally important to emphasize that EPFL is trying to foster a diverse environment.