Attract more female applicants to your experienced roles

by Jennifer Hargreaves

Diversity in Senior Leadership and Women on Boards. I see these two topics discussed in the news virtually every day. How can we create the future leaders demanded by industry if we cannot plug the holes in the leaking pipeline?

For the past 18 months I have been speaking with hiring managers and industry about the challenges in recruiting women at experienced levels. I have outlined below some fail proof strategies for upping the number of female applicants applying to your management and senior management roles.

Diversity is no longer just a feel good initiative. If you want to stay ahead of your competition and relevant on the global stage, you must start taking action to attract and retain talent from all walks of life. Different views and perspectives stemming from race, gender, sexuality or age can make your teams stronger if you figure out how to leverage that talent in an inclusive environment.

Retaining and leveraging diverse talent is a topic for another post. Let’s start by increasing the number of experienced women applying for your roles.

As the often-cited Hewlett-Packard survey found women respond quite differently to job advertisements then men.

“Women apply for jobs only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the position. Men apply for the same jobs when they feel they meet only 60 percent of the job requirements.”


So how can you attract more women from the get go?


1. Marketing 101: Deliver a clear message and set expectations based on candidate needs

According to a recent report by PwC, three shining stars emerge as the most attractive employer traits by which the modern workforce navigate their careers. For experienced women the ranking is 1) a culture of flexibility and work-life balance, 2) opportunities for career progression, and 3) competitive wages.

Communicate those benefits upfront. Describe how the role is flexible or that you are open to negotiating a flexible work schedule. By stating this upfront you can show that a discussion on flexibility is welcome, that you are willing to build a solution together that works for both the individual manager and the employee.

Here is an example statement “At tellent we understand that your best work doesn’t necessary happen at a desk between the hours of 9am – 5pm and that life can sometimes be unpredictable. 

We have a variety of flexible work options available to our employees including flexible scheduling, location and hours worked. We are committed to supporting an agile workforce culture, where you can successfully manage the demands of work and your personal priorities.”

Be transparent. If a role requires you be in the office X number of days a week or involves travel, that should be noted. It will save you time and money in getting the right fit for the role. Don’t assume travel is out of the questions for women with children or other personal commitments.

For career progression, what do your training programs look like? Women face unique challenges in getting to, and staying in leadership roles. These include leadership training, access to sponsors, mentors and networking. A general paragraph on the culture supporting training and career progression such as the above would increase appeal to both men and women. Below is some sample text.

We actively develop our leaders through a number of initiatives including customized training and mentorship programs. We want to help our employees grow as effective managers, future leaders and happy people.”


2. Use gender-neutral language.

Your job advertisement is the first glimpse into your company culture. What does it say out you?

A study on over 4000 job descriptions and potential applicants showed that a lack of gender-inclusive wording deterred women from applying. Masculine wording such as dominant and competitive should be balanced with more feminine themed words such as community, commitment or responsible in order to be appealing to both sexes.

There are now computer software programs that can scan your job descriptions to highlight positive and negative phrases as well as masculine and feminine descriptors. This is the first impression of your company culture. Make sure you understand the impression you give. Is it inclusive?


3. Stop fishing from the same pond as everyone else. It’s not just what you’re saying but where you saying it.

You’re going to attract the same people, using the same messaging, across the same platforms. In an environment where job title and pay are secondary to culture and values, content is key for attracting and retaining the right talent. To drive engagement with your target candidates, find out where they are and what they want and recruit differently from your competitors.

While tellent is the only company in Canada providing this entrepreneurial approach to talent management, other companies in the US and Europe have been doing it successfully for years. If you are having trouble finding and attracting female talent into your leadership pipeline (as the research suggests), it may be time to look elsewhere. A subway advertisement showing a young man playing ping pong is not going speak to a women mid-career in need of flexibility. It is also not where women are going to look for information on corporate culture or career opportunities that will fit their values and ambitions.


4. Engage differently. Inspire.

According to the same PwC report mentioned above, some 78% of large organizations said they’re actively seeking to hire more women – especially into more experienced and senior positions. You have to be creative in telling your story telling to reaching your audience if your organization wants to win in this talent war.

Develop your recruitment brand, tell your story through engagement with your future candidates. According to Catalyst research women that have access to flexible work options have higher career aspirations. The path to success is more clear – we can see it, therefore we can do it. For instance, flexible work options will let me… be a better mom, look after my ageing parents, train for the Olympics AND pursue the career I want.

If you can show present and future candidates how their peers are attaining success working with your company, you can inspire more women to stay engaged and lead. Content and engagement is key to attracting women to your organization and building loyalty.

Women come to me at tellent when they are not sure how to move forward with their career ambitions. They want to work and are looking for access to companies that will support them into leadership and lead fulfilling lives. The above tips will help you to speak to the women who could fill your pipelines and go on to be engaged leaders.