Data Doesn’t Lie: Removing These Gendered Keywords Gets You More Applicants

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At ZipRecruiter we’re constantly optimizing our search logic in order to better match employers with job applicants. We’re also highly conscious of trends in the space. The topic of gender bias in job ads has been having a media moment recently (it’s been studied, debated, and ultimately described as a huge puzzle) and we, like many others, have been frustrated by the topic. Unlike most others though, ZipRecruiter has millions of job ads, and we know exactly how they perform. So we asked some of our best data scientists to investigate the true impact of this phenomenon, and more importantly, give employers actionable tips on how to fix it.

Here’s what we learned: when companies remove gender biased keywords, the payoff can be huge.


The concept of “gendered” job listings refers to the use of male or female skewing terms within job descriptions. This idea has been gaining recognition since it was researched by the American Psychological Association, whose findings illustrated how some seemingly innocuous words could actually signal a gender bias in your job ads.  When approaching our own analysis, we used the list from the APA’s study to classify problematic terms.  

Want to see more? Take an additional look at The Journal of Social Psychology’s masculine and feminine words to get a better understanding.

We quickly saw that gendered words, particularly male words, were widely used in all industries.  


In particular, business, finance, healthcare and insurance all showed a strong inclination towards using masculine action words. Our own industry, technology, is often criticized for being male-biased, but we thought it was noteworthy that four key industries rank above tech.  It was small comfort though, as the data was clear: Across the board, we all have work to do.  

The team also looked at which states had comparatively more or less gender bias in their job listings.

California, the home of Silicon Valley, does not make top 10 – it’s actually number 44, which we found surprising (and, given that we’re headquartered in Santa Monica, CA, again, a little bit of a relief!)  Interestingly though, South Dakota tops the charts, holding the highest male bias in job ads, whereas New Jersey wins most heavily female-biased.


Asking yourself how to fix this before you jeopardize your recruiting efforts? Here are some examples of how words like these commonly appear, and how you can re-write them for better results:

Male Biased Phrasing                                        Better Neutral Wording

We’re looking for strong…                                   We’re looking for exceptional…

Who thrive in a competitive atmosphere…      Who are motivated by high goals…

Candidates who are assertive…                          Candidates who are go-getters…

Female Biased Phrasing                                   Better Neutral Wording

We are a community of concerned…                We are a team focused on…

Have a polite  and pleasant style…                    Are professional and courteous…

Nurture and connect with customers               Provide great customer service

Ultimately ZipRecruiter’s data confirms that the simple act of reframing your ad offers tremendous upside for employers – and ignoring these simple keyword fixes could be limiting the talent that’s attracted to your business. If you want to make the most out of recruiting candidates, take the extra time to edit your description and make sure you’re keeping the doors wide open.



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