S4 E66 | eXpert Tease: Gender neutral pronouns and job stories with Kay Kelison

Announcer 0:00
Welcome to the CXR channel, our premier podcast for talent acquisition and talent management. Listen in as the CXR community discusses a wide range of topics focused on attracting, engaging and retaining the best talent. We’re glad you’re here.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:16
Hi, everybody, Chris Hoyt here from career crossroads, I am bringing you into the fold on a new podcast videocast series that we’ve been delivering for, I guess just about two months now. Now, I get to take on the lucky task of sitting down with an industry leader and a practitioner and ask them to share just one thing. One thing that they’ve learned on their professional journey felt as a leader or that they do in their everyday delivery that really makes them successful. Now, these talks are really no more than about 10 or 15 minutes. And as such, we call them an eXpert Tease. Now you can listen in live and participate with questions and chat, or you can find them on our website at CXR dot works or CareerXroads podcasts or on the youtube.com/careerxroads channel, I’m going to tell you if you’re watching live, you realize there’s never been a better time to dial in because I apparently look like a pumpkin with the lighting and a remote situation today. So that’s a good excuse to push you out. push you out to the YouTube channel and check that out. So if you are with us live, you’ve got the opportunity to drop a question in the session chat. And if we’ve time, we’ll try to address them during that segment. If we run out of time or there are follow up questions, we’ll take that conversation over to the open and public exchange that is hosted by csr. And that’s at CXR.work/talenttalks now, the topic today is one that I have been looking forward to for quite a while it touches on a subject of DNI that I think oftentimes gets overlooked that actually sits within an area of talent acquisition that’s so often gets ignored or avoided when we’re talking about job descriptions and being conscious of how important gender neutral pronouns can be when creating a successful description, as our guest today recommends job stories, not description. So let’s jump in today. My guest is Kay Kelison and she is the principal researcher at Zillow. Okay, welcome to the show.

Kay Kelison, Zillow 2:05
Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here, Chris. I appreciate it.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:10
I’m really, really happy to have you.

Kay Kelison, Zillow 2:12

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:14
I enjoy your work. But when you when you talk about gender neutral pronouns, in job stories, what are you really talking about? Why is this so important?

Kay Kelison, Zillow 2:24
Well, I think it’s important because if we choose certain terms, we eliminate others, we need to think about who to include. And that goes with females, transgender disability folks and stuff like that. And so I look at the job story about how we engage with them, and how we make them feel welcome. And and thought of, you know, in when we’re seeking talent, and I think it begins with the job story, or did job descriptions, and how we engage with them by using language that they can relate to?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:09
And what is what’s something like that look like? Kay, like, what would be sort of a before and after example, for those who this might be kind of a new, new topic for them?

Kay Kelison, Zillow 3:17
Well, I think, I think sometimes it starts with the title. Like I’ve seen some titles that have chair, Chairman, when we should be saying chairperson, you know, when we say he or her, we should be also thinking about them. And they, you know, it’s inclusive. Some people don’t identifies she and her, or he and him. They identify themselves of them and they. Sometimes it’s also as simple as elitist. And affinity bias. You know, I know some of us when we’re in tech, we talk about, like, how people associate their jobs, or they’re looking for talent. and hire manager might say, start talking about, I’d like to have this guy from Harvard, this guy, you know, and we don’t think about that that’s excluding women, or transgender or LGBTQ. Or, also, it’s more like the likability like, they’ll associate like, Imma go out to go out for a beer with them. You know, when they’re interviewing. It’s like, Oh, this guy is great. I can go for a beer, or when a woman’s being interviewed or talked to, they’re like, well, she talks too much. You know, so that likability bias is also part of the inclusion too.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 4:44
It’s interesting and Is it is it is it lazy to take a swipe through the job descriptions and just get rid of he she and replace it with with them or this person, or is that an appropriate? Do you think that’s sort of an appropriate approach?

Kay Kelison, Zillow 5:00
Yes, you know, the cool thing is that it’s not as hard as we think it is. These days, there’s some tools out there like texio and text analyzer, there’s actually a really good tool out there called gender decoder that helps you write job descriptions in an inclusive way. So we don’t really have to overthink it. It’s really simple mindset to just change that that description, you know, like Rockstar hackers, that’s very masculine. Now, some women may not think that, but we are eliminating some really awesome talent when we talk about Rockstar or even ageism. You know, that’s, that’s something that, especially when we’re working in millennial mindset, there’s some awesome people who are over 50, that can do the job, too. You know, even though we’re trying to attack the young uns out there, attract not attack attract the young ones. We tend to dismiss the people who’ve been doing the job. And when I’m reading a job, and I feel like I’m reading that I all automatically eliminate myself. Because I don’t feel like they’re going to even give me a chance. If they’re talking about being a rock star or guru. It’s sort of like, it’s not a great approach. And we need to change that mindset, if we want to really attract great talent.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 6:34
So Kay, I think I have a question that’s probably in a lot of people’s minds. Rockstar guru, we get that, but what about what about the term ninja?

Kay Kelison, Zillow 6:44
Well, I personally, I like Ninja, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for a job description. I think we need to keep it to the basics, and really talk to the reader and really talk to what we’re trying to attract. Because again, that’s why I like job stories. Because job descriptions tend to just focus. A template scientists mindset, like they, they focus on the skill set, it’s like, I need this to be this person to be like me, or I need this person to be like, have these different skill sets, or our company is the greatest, you know, and but that’s not really speaking to the candidate. We talked about transparency, we talked about values and stuff. But we don’t demonstrate those values in the job description. And I know, it’s, it’s time consuming. And I know, most of us, recruiters tend to want to write it, because we want to help the hiring manager because they don’t have time. And they rather just, this is what I want. I don’t care about anything else. I think it takes a lazy step towards when we use the Equal Opportunity jargon at the end. And that checks the box of diversity. And I think that’s a mistake, when we just use that thinking we covered our bases.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:02
Yeah, I mean, Kay there is an argument that a stent, you know, when when leaders or project teams go through to clean up long standing job descriptions that a template be designed. And often that includes maybe an introduction paragraph four bullets of requirements four bullets of what they’ll actually be doing all day, and then a call to action that keeps it really simple. That gets rid of job description. Some of them we’ve seen, you know, they’re just 42 bullets. That’s it. They’re paragraphs and paragraphs are that are everything manager wishes you could be. So if I tell you that I’ve got a template, and this is my new job description, talk to me just for a second, because we got a minute or two left, talk to me for just a second on why my job description template should be kind of a little bit of a swipe left in favor of your job story approach.

Kay Kelison, Zillow 8:53
Well, I think you can use a template like you can you want to mark off what it is that you’re advertising, right. But it’s how you use the language, just how you present that. And I think we tend to use bullets because we want to have someone reading it quick and fast and then apply. But I also we’re we’re also in this in this era of social. And we’re in this era of authenticity. And I don’t think by putting bullets in, which I don’t, I’m not against it, but I think we tend to eliminate the possibility of having good conversations and sharing what it is and why we want that candidate to apply. I think sometimes our ego gets in the way. And if we use a template, it puts us in a position where we constantly look the same, we act the same, we behave the same. And if we don’t put a little bit different language in each role. It you’re missing out, you know, and I don’t think it takes a lot to make that change. And I don’t think I’m not saying I’m not excluding excluding the template mindset. But sometimes we get lazy. And then it doesn’t, we’ll lose out on some talent. But the story can I mean, that template could be changed into a story. It’s sort of like, you know, instead of just putting out there, like we have values, we have all these benefits. But it’s not really inviting people to apply, especially if it’s not in the language to where it’s going to eliminate me who are going to be wanting to jump at that job.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:36
So Kay, I love that. We’ve got, we got a couple of questions have come in private chat and a few in the public chat here. I’m just going to pull one right now. Who, in your opinion, Kay, who does this? Well, who should somebody who’s getting ready to take on a big project like this, go and look at go look at their job descriptions. And it’s okay, if you say, Zillow…

Kay Kelison, Zillow 10:58
I don’t think there’s one perfect company but I know at Zillow, that exactly, especially our executive team, we kind of set the standards. And we really have put a lot of effort into bringing in the talent as part of the conversation instead of us dictating what we want dictating how we want it. And it’s, it’s our efforts of trying to change that language. It is a mind shift, because stories, you know, people panic and stuff like that. It’s not a novel. Although when you work with marketing team, I work with some awesome leaders who have written job descriptions, like six pages, you know, so it’s like, Okay, this is a little bit too much. But the fun part is using tools that can help us. So, but I guess I lost my thought because I got into Zillow, I love Zillow, but I don’t have a specific company. Um, but I’m hoping with our conversations like this, we can start influencing, and it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to make mistakes. We learn by that. I love talking about this. So I, I would sit down with anybody and just start picking their brain and start helping them write the job descriptions. But if we can change that mindset, I think it’ll elevate our, our engagement with talent.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 12:28
I think that’s great. Kay, this is so cool. I want to look I want to thank you. And we really appreciate your time this morning and your willingness to look

Kay Kelison, Zillow 12:34
Oh crap that was fast. Are you serious?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 12:36
It does go fast, like our listeners, do dial in and we got a website up guys. We have that exchange at a cxr.org/talenttalks. And that’s gonna let you drop some questions in there. Kay, I heard you volunteer to look at some job description. So pay some pretty bad ones in there so we can take a good look together.

Kay Kelison, Zillow 12:58
I also announcing I can also send out the tools that I recommend. I find it into I find it like a game I look at as a game, a puzzle. It’s fascinating. It’s fascinating when we take advantage of words.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 13:13
Yeah, it’s perfect. I’m looking forward to look at everybody. Next week I’m going to be talking with Madeline Laurino, industry analyst and founder of aptitude research. She’s going to join us on November 19, at 1pm. Eastern and share her insights on how to build the foundation of talent acquisition tech within your organization from integration to data to automation. So I suspect whether you are an innovation that barely has an ATS or if you’re just in the middle of a full blown system integration or even an automation implementation, I think you’re gonna want to hear this so until then, I hope to see everybody online at www.cxr.works/talenttalks. Thanks everybody.

Kay Kelison, Zillow 13:49
Thank you.

Announcer 13:50
Thanks for listening to the CXR channel please subscribe to CXR on your favorite podcast resource and leave us a review while you’re at it. Learn more about CXR at our website CXR.works facebook.com and twitter.com /careerxroads and on Instagram @careerxroads. We’ll catch you next time