Announcing Sourcing as a Service!

Sourcing as a Service accelerates your internal hiring efforts, with customized candidate sourcing for targeted outreach.

We take care of critical yet time-consuming ‘top of funnel’ sourcing tasks for both Hiring Managers and Recruiters freeing your time to pitch and close qualified candidates!

“No Indians Or Asians”: Avoiding Discrimination in Job Ads

asian photo

A recent job ad posted in Tasmania sparked a huge outcry for using the phrase ‘no Indians or Asians please’. Written by a cleaning sub-contractor for Coles, it was clearly a case of blatant racism and condemned as such by everyone, including the management of Coles.

It was probably written as the result of ignorance rather than malice, but it got me thinking about the recruitment ads I see from time to time that seem discriminatory to me, but in much more subtle ways.

Free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Recruitment Advertising will tell you how to structure your job ads to grab attention and connect with your ideal candidate. Download Your Copy

Excluding Oldies

One phrase I see regularly is ‘person sought for young, vibrant company’. Obviously because they know they can’t advertise for a young person (which would be ageist), they get around it by describing their company as young and vibrant, thus implying that they are looking for similar applicants, sending a clear message to me that older applicants need not apply.

According to anti-discrimination legislation, you are allowed to advertise for a ‘junior’, if the job pays a junior salary or if you advertise it as a ‘junior position’ within the hierarchy of the company. Using the words ‘young’, ‘vibrant’, ‘mature’ or ‘senior’ to describe a desired candidate are not allowed however and can attract a claim of discrimination.

You can use those words in other ways though. For example, it is not considered discriminatory to advertise for someone who has a ‘mature outlook’, because both old and young people could arguably possess this quality.

Similarly, if you advertise for someone with 10 years experience (clearly an older person), that is discriminatory, but call it ‘considerable’ or ‘extensive’ experience instead and that is fine. Seems a bit like word games to me.

Boys (or Girls) Only

I still see gender-specific terms like ‘tradesman’, ‘storeman’ ‘salesman’ and ‘Girl Friday’ used in job ads, but by and large, people seem to have learned the lessons regarding sexual discrimination and are mostly quite PC about how they advertise jobs that could be performed equally well by either sex.

Something called ‘new age’ discrimination seems to have appeared in its place though. This is discrimination against someone because of a disability and, here again, a form of ‘double speak’ seems to be employed.

Whereas advertising for ‘able-bodied’ candidates is clearly discriminating against those who have a disability, saying that someone ‘must have a driver’s licence’ when it is clearly a desk job, is a more subtle way of doing the same thing.

Bilingual Bias

Another common requirement in many job ads is ‘English must be your first language’. Admittedly the jobs being advertised are writing jobs that require a certain ability with words, but surely the question of whether English is your first or second language should not come into it. Could you not be someone who speaks both languages equally fluently?

Because the job boards I am referring to are visited by lots of people from foreign countries, I would be more inclined to interpret ‘English must be your first language’ as ‘no Indians or Asians please’.

This more subtle form of discrimination in job ads would seem to be very much in the eye of the beholder. What I see as discriminatory, you may not.

How to Avoid Discriminating

The test for what is deemed discriminatory is whether a reasonable person with no special knowledge would consider it so. I consider myself a reasonable person, but maybe I’m overreacting.

  • Avoid gender-based discrimination: Ensure your job title doesn’t include terms like “waitress”, “admin girl”, “mail man” or “salesman”. That way you won’t find yourself in hot water.
  • Avoid racial discrimination: Even if the ability to speak a foreign language is critical to the role, it’s the proficiency in the language as opposed to one’s country of origin that is key. So “the ability to speak Mandarin is essential” is far more favourable than “you must be Chinese”.
  • Avoid age discrimination: Never mention an age requirement or refer to a specific number of years someone has worked in a particular field … ever.
  • Avoid disability discrimination: If physical activity is key to the role (such as a baggage attendant at the airport), ensure that the task (such as “heavy lifting”) is an absolute necessity and not just “preferred”.

Remember the purpose of a recruitment ad is to find the best candidate for the job. If you exclude various groups for whatever reasons, you are limiting the pool of applicants and thereby reducing the likelihood that the ideal candidate will be amongst them.

Cofounder at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for 20 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.

  • rosita gonzolas

    this is the STUPIDEST blog EVER. the ads were obviously photoshopped, and this guy got nothin better to do so he decided to make FAKE DISCRIMINATING ADS. wtf. really? like, seriously?! well get your lazy butt, get a job, and stop doing nasty ass discriminating ads for your own please. BURN U CAN PUT SOME ICE ON THAT BURN. or maybe burn-cream thats in the cabinet. HA.

    • Rosita – I can assure you these were all real job ads found online.
      The only editing used in the post was to (a) hide personal / company details; and (b) emphasise the offending part of the job ad.

  • e

    Regarding “English as a first language”: actually, unless somebody is bilingual (learning both languages before a very young age — say 3 or 4 years old), they will never *quite* acquire native fluency. This is a known phenomenon in linguistics. There can’t be many jobs where this matters (translator? editor?) but there must be some.

  • Thomas Hadley

    Are you in the USA, I am on Australia the laws are different hear ?