New report explores how gender-coded words can impact recruitment outcomes

As organizations compete for top talent this year, understanding how to write a compelling job description that attracts qualified candidates is vital.

A new report from Appcast the programmatic advertising company, says that using gendered wording to evaluate job ad performance. The most commonly used male-coded words are ambitious, confident, decision, logic(al) and superior, while compassion, emotion(al), interpersonal, sensitive and warm are the most commonly used female-coded words.

The Words Used in Job Ads Matter

According to the Appcast report, job ads with gender-neutral language (i.e., language without male- and female-coded words) resulted in: 

  • 41% lower CPA compared to ads with both male- and female-coded words
  • 29% more applications per job compared to ads with both male- and-female coded words
  • 24% better apply rate compared to ads with both male- and female-coded words
  • 44% more applications per job compared to ads with female-coded words
  • 20% better apply rate compared to job ads with male-coded words

Further, while gender-neutral ads perform the best, the report found that only 38% of job ads use gender-neutral language.

Impact of Gendered Wording on Recruitment Outcomes Varies by Job Function

The Appcast report examined 22 different job functions – from construction, technology, transportation and warehousing to retail, healthcare, customer service and education – to explore how gender-coded words impact job advertising results for predominantly male, predominantly female and gender-balanced job functions. The report used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to provide gender context for job functions. 

Top-level Findings:

Predominantly Male Job Functions (job functions with at least 60% male workers) 

  • Gender-neutral language receives 145% more applications per job at a 16% lower CPA than job ads with both female- and male-coded words.

Predominantly Female Job Functions (job function with at least 60% female workers) 

  • Job ads with gender-neutral ads have the lowest CPA, but also the least number of applications per job. 
  • Job ads with female- coded words get 62% more applicants than gender-neutral job ads. 

Gender-Balanced Job Functions (job functions with between 40-60% female/male workers) 

  • Compared to job ads with gender-neutral language, job ads with female-coded words get 46% fewer candidates at a 16% higher CPA, and job ads with male-coded words get 25% fewer applications per job at a 49% higher CPA.

Job Function-Specific Findings:

The report provides insight and specific recommendations for each of the 22 different job functions, including the percent of workers that are male vs. female, percent of job ads that have male-, female- or gendered-coded words, how those ads perform, most commonly used gender-coded words and expert tips to boost advertising outcomes. 

While in aggregate, gender-neutral job ads have the best outcomes, the report found some nuances. For example, in technology, which is considered a predominantly male job function as 72% of the workers are men according to the BLS, Appcast found: 

  • Job ads that include female-coded words have the lowest CPA (20% lower than job ads with male-coded words) and the highest apply rate.
  • Job ads with both female- and male-coded words get 44% more applications than job ads with only male-coded words and 50% more applications than gender-neutral ads without male- or female-coded words. 
  • Most commonly used male-coded words: confident/confidence, decision, logic/logical
  • Most commonly used female-coded words: compassionate, interpersonal, sensitive
  • Expert Tip: Add female-coded words to your job ads to improve recruitment outcomes; job ads with both female- and male-coded job ads perform best. 

“Recognizing how word choice in job advertising impacts results and adjusting ads accordingly are crucial to attaining recruitment objectives,” said Heather Salerno, senior vice president of marketing at Appcast. “Our goal with this report is to provide hiring organizations with a guide that they can continuously turn to and use as a resource to achieve their specific recruitment advertising objectives.” 

To download the “Impact of Gendered Wording on Candidate Attraction” report, visit  https://info.appcast.io/whitepaper/appcast-gender-report-website.


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