Tips for avoiding discrimination in job adverts


Finding the right candidate for a role is often a case of finding the perfect fit for a team.

However, even with good intentions, while trying to attract the right candidate you may unwittingly be excluding or putting off other applicants. And, with the wrong wording, you may even be unintentionally discriminating against some potential applicants.

We’ve already covered what you should avoid asking at an interview. Here are a few things you should avoid writing in a job ad:

Discrimination in job adverts

Many businesses have policies in place which are designed to help prevent discrimination within the workplace. However, the guidelines also apply when it comes to attracting the right employees for their vacancies.

As a general guideline, it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone, both at work and in job adverts, based on the following nine protected characteristics:

  • gender
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • disability
  • age
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • sexual orientation
  • gender reassignment

Below are some more specific examples of what should be carefully considered in a job advert…



A preference to hire someone of a particular gender could be viewed as discriminatory in many cases. Even with good intentions (evening up the gender split in the office, for example), favouring a man or woman for a particular role should be avoided in any job advert.

Unless there is an occupational need, expressing a preference for a man or a woman could be considered sex discrimination.

Avoid gender-specific language, such as ‘male only’ or ‘female only’, and keep all terminology neutral. This also applies to job titles. So instead of recruiting a ‘Handy Man’, go for ‘Handy Person’ and you’ll avoid any potential headaches with the HR department.



Employers are required by law to check a candidate’s eligibility to work in the UK. However, all language showing a preference for a particular race should be avoided unless, as with gender, there is an occupational requirement for these factors. Religion is similarly off-limits for the majority of job advertisements.

Once again, it’s all in the terminology. It’s fine to start searching for a German-speaking Account Manager, for example. However, searching for a German Account Manager, or a native speaker of German, could be problematic. Asking for German to be a candidates mother tongue would be also be considered controversial.



In comparison to gender and race discrimination, potential examples of ageism may be relatively harder to spot. Even something seemingly innocent or fairly innocuous, such as searching for a ‘young and dynamic’ candidate or ‘recent graduate’, could fall foul of age discrimination.

Similarly, advertising a role asking for 10 years’ experience may be just as problematic. Rather than asking for a certain amount of experience or years spent in the position as a pre-requisite, employers should focus on a candidate’s necessary skills. After all, candidates with 10 years’ experience can differ greatly in terms of their abilities.

Alternatively, ask for 10 years’ experience but confirm that all candidates who may not have 10 years’ experience but can demonstrate the necessary skills may apply and will be considered.

Unless it’s to determine whether an applicant is over a certain age (allowing someone to sell alcohol, for example), give careful consideration to avoiding age-related terminology.



Any language relating to physical abilities, unless they are completely necessary for the job, should be avoided.

This could include looking for ‘active’ or ‘athletic’ applicants or candidates holding a valid driving licence (if it is not necessary for the role).

Although examples like this are not prohibited, they could potentially be considered discriminatory. Stating that your company is an ‘equal opportunities employer’ at the end of the ad is recommended.



This is by no means a definitive list, and there are a number of other ‘protected characteristics’ which should be carefully considered when drafting a job advert, particularly, of course, if they are requirements for the job.

If in doubt, keep language neutral. That way you may ensure you don’t miss out on the right candidate for the role and that you keep your recruitment equal, and inclusive.


Please note, the information outlined above is intended for general guidance purposes only. For more information on drafting job adverts, visit the ACAS website. 


Related Articles

Your interview nightmares revealed

What are the worst things a candidate can do to guarantee rejection? We asked more than 200 recruiters to share their all-time top interview faux-pas to find out.

Read Article
Five curveball questions you should ask at every interview

To help inspire your interviews, here are five curveball questions that you could ask courtesy of James Reed’s bestselling book, ‘Why You’.

Read Article
Give big this Xmas with #Christmas­Challenge17

Want to give big this Christmas? Find out how you can take part in #ChristmasChallenge17, the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign.

Read Article

Hire the talent to transform your business

Reach 13.1 million active candidates by

signing up to post a job today