Creating Barrier-Free Job Descriptions

Update job descriptions

Use barrier-free job descriptions to attract top immigrant talent. The differences between barrier-free and traditional job descriptions are listed below. Or download Tip Sheet 1: How to Create Barrier-Free Job Descriptions

Barrier-free job descriptions

  • Separate essential and non-essential qualifications
  • Focus on what needs to be achieved
  • Use plain language

Traditional job descriptions

  • Don’t differentiate between essential and non-essential qualifications
  • Focus on how a deliverable should be achieved
  • Use complex language, including words immigrants may not know (HR, organizational, North-American or sector-specific words)

Separate essential and non-essential qualifications using this tool

This screening tool chart helps users sort duties and rank their importance in order to more objectively assess qualifications.

Barrier-free job description techniques and examples

Specify the need, rather than how it’s achieved: For example, instead of requiring a valid driver’s license, ask for the “ability to travel and provide own transportation”, or instead of requiring that a candidate reside in a given location, ask for “the ability to report to work within 30 minutes of call”.

Ability: Ask for ability wherever possible. This enables candidates with transferable skills to compete. Ability means the candidate has the potential to do the job, but may not have had the opportunity to develop the potential. Candidates can demonstrate ability through past achievements, including volunteer experience. For example, instead of requiring knowledge of a law, or experience implementing a law, ask for the ability to learn, interpret and apply a law.

Experience: Ask for related work experience (instead of Canadian work experience, a certain number of years of experience, recent experience, or very specific experience where transferable experience is adequate). For example, instead of asking for “three years experience as a tax auditor”, ask for “experience in tax auditing involving a variety of industries, including several complex audits”. Or instead of “experience with Word XP” ask for “experience with Microsoft Word” or include the phrase “or similar application”.

Credentials: Focus on the qualities or knowledge needed to perform the work effectively, rather than on a specific credential (a degree, diploma, certificate or license). Include a credential in a job advertisement only where it’s required by law (i.e. registered nurse) or where it’s the only means of obtaining the skills, knowledge, and ability needed to perform the work effectively.

Communication: Specify the kind of communication required (for example, listening, speaking on the telephone, writing, or negotiating agreements) rather than asking for a general “ability to communicate effectively.”

Working conditions: Specify the number of hours of work per pay period for part-time position, and the expected duration of the term if it is not an ongoing position. For shift or late-night work, include information about security.

Personal traits: Focus on the desired ability or skill, instead of a personal trait. For example instead of requiring a “mature, cooperative person”, ask for “ability to work effectively as a team member”.

Plain language: Write clearly and simply, using common words, a straightforward style and simple sentences. Avoid jargon, technical and legal language, and acronyms. For plain language advice, see page 15 of the  WorkBC Employers Toolkit Diversity at Work (Plain Language Tools , A Checklist for Employers).  The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmark provides more tips for writing job descriptions which attract qualified immigrant candidates.

Content adapted from and Manitoba Provincial Government Human Resource Policies and Guidelines – Barrier Free Job Opportunity Advertising