Should we ask for 'Pronouns' on application forms?

I'm currently reviewing our recruitment application form and equalities monitoring form.

It occurred to me that we should probably be asking candidate for their pronouns on the application form, does anyone else do this? Could this be seen as discriminatory if it's on the application form, which the recruiting manager will see, rather than the equalities monitoring form.

Obviously, it will be optional to give a response.

  • Hi Clare,
    We don't ask for their pronoun on the application form. I don't think it's something that would be useful to know at that stage and it could perhaps open up the risk of a discrimination claim if the candidate doesn't get shortlisted or offered the job, for the same reason that their title (i.e. Mrs etc) should be left off an application form. If anything, I'm sure it's okay to be a question on the monitoring form, assuming that form is not shared with the hiring manager.
  • Hi Clare,

    That’s a great question. Honestly, there might not be a definitive answer, but here’s what I think about it:

    Providing pronouns on application forms can be a positive step toward creating an inclusive workplace for employers. It shows that the organisation is committed to diversity and inclusivity, recognising that people have different gender identities and pronoun preferences. Collecting this data can also help track progress towards inclusivity targets.

    However, it’s important to approach this with sensitivity. I believe it should be optional for applicants to share their pronouns, as some individuals may not feel comfortable doing so for various reasons. Providing an optional “Pronouns” field allows applicants to choose whether to disclose this information.

    When including a “Pronouns” field, i feel that it would be important to offer neutral options like “prefer not to say” for those who may prefer not to disclose their pronouns. And do not make this field mandatory.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of the term “Preferred Pronouns” because it undermines inclusivity. It suggests that pronouns are a mere preference rather than an integral part of someone’s identity. Instead, a simple “Pronouns” field with examples like “he/him, she/her, they/them” may work better?

    The same applies to the “Name” field. I think it’s best to avoid using terms like “preferred name,” which can inadvertently suggest that the person’s chosen name is not valid. A “Name” field is usually enough, but if legal names are necessary, an additional field asking for “Legal name, if different from the name used” could be added.

    Pronouns are a fundamental aspect of gender identity, and asking for them demonstrates respect and helps prevent misgendering, which can be hurtful and isolating.

    Including a pronoun field on application forms can also help normalise the practice of sharing pronouns, creating a more comfortable environment for applicants and employees. Remember, not everyone’s gender identity is apparent from their name or appearance, so asking for pronouns avoids making incorrect assumptions, which can prevent other issues that can arise.

    Furthermore, asking all applicants for their pronouns promotes fairness by not singling out individuals with non-binary or non-traditional gender identities.

    It might be a good idea to briefly explain why pronouns are being asked on the application form. This can help applicants understand the purpose behind the question and why it matters.

    In conclusion, I believe that asking for pronouns on application forms can contribute to a more inclusive and respectful hiring process. It shows that the organisation values and respects the diverse identities of its applicants.

    I hope this helps. I’m sure others with more experience in this area can provide more assistance!

    Chris Kew
  • What an interesting question and I'm listening and learning from the replies too so thank you. I wonder what purpose this would serve & for whose benefit this would be for. I think starting with the why is always a useful place to start.

    I alos wonder if candidates would feel comfort and trust at this stage of the process to share this information, even if it was optional. Applying for jobs is a sensitive time, there can be a feeling that the power is held by the employer, someone the candidate doesn't know yet and it might take time to trust that what they say - we are an inclusive employer -is what they actually are in practice. If this is part of a wholescale approach to inclusion then it might be worth explaining that in a small way on the application and all candidate materials and then of course the important things is for all recruiting managers and those involved back that up in their behaviour too.

    I like what both Chris and Gemma have to say and think it really depends on the employer approach and what's best for both parties.
  • I'd personally say having a free-text, non-mandatory box asking individuals for their pronouns would be a really good move, as long as it's done properly and carefully.

    I think Gemma was right to note that if it's included in the data a hiring manager sees, that steps should be taken to ensure that no bias comes into decision making. Perhaps if it will be visible, then a briefing with managers on gender and pronouns would be helpful?

    More broadly though, including it should make your company seem progressive and welcoming (which would ideally be the experience any candidate, successful or otherwise, would have!) and gives your recruitment/HR team some knowledge of how to refer to the candidate if needing to. Positive step as long as the data will be used properly Blush
  • Thanks everyone for your responses. I do think it's one of those issues where there is no right answer, but there are a few different approaches we could use. We're currently implementing a new HR system with staff self-service, so we've added pronouns as an optional field which staff can complete if they want.

    Chris - I agree about the use of 'preferred' when asking about names and pronouns; to me, this just implies that you're not going to use the name or pronouns the person uses, so why bother asking?!
  • In reply to Sharon:

    I feel similar to this - I'm very interested to see responses on this because I debate this a lot with myself.

    I'm 100% behind everyone declaring their pronouns as a step towards creating an inclusive workforce, but I do wonder if declaring it at interview stage might make someone potentially feel 'outed', from the perspective that during an interview you're unlikely to use someone's third person singular pronoun when talking to them (i.e. most of the time you'd use phrases like "tell me about a time when you...")

    Admittedly, you might talk about the candidate when they're in the room but at this point you could just use the candidate's name or gender-neutral pronouns, but then again I think it's important for all candidates (particularly those whose pronouns are different from what we may assume) to feel affirmed and supported.
  • In reply to Christopher:

    I don't see any reason why this should be in the application form, just like you do not ask for someone's race, gender, religion, marital status etc. It will only leave you wide open to a possible discrimination claim.

  • Hi Clare,

    We collect Pronouns on our on-boarding information request rather than during recruitment/application stage.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    5 Sep, 2023 08:21

    In reply to Chloe Farmer:

    Thanks,  ... a sensible approach methinks.

  • In reply to Steve Bridger:


    Rather than ask at application stage, we also introduced it to our onboarding stage. So the individual has already gone through the recruitment process and accepted an offer of employment - no concern over conscious or unconscious bias. We have a colleague information form that is then completed with all the usual, bank details, NI, emergency contact details and we added it into here. It means that we can set up their IT accounts and introduce them to the company in the way that they prefer. We also encourage, but don't mandate, that colleagues include their pronouns on their email signatures. it helps to make it feel more accepting to anyone who may have different pronouns than people might be expecting.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    5 Sep, 2023 09:56

    In reply to Louise:

    Thanks,  ... and welcome to our Community!

  • In reply to Louise:

    We collect this information on the new starter form too.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    13 Sep, 2023 14:31

    I unearthed this previous thread...

     RE: Gender options 

  • In reply to Juraj Kecso:

    Jumping on this as I've just had this conversation (about 5 minutes ago!) as we're updating our onboarding form and we're looking at adding pro-nouns or a section for Gender - Self ID (to borrow the wording from our ADP system). Wondering how anyone else captures this on their onboarding forms and how do you make this clear on your forms?
  • In reply to Gemma:

    We don't have it on our onboarding forms, but employees can update their HR record through employee self-service. On your comment you've referenced "pronouns or gender self-ID". I don't want to come across as an internet pedant, but I'd be careful about conflating gender and the pronouns someone uses as necessarily linked e.g. I don't think I would want to assume that someone who identifies as male uses exclusively he/him pronouns. :)