Ever used a word like ‘ninja’, ‘warrior’ or ‘wizard’ in a job ad?
If your company is a disruptive startup that wants to attract Silicon Valley-types, this may well be forgivable – even suitable – vocabulary to deploy.
But language matters and, for the majority of readers perusing job sections, words like these are pure jargon – by which I mean utterly baffling to 'outsiders'.
A new study, which analysed more than six million LinkedIn job ads posted in a single month, found the top three most common buzzwords used by hirers to be ‘innovator’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘team-player’. Others that appeared frequently included ‘thought leader’, ‘self-starter’, ‘change-agent’, ‘disruptor’, ‘guru’ and ‘wizard’, the report on common corporate lingo by SimpleTexting found.
Once upon a time, language like this was bold and exciting – back when humour didn’t play a leading role in corporate life and 'culture' had nothing whatsoever to do with business. But now, overuse has taken a toll.
Let’s play a quick game of translation, and you'll see what I mean. All these phrases say a lot more about what it's like to work for your company than you might realise:
Work hard, play hard = staying after office hours to drink with colleagues and clients is part of the job. If you’ve got kids, caring responsibilities, or just a life outside work, you need not apply.
Self starter = don’t expect to be offered much in the way of training and mentoring; we need you to hit the ground running.
Results driven = if you don’t hit your targets, we shall be letting you go
Wear many hats = you won’t just be doing one role, but several people’s jobs
Must have a thick skin = the boss is an awful human being and no one complains, ever, got it?
Excellent compensation = we don’t want to scare you off by including the actual salary
Then there’s just the plain old ludicrous…
Team-player = we hire other people too, who you should endeavour to rub along with
Win-win = you get a salary, we get a great employee
Yip, that’s kind of how it works. So what should you do if you want to sound like a worker from the department of the bleeding obvious didn’t write your job ad? In short, ditch the corporate jargon, keep it crystal clear and be honest. List the most common tasks – and avoid being vague here – and sketch out what a day-in-the-life of someone in the role might look like (you could ask the person leaving to draft this).
Then speak to existing employees and get them to describe what it’s like to work at your company, and shed some light on what the team is like.
Also consider how you could get more people from underrepresented groups and backgrounds to apply.
We spotted a nice caveat at the bottom of a job ad by RVU:
You don’t need to tick off everything on this list [of requirements] – so don’t let that hold you back from applying. We want to make sure you’re learning plenty during your time with us!
With research suggesting women are more likely to be put off than men from applying for a role if they don’t meet all the requirements, moves like this are a thoughtful way to encourage more applications.
So here’s our invitation to abandon hackneyed jargon in your next job ad. You’ll be doing weary jobseekers, as well as your own business, a favour.
Language matters, so it's well worth getting it right. Drop a line to our copy team (all current and former journalists) today: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll get back to you in two shakes of a lamb's tail.