Talent Acquisition

Why Job Ad Jargon Scares Off Young People

Are you looking to streamline your job ad to onboard talent with the right KSA? Well, then you might want to ditch the jargon. Acronyms and technical jargon may be one man’s familiar language, but they will be foreign to many others, especially the young.

A study by Business in the Community and the City & Guilds Group asked a group of 16-24 year olds to assess the recruitment processes of over 65 companies. The research revealed that confusing and overcomplicated job descriptions were a major hidden barrier for young people, putting them off from applying.

Recruiters may feel that using such language exerts a level of professionalism and expertise, but unnecessary jargon only overcomplicates something simple. From CRO, KPI’s, to OTE –  an alphabet mess of acronyms, with verbose business-talk simply scares young applicants off. John Sweeney, who participated in the research explains:

“Everyone in my group mentioned the jargon in the job descriptions. It was just things being made needlessly complicated or things being confusingly phrased… just not good communication. “One of the jobs was an entry level secretary but used lots of industry terms, even though it was in the entry level section. It was meant to be an entry level role with training so it was needless to have all these confusing terms in there.”

John is not alone, 66% of participants didn’t understand the role they would be applying for. When a job description is so saturated in a clutter of jargon and inflated language, the actual core information becomes lost under a hazy veil of pointless words, rendering the reader clueless of what the job entails. And whilst in most cases a Google search will translate, it often leaves the reader isolated, losing the confidence to apply for a job that seems above them.

Some of the most confusing terms frequently used by recruiters for entry level roles include: “SLAs”, “fulfilment service”, “procurement” “KPIs”, “compliance”, “mergers and acquisitions”. Googling up some of these terms I’m still none the wiser, but be sure understanding jargon and technical language is not a measure of a young person’s capabilities for a job, and does not serve as a filter system to seek out the best talent.

And the problem goes beyond jargon and technical terms, it’s also the vagueness and obscurity of the descriptions. Too many job ads elevate a role through complicated language in an effort to dress-up what is actually a simple set of responsibilities. Among a very wordy job description for a receptionist role found on Linkedin, were the following responsibilities: “Making linkages between activities and priorities” and “Communicate compelling outward facing messages”

‘Outward facing’ meaning external people? And what are these ‘linkages’? Do they mean prioritising activities?

Indeed, an advert must rely on effective copywriting to sell whatever it is they want to sell, but would you ever sell a burger by describing it as a ‘Thermally excited bread container of compact, moulded beef’? – No, you use language that people understand.

Thankfully, some companies are listening, making the first needed changes. Barclays were among the 65 companies assessed who as a result have eliminated jargon from their entry level job roles. Mike Thompson, ‎Director Early Careers at Barclays Bank said:

“Having had our recruitment assessed we’ve made a number of changes to how we write entry level job descriptions, trying to remove unnecessary technical language. It’s important that we do this to make sure our roles are accessible to a more diverse talent and make our roles attractive to young people. Sometimes it’s easy having been working in an industry for so long to forget how much jargon there is in your industry and how excluding this can be to people who are looking to take their first step. That’s why we’ve committed to removing all technical language and jargon from our entry level roles.”

Will you be following the big guys in leaving the jargon? It’s important for recruiters to move away from these old, and out-of-touch ways that could be deterring the best young talent from your job.