Jargon puts off half of graduate jobseekers

Half of UK workers are put off applying for a role because of jargon in a job description, according to research by graduate job site Milkround.

Two-thirds of respondents to Milkround’s survey want employers to make job ads clearer, citing terms such as ‘open the kimono’, ‘blue-sky thinking’ and ‘thought shower’ as being among the worst they’ve seen. Three-quarters believe employers should use ‘plain English’ to advertise roles.

Forty-eight percent of graduates said they had turned up to interviews unsure of the nature of the role they were applying for because of the language used in the ad.

Job titles prove equally confusing, with respondents reporting having seen roles such as ‘New Media Czar’, ’Coordinator of Interpretive Teaching’ and ‘Conversation Architect’.

Just over six in ten graduates inevitably felt they could not apply for a role if they did not understand the job description, while 71% claimed that business acronyms such as ‘SLA’, ‘DOE’ and ‘B2B’ were confusing and left them feeling unqualified.

The industries most guilty of using indecipherable jargon in their adverts, according to Milkround, were PR, IT, sales and marketing.

The research also found that men were more comfortable with business jargon and acronyms than women.

Three-quarters (74%) of women claimed not to understand business acronyms compared to 61% of men. Seventy-seven percent of women said this would lead them to lack confidence in applying for a role, compared to 65% of men.

The most misunderstood jargon terms among graduates were:

  1. Open the kimono (82% had not heard of the term)
  2. Cloud-first (76%)
  3. Growth hacking (73%)
  4. Blue-sky thinking (67%)
  5. Thought shower (64%)
  6. Brand architecture (61%)
  7. Low-hanging fruit (64%)

Steven Poole, a language expert who helped to conduct the research, said: “Research has long shown that business jargon makes people feel oppressed in the workplace, but the news from increasingly jargon-infested recruitment advertising is even worse: this new data shows that companies using jargon in their job ads are actually preventing candidates from even going for a role – and so pushing talent away.

“For the sake of both employees and employers, it’s time to cancel the buzzwords and try saying what we really mean.”

Georgina Brazier, marketing manager at Milkround, added: “Gone are the days of limited characters within a newspaper job ad. Employers have the scope to include clear outlines and expectations, offering budding candidates full details of the role on offer.”

The company has created a jargon decoder to offer support to candidates that are confused by jargon, and guidance for employers on how to make job adverts clearer and more concise.

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