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Corporate Jargon Is Making Hiring Impossible

As companies are experiencing seismic changes, the hiring process must adapt or die.

Our team’s core objectives are to be the boots on the ground that activate organic initiatives that leverage the brand voice while maintaining focus on the company’s KPIs in order to systemically scale further communication with our client demographic.  

Chad, middle manager at his dad’s advertising agency

What a bunch of bull. Translation: “I’ll help your company sell more effectively.”

Americans, especially MBAs, love corporate jargon. Who doesn’t? I’ve been guilty of saying it. It does two powerful things— it makes your colleagues nod in agreement, astonished by your vision and vernacular. It also is a dispersion of responsibility. Using vague language is only useful when you’re trying to conceal the truth. This is the inherent problem when hiring new talent. As companies are experiencing seismic changes, the hiring process must adapt or die.

Using corporate jargon to describe a new position your hiring for opens slew of problems. Candidates have to decipher what exactly their job functions will be. The eager candidate will fall into the trap of wishful thinking. They’ll believe they can in fact “meet consumer needs; restructure navigation, data, content, checkout flow, and page elements to enhance the customer experience” (That is from an actual job posting from a Fortune 500 company). What exactly does it mean?

When I start working with a new client, I have them explain their goals in clear English. This usually takes a while. It also can come off as terse— cutting to the chase often does. It typically looks like this:

“We want to amplify our data across a niche audience so that our clients can make strategic decisions with—”

“So, you want to sell more whitepapers to engineers?”

“Yes.”

How COVID-19 Has Forced The Issue

As 95% of the country is locked down, corporate America is learning to deal with working remotely. There’s no denying that COVID-19 will change the way we work forever. A major pain point will be hiring new talent. This is where clear and concise writing is vital. Corporate jargon needs to be retired the way telexes and smoking in the office was.

Management training should educate employees in parataxis. This is uninflected language, plain and simple. It’s subject verb object. “The man drank coffee.” “The hipster cried to Bon Iver.” It worked for Hemingway and it’s worked for the team at Automattic. They’ve run an entirely distributed team since its inception in 2005. Their main product is WordPress, which powers 35% of the web. The founder, Matt Mullenweg has described the importance of clear writing in a recent interview with Sam Harris on the Making Sense Podcast. Without this ability, a candidate cannot work for the company.

The Fix: A Book From 1918

10 years before The Great Depression, William Strunk Jr. wrote The Elements of Style, the greatest book on American English grammar ever written. He later expanded the book with E.B. White, and it has been updated over the years. I own the fourth edition. It can be read in an afternoon. My favorite rule is #17: OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS. We add fluff to our writing. It’s a way to hide. You have to learn to be liberal with the delete key, a practice that gets better over time.

A Job Description Doesn’t Need To Sound Sexy

Hiring managers and recruiters mangle job descriptions. They either make it sound like a role to only applicable to James Bond or a robot. One of my favorite things about freelance writing is that it’s impossible to use corporate jargon when describing a role. An editor typically tells me they need 1,000 words on X topic, and it will pay Y dollars. Simple.

When you’re writing a job description, think about the precise things a new hire must complete in their first six months. Add metrics to measure against. For sales teams it’s easy, how many dollars have they brought in? For marketing, it’s murky because synergy cannot be measured.

Entry-Level Candidates Are Most At Risk

No matter how belligerently confident a college grad can be they’re clueless. Our frontal lobes don’t fully develop until we’re 25. Undergrads have been told they’re good at something, but college does little to prepare anyone to be an effective employee. This is why massive companies structure their hiring programs like school. There are “corporate campuses” and “classes of 2020,” orientation, and even binge drinking events. Don’t believe me? Ask a consultant from one of the big four firms.

The best thing companies can do is write true. Be honest about the job description. If you’re interviewing for a new job, ask for clarification, and get it in writing. Finally, try writing concisely. Today, when you’re emailing a friend or colleague, pause before hitting send. Review every word. Take out the ones that don’t need to be there. Or to say it more clearly— omit needless words.

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