First impressions matter. Job posts are often the first time that a job seeker interacts with your company. The stakes are high, particularly when it comes to qualified candidates. It’s critical, especially in a tight talent market, that you put your best foot forward by avoiding business jargon.
Making job posts clear and accessible is one of the easiest ways to improve the top of your funnel. In our study of recruiting trends, we reported that many companies have job posts that use corporate cliches and jargon excessively (at least 5 times per job). Jargon-laden job posts can be confusing to candidates and off-putting to qualified candidates. But what types of business jargon are bad and why?
Business jargon is words and phrases that only have meaning for a particular group, industry, or culture. Examples include churn (turnover), scrum (management framework), ROI (return on investment), and KPI (key performance indicator).
Put yourself in a candidate’s shoes
Before we get into the weeds of different types of jargon, put yourself in the shoes of a job seeker. You’re sifting through hundreds of job posts to find roles for which you qualify that are also appealing.
Imagine reading this:
|Experience with GCP, AWS, k8s, ARO, Spark, Dask, AKS, k8s, Azure Fns, MS SQL, DB2, dbt.
Now imagine reading this:
|Experience using container management and orchestration tools such as Docker or Kubernetes to deploy applications in cloud platforms (e.g., AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud). Experience developing data pipelines using a combination of distributed frameworks (including Spark and Dask) and data workflow tools such as dbt, Apache Airflow, or Dagster.
Which are you more likely to apply to? If you prefer the second one, there’s science behind your feelings. Social scientists have found that using lots of jargon can create barriers between you and your reader. It can also make the reader question your transparency. With job posts, it can create a chasm between you and the job seeker, resulting in fewer candidates applying.
Three types of abbreviations
Abbreviations are shortened versions of a word, coming in one of three forms: acronym, initialism, or shorthand. Business jargon can take lots of different forms, and we treat them each differently at Datapeople.
Some abbreviations are common in our everyday lives, and most people understand them. Think of “cm” (centimeter), “mph” (miles per hour), or “DIY” (do-it-yourself). Others are common in recruiting, and most hiring teams and job seekers (within their field) understand them. Think “AI/ML Engineer” (artificial intelligence/machine learning) or “SEO Manager” (search engine optimization).
|How to remember them
|Acronyms are words formed from the first letters of a multi-word name or phrase.
|SaaS is an acronym for Software as a Service.
|Acronyms are typically pronounced as words: SaaS is pronounced “sass” rather than “s-a-a-s.”
|Initialisms are words formed from the first letters of a multi-word name or phrase.
|COO is an initialism for chief operating officer. DEI is an initialism for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
|Initialisms are pronounced by saying each letter individually: “c-o-o” instead of “coo” or “d-e-i” instead of “dei.”
|Shorthand words are words we write in the short form but read and pronounce in the full form.
|“Sr” is shorthand for senior. “Mgr” is shorthand for manager.
|Shorthand words aren’t acronyms or initialisms. They’re typically just unusual shortenings of words.
When abbreviations become business jargon
Two factors determine whether something is an abbreviation or business jargon: state of the market and context.
State of the market
All abbreviations start life as a niche reference, which means they’re jargon. A few of them become popular, morphing into common abbreviations. In recruiting, these include CEO, CFO, DEI, and others. However, the vast majority of abbreviations stay as jargon.
Some abbreviations make sense when you use them in a certain context. For example, “API” can take the place of “application programming interface” in the job post for an API engineer. And abbreviations with multiple interpretations can gain meaning from their context. For example, “CMO” can serve for both a chief marketing officer or a chief medical officer.
Business jargon to leave out of job posts
With all forms of shorthand, there’s an inherent tension between communicating concisely and communicating effectively. You don’t want to inadvertently deter candidates who may not use the same abbreviations as your company. But you don’t want to be wordy either.
For example, “Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing” is cumbersome compared to “SAP.” And because using SAP modules is a core responsibility for many business systems jobs, it’s recognizable to the people looking for those roles. In fact, SAP appears in job posts over 100 times more frequently than the full name. So in the case of SAP, the acronym is fine.
Here are four types of business jargon to avoid:
Example: “Snr” or “Sr” for “Senior.”
Suggestion: Avoid shorthand and replace it with the full word instead.
Why: In most cases, shorthand impedes readability. Also, there are many ways to abbreviate a word. But most candidates use full words when they search, and not all job search engines map common shorthand to the long form. When you use shorthand that isn’t a common search term, you miss out on applicants.
Internal business jargon
Example: “CS” for “Customer Success” or “Customer Service.”
Suggestion: Avoid abbreviated references to internal teams, functions, departments, or products. Use plain language instead.
Why: External candidates may not understand your reference. Also, they may interpret internal business jargon as meaning the team is only looking for an internal hire or transfer.
Initialisms that can have multiple meanings
Example: “CPO” might stand for chief people officer or chief product officer. “LMS Analyst” might reflect someone who is working with a learning management system or a labor management system.
Suggestion: Spell out the title.
Why: While there may be contextual clues in your job post, the title may be misleading. You don’t want to waste advertising spend on chief product officers clicking on your job post for a chief people officer.
Acronyms that only make sense to a certain industry or role type
Example: “IEPs that meet students’ ZPDs and follow the GLEs.”
Suggestion: Write it out. So, “customized learning plans that meet students’ developmental needs and follow the state education standards.”
Why: These acronyms may be common in some educational approaches, but they’re not common in all. You may signal that you are not open to candidates from other educational philosophies.
At Datapeople, we see similar issues among startups using unique abbreviations to describe approaches that are commonplace. This signals that a candidate needs to come from another startup to be considered qualified, which may not be your intention.
|Making job posts readable for everyone improves accessibility. Numerous abbreviations can make it harder for candidates to read your job post. This may be exacerbated for individuals with multiple literacies, dyslexia, or visual processing issues.
Takeaways on abbreviations and business jargon
Job posts are marketing documents that need to be clear and representative of your employer brand. A difficult-to-read job post full of business jargon signals a culture that may not lean accessible and inclusive.
It is important to define any acronyms, initialisms, and abbreviations used in the job post, particularly if they are not widely known or used outside of the specific industry or company. This ensures that candidates understand the requirements and qualifications for the job and demonstrates transparency and clarity in the hiring process.
|Is it clear and commonplace?
|No. This is clearly an internal team.
|No. It might refer to different jobs.
Remember to use the state of the market and context to determine whether something is a usable abbreviation or just a bit of business jargon. Defining any terms that may be unfamiliar can also show that you care about explaining things and about bringing candidates into your company’s world.