Dissecting job-ad jargon: A product road map

HRM online


written on February 16, 2016

Management jargon is everywhere these days, but nowhere is it more apparent than in our increasingly nonsensical job advertisements. Amanda Woodard, the editor of Human Resources Monthly, dissects one recent example.

‘The company’s focus on evolution’

Simple language is no longer acceptable in job ads because it’s perhaps perceived as not interesting enough. We can’t have a company focused on change or how it manages its future, it has to be Darwinian. Change isn’t sufficient, evolution is ‘world changing’, which undoubtedly this product or service isn’t. Nevertheless, this is the inference that comes out of this use of the word ‘evolution’. It’s completely ludicrous.

‘Product road map’

I think we’ve gone right off the road with this one and we’re lying in a ditch somewhere with our product road map wondering what the hell we do to get out of here. I wish I could tell you what ‘differentiating product road map’ means. I wonder seriously whether the people who wrote this ad even understand it. I think quite often they don’t.

If I had to guess I’d say it means a plan for the future, a strategy. Something as simple as that.

‘The dynamic role of this senior account manager is…’

Dynamic is ubiquitous now in business jargon. For me it always inspires this vision of someone exploding from a cake. There isn’t a single company that exists, I don’t think, that doesn’t have dynamic written somewhere in their business plan. Certainly in job ads it’s everywhere. I suppose the idea is that they don’t want to give the impression that people are going to sit around not working hard enough. I think it’s part of all this productivity-driven language that we use.

‘…to bring this to life for our media agency and government clients.’

This is comical isn’t it? Was it dead before? What was the status of it before it needed bringing to life? I think anyone who’s thinking of writing job ads needs to read it back to themselves and needs to put themselves in the shoes of the person reading it and think, ‘Well, what is the opposite of what I’m saying and how is that going to affect people reading it and wanting to use this?’

‘Based on your understanding of government policy and organisational structure you will develop collaborative relationships to develop tailored product solutions and consulting services to drive revenue generation.’

It’s sort of obvious. If you’re working in a team or really in any organisation, then by its very nature you’re working in a collaborative way. Everything we do when we are part of a society, whether it’s our family or our work colleagues, is collaborative to some extent. It’s just that word that’s thrown in there all the time to fill space. It’s obvious we’re not talking about loving or intimate relationships here, it’s an unnecessary word.

Then ‘tailored product solutions’. ‘Tailored’ and ‘bespoke’ [we see a lot]. Words drawn out of the cloth manufacturing industry to give the impression that these are very niche, very highly refined working practices. It’s shorthand that’s being used here. A lot of tasks are repetitive but we dare not mention that in an ad.

‘Ability to juggle a wide range of responsibilities in a fast-paced environment complimenting your hands-on approach, …’

‘Fast-paced.’ Of course, we’ve become a nation of sprinters. Wouldn’t you love, just for once, to see an ad that said ‘a wide range of responsibilities in a slow and leisurely environment’?

We’re also circus performers who juggle as we sprint. We’re multi-tasking.

Is there any other kind of approach other than hands-on? You could be toes-on, perhaps, or elbows-on, or elbows-on-desk, or maybe ‘hands raised to the head in despair’ once you’ve got through all this business jargon.

I also wonder sometimes when you see ads filled with words like this whether the person creating the ad actually knows what the job is about. I suspect in many cases they’re not sure.

This is an edited transcript of ABC Radio National program Best Practice with Richard Aedy. To listen to the interview in full, click here

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2 thoughts on “Dissecting job-ad jargon: A product road map

  1. Amanda Woodard confesses she uses management jargon herself. Don’t we all? I love Don Watson’s line bringing God into the act with his sardonic opening line from the Book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created a process”.

  2. I also wonder why some people write job ad such as this ” HR Assistant – Must have Master degree in HR, Must have more than 3 years experience as HR Generalist in developing company policy and procedure, designing employee engagement program, please do not apply if you do not meet the criteria mentioned above “.

    I wonder what is the position that this individual wanted to fill ” HR Assistant who will be assisting HR team or Assistant HR Manager to whom these responsibilities will be delegated”

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