‘Jargon-filled’ job descriptions prevent young people from applying for jobs


Confusing, jargon-filled job descriptions are a major barrier for young job seekers and prevent them from applying for their first roles, according to a study from Business in the Community (BITC) and the City & Guilds Group.

Business in the Community asked young people to rate the accessibility of entry-level job adverts posted by over 65 companies which between them collectively employ 1.2 million people.

It found young job seekers are deterred from applying for entry-level jobs by ‘business speak’ which leaves them unsure about the suitability of roles and what their day to day responsibilities would actually be.

The study found:

  • Two thirds (66%) of the young people who assessed the company vacancies didn’t understand the role they would be applying to
  • Over a third of the job descriptions contained unclear jargon, acronyms or technical language which put young people off applying and over half of them did not have a clear job description
  • Some of the most confusing terms commonly used included ‘SLAs’ ‘procurement’, ‘fulfilment service’, ‘KPIs’, ‘compliance’, and ‘mergers and acquisitions’
  • Recruitment websites don’t make it clear which roles are entry-level positions, with many organisations ‘talking up’ roles, making them needlessly complicated and creating unrealistic expectations of what junior roles will entail
  • Jargon also negatively impacts young people’s confidence, by making them feel they don’t deserve a role or are not good enough to apply as they feel intimated or unsure of what they’ll be facing

Despite improvements in employment rates in recent months, BITC said the youth unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 11.3% compared to 4.8% for the general population. It claimed jargon is not only stopping young people from getting into work, it also means employers miss out on young talent.

Grace Mehanna, youth employment campaign director at Business in the Community, said: “Understanding jargon is not a measure of a young person’s potential or indication that they are a better candidate. We’re concerned that the prevalence of ‘business speak’ in job adverts aimed at first jobbers is a major barrier that could inadvertently screen out young people without access to working role models and networks. These are the job seekers that are least likely to have support preparing for job applications, least likely to know someone who works in the company or sector they are trying to break into, and therefore least likely to be able to overcome these barriers.”

“We also know that employers are struggling to attract and retain young people into entry level roles. With the Apprenticeships Levy coming into force in April, there will be thousands more potential entry-level vacancies opening up for young people. It is crucial that these new roles are accessible to all young people and that employers offer realistic expectations about the skills and experience they can expect to gain.”

Chris Jones, chief executive of the City & Guilds Group, added: “From the Government, to large corporates, to small businesses – we are all guilty of using jargon and creating meaningless titles that either don’t mean anything, or are hard to understand. It’s bad enough for those with a few years’ experience, but even worse for young people who are just starting out in their careers. Using so much jargon not only risks putting them off at the first hurdle, but can also really knock their confidence. All businesses have a responsibility to support young talent into the world of work, and develop them once they are in the workplace. Unless we are clearer and communicate better, we risk missing out on a wealth of talent.”

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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Phil Welch Date: Mar 24, 2017

I've been a copywriter in recruitment marketing for 30 years and I can honestly say that this has always been the case. The main issue has constantly been that organisatiins ignore the audience they're trying to attract and instead, talk about themselves. The answer is to put yourself in the candidate's shoes and think about what they need to get out of the advert.

Antonia Maclean Date: Apr 20, 2017

How interesting! I remember Peter Griggs then with PA saying that to me 30 years ago - when I recruited for Mars. He was brilliant - I still use ideas he taught me then and comically they are still fresh ideas for many companies. However it needs to be said that writing up a company and position which the employer has often barely got their own head round simply and clearly is a skill.

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