Phrases to avoid when looking to hire top talent

If you want to attract top talent, be wary of using corporate jargon – with ‘rockstar’, ‘wear many hats’ and ‘thick skin’ all raising red flags with staff

Want to attract the best possible talent? You may want to watch your wording when you’re writing your job description.

‘Rockstar’, ‘wear many hats’ and ‘thick skin’ are all corporate jargon phrases that put employees off, according to a new survey from Preply.

Research found that one in five people saw jargon in a job description as a ‘red flag’ or, warning sign, and say they have been put off applying for a role because of it.

While ‘Rockstar’ might sound cool, more than half of job applicants saw this as a particular red flag, perhaps suggesting that they could be walking into a high-demand role requiring superhuman effort.

Looking for a candidate who can ‘wear many hats’ also raised eyebrows with half of respondents, suggesting an unclear role, or too small a team to meet demands of the job; as did having a ‘thick skin’, which could indicate a toxic work company culture.

‘Work hard, play hard’ sounds alarm bells for nearly half of survey participants, as does ‘Schedule TBD’ – as any potential candidates would want to know their hours and the level of commitment required.

Terms most likely to be red flags in job ads

  1. Rockstar
  2. Wear many hats
  3. Thick skin
  4. Work hard, play hard
  5. Schedule TBD
  6. Urgently hiring
  7. Ninja
  8. Hit the ground running
  9. Fast paced environment
  10. Overachiever

Conversely, business phrases ‘proactive’, ‘empower’, ‘perk and benefits’, ‘leverage’, ‘competitive salary, and ‘proven track record’ proved harmless to most people.

‘Empower’ suggests that employers are not simply looking for ‘yes-men’, but instead problem-solvers capable of reaching their own conclusions to improve the organisation; while ‘competitive salary’ – while vague – did at least indicate that employees’ efforts would be properly compensated.

Business buzzwords – most annoying, overused, cringeworthy

While business jargon in job ads can be off-putting, for employees already in roles, there can be no escaping the jargon-filled business lingo that litters everyday interactions.

And most people aren’t fans, with more than 1 in 5 survey respondents disliking corporate speak, according to Preply research.

That said, nearly three-quarters say they have used corporate jargon to sound more professional, with men (76%) more likely to use it than women (66%) and millennials (74%) more likely than boomers (61%).

‘Win-win’ is the most frequently used business buzzword, closely followed by ‘culture’, (meaning company culture), and then ‘ASAP’ and ‘think outside the box’.

Three out of these four buzzwords, bar ASAP, are also considered the most annoying, with ‘culture’ ranked second-most annoying, ‘win-win’ seventh and ‘think outside the box’ tenth.

Most annoying business buzzwords

  1. New normal
  2. Culture
  3. Circle back
  4. Boots on the ground
  5. Give 110%
  6. Low-hanging fruit
  7. Win-win
  8. Move the needle
  9. Growth hacking
  10. Think outside the box
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