A piece in The Guardian over the weekend lamented the use of jargon, in white-collar job ads. (They don’t have jargon in help-wanted ads for jackhammer operators.)
But I’m not sure this is a problem.
The jargon in job ads is mostly euphemism—or “usephemism,” as I define it in An Effort to Understand. There, I recall recoiling upon seeing an open cooler of beer at the entrance of my local grocery store with a sign inviting me to “Drink While You Shop.”
No, I will not drink while I shop! I’m a pillar of my community!
Oh, but, “A Brew While You Browse?” Don’t mind if I do!
“Usephemisms”: A spoonful of sugar makes the IPA go down.
And they are the purpose of job-ad jargon: To avoid scaring you off, while still warning you that the position will entail an assload of actual horrible corporate work.
I mean, consider the alternative:
What if, instead of asking for a “self-starter,” the HR writer said, “We’re seeking someone who we don’t need to nag all the time, Bartleby.”
Or instead of asking for a “team player,” it was, “We need someone who doesn’t take all the prime assignments or hog the spotlight, like the last gal.”
And what if, instead of “fast-paced work environment,” it said, “You’ll be busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger.”
No one would apply.
But if you didn’t send these euphemistic signals, every job would look like a dream job. And dream jobs are called dream jobs for a reason: They don’t exist in waking life.
I think these usephemisms actually help companies not to mislead.
An editor friend once got deep into an interview with a prospective boss who went on and on about how they wanted him to focus on vision and strategy. My friend began imaging his workdays full of cigar-smoking and chin-stroking.
“This is terrific!” he said. “Because in my last job I spent all my time haggling over printing costs, crunching budgets and proofing bluelines.”
“Oh,” the would-be new boss said brightly, “you’ll have to do that, too.”
What part of “fast-paced work environment” had my friend not understood?