Job seekers turned off by jargon and left confused by job descriptions

Three quarters of job seekers want adverts to be written more plainly. Photo: Monkey Business Images/REX/Shutterstock

UK job-seekers have no time to be “laser-focused” nor have any desire to be a “ninja,” according to a new study of job adverts.

A survey of 2,000 Brits by graduate jobs specialist Milkround found that confusing buzz phrases and jargon in job posts are so off-putting they prevent half of job-seekers from even applying.

Off-putting jargon

Those dipping their toes in the jobs market for the first time are having issues navigating industry language, with complex wording in job ads leaving them confused and under-prepared.

Nearly half (48%) of graduates even admitted that thanks to such jargon jousting, they have turned up to an interview still unsure as to what the role even entails.

A call for clarity

While companies may think adverts riddled with technical jargon, buzz-words, and abbreviations attract the best candidates, three in five (59%) graduates said not being able to understand these terms prevent them from applying.

Three quarters of graduates want adverts to “be written in plain English,” while 55% feel stressed by the job application process.

Six in 10 (64%) feel they can’t apply for a role if they don’t understand the job description, and 71% claim business acronyms in ads such as “SLA,” “DOE,” “POC,” and “B2B” leave them feeling under-qualified.

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It isn’t just recent graduates at a loss when it comes to deciphering job ad jargon. More experienced UK adults are equally baffled, with two in three (68%) saying they would prefer if job ads were simplified.

The most misunderstood job jargon among graduates

“Open the kimono” — often used to mean to share information freely — is the most misunderstood job jargon amongst graduates, with 82% never having heard the term.

“Cloud-first” (76%), “growth hacking” (73%), “blue-sky thinking” (67%), “thought shower” (64%), “brand architecture” (61%), and “low-hanging fruit” (64%) are also confusing and off-putting terms, grads said.

The graduate gender divide

While both men and women are calling for clarity, the gender divide shows a marked difference in ad preferences and what terms graduate job hunters are comfortable with.

Men are slightly more comfortable with acronyms and business terms with a definitive, translatable meaning, such as “KPI” — meaning “key performance indicator.”

Two in five men said they don’t understand business acronyms, compared with nearly three quarters of women (74%) who are confused.

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What’s more, three quarters (74%) of women said not understanding acronyms makes them feel under-qualified for the role, compared with a slightly smaller 61% of men. Just over three quarters (77%) of women would lack confidence in applying for a role at all, compared with 65% of men.

Meanwhile, women find descriptive jargon less off-putting than men, being more comfortable with phrases that are open to interpretation, such as “action-orientate” and “ninja.”

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Four in 10 (42%) men claim to find jargon confusing, compared to only a quarter (26%) of women.

“Ninja” is one of the most off-putting candidate descriptions to Brits, along with “laser-focused,” “self-starter,” “entrepreneurial mindset,” “action-orientated,” “hit the ground running,” and “proven track record”.