Top candidates know that they are a hot commodity at the moment, and can afford to be picky about which organisations they apply to.
Many are prioritising flexible work options or a strong work-life balance and will be on the lookout for any red flags that may signal to them that a particular job isn’t ideal. Even if they aren’t necessarily true, certain phrases can set off alarm bells for candidates and prevent them from even considering applying.
We’ve already talked about why calling your workplace a ‘family’ can be a bad thing. It carries connotations and establishes expectations of an always-on mentality, which can also lead to some complicated manager-employee dynamics. This isn’t the only commonly used phrase that can turn off candidates.
You may find that your organisation is accurately reflected by some of the below terms and in that case, you may want to continue communicating your opportunities in that way. However, it’s important to be mindful of how these terms can be perceived by many candidates.
So, here are some other language choices you should try to avoid when writing a job description.
1. Work Hard, Play Hard
One that we see get used a lot is workplaces and teams that “work hard, play hard.” For many potential candidates, this is coded language for an environment that is intensive and stressful, which isn’t always for everyone. They could also be put off by the implications of ‘playing hard’ if it means investing their personal time. Many job applicants will also likely be cynical about the realities of the balance between work and play.
If you’re meaning to say that your organisation promotes a hard-working culture, and likes to organise team-building activities or get-togethers, say that instead. There can be great benefits for this type of arrangement for certain types of people. Highlight the benefits of this arrangement for the candidates, and why this environment will allow them to thrive. Establish realistic expectations for what a position at this organisation entails, rather than using buzzwords that may be misinterpreted, leading to unsuitable hires and costly turnovers.
2. Motivated Self-Starter
This is another commonly used saying that can potentially carry negative connotations. The WSJ notes that some applicants read ‘motivated self-starter’ as meaning they will be thrown into the deep end with no guidance. While you don’t want to be deceiving if that is what the job will actually require, you also don’t want to use an ambiguous term like this.
You can reframe the requirement to highlight the benefits of what you’re saying. That is, the candidate will have a lot of freedom in how they approach the role. You’re looking for someone who is able to own the role by identifying what needs to be done and doing it on their own. While this may not sound like the dream position for everyone, being upfront will help you ensure the applicants that you do get are the right people.
3. Fast-Paced Environment
On the other hand, terms like ‘fast-paced environment’ may be narrowing your potential applicant pool too far. Many applicants will see a ‘fast-paced environment’ and think ‘fast-track to being burnt out.’ While there is no issue with acknowledging that the workplace can be fast-paced at times, using this term implies that it is constantly like this.
Most applicants will not be looking for a position that requires them to be going full speed 100% of the time. In fact, you should not be looking for that either and should reassess at your team requirements if this is the case, as you will quickly find team members getting burnt out or looking for opportunities elsewhere.
4. Willing to Wear Many Hats
Another requirement that we frequently come across is a ‘willingness to wear many hats,’, especially for small businesses that are recruiting. For potential applicants, this can come across as an expectation that employees must do the work of multiple jobs for the salary of one. Even more, it comes with a sense of responsibility and being put outside their field of expertise that may not be for everyone.
Even if you are looking for people who do work well in these environments, it does no good to exclude candidates. Again try to reframe this to highlight the benefits. Your team members will gain experience in a diverse range of fields and have a holistic understanding of how the business works.
5. Works Well Under Pressure
No one wants to be under pressure. Even if they work well in that environment, advertising this as a selling point of the role will not attract anyone, as a candidate will almost always go for a job that takes less of a mental toll on them.
Ideally, for the type of candidate you want in this situation, the pain point is that they like to always be occupied, with key deliverables outlined and challenges thrown their way. Highlight this, and how they’ll never be bored, find fresh challenges, always be learning new things, and be doing something meaningful.
Even if you don’t mean it, the language that we use in a job description can carry connotations that serve as red flags for applicants. In an environment where candidates can be increasingly selective about what they apply for, removing this coded language will help you get the right people in front of you. It will also allow you to better communicate the role’s environment and requirements without using buzzwords that are open to interpretation.