Human Resources



Jobseekers put off by cringeworthy buzzwords in job ads

HR Masterclass Series: High-level HR strategy training workshops
with topics ranging from Analytics, to HR Business Partnering, Coaching, Leadership, Agile Talent and more.
Review the 2019 masterclasses here »


We’ve all had to put up with irritating business-speak in the workplace. Now, it seems, the annoying trend is also pervading recruitment advertisements as well – with employers potentially missing out on prized talent because of them.

Organisations are being strongly advised to use plain English in their recruitment ads after research by graduate jobs specialist, Milkround revealed that potential candidates are put off by jargon and buzzwords such as “entrepreneurial mindset” and the ever-excruciating “going forward”.

A total of 50% of the 2000 job seekers surveyed said they had not applied for a job because they did not understand the advertisement.

According to the research, the most perplexing turn of phrase used in job ads was ‘open the kimono’ – with 82% of those surveyed saying they were clueless to its meaning.

A quick straw poll among the Human Resources team in the office, revealed that none of us knew what this expression meant either.

According to Investopedia, the vaguely sexist sounding phrase means to “reveal what is being planned or to share important information freely”.

Forbes listed the phrase among the most annoying business jargon, alongside expressions such as “drinking the kool-aid”, “it is what it is” and the words “empower” and “leverage”.

“Some people use ‘open the kimono’ instead of ‘revealing information’. It’s kind of creepy,” Bruce Barry, professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Business, told Forbes.

According to Milkround’s survey, the most misunderstood jargon among recent graduates was:

  • Open the kimono (82% had not heard of the term).
  • Cloud-first (76%).
  • Growth hacking (73%).
  • Blue-sky thinking (67%).
  • Thought shower (64%).
  • Brand architecture (61%).
  • Low-hanging fruit (64%).

The research also revealed that men were more comfortable with business jargon than women. Seventy four per cent of women said they did not understand business acronyms, compared with 61% of men. A total of 77% of women said this would cause them to lack confidence in applying for a role, compared with 65% of men.

Milkround’s Georgina Brazier said the research underscores the need for companies to offer concise information and clarity to ensure that “top talent isn’t put off by jargon, abbreviations and buzz phrases”.

“Gone are the days of limited characters within a newspaper job ad. Employers have the scope to include clear outlines and expectations, offering budding candidates full details of the role on offer,” she said.

Parts of this article first appeared on The New Daily website.

Human Resources magazine and the HR Bulletin daily email newsletter:
Asia's only regional HR print and digital media brand.
Register for your FREE subscription now »

Read More News