July 20, 2016   view past issues

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The Most Hated Term in the Job Market Redux

Amidst all the chatter about this new technology or that new functionality, it’s all too easy – but extremely dangerous – to overlook the one aspect of your site that most determines its appeal: Words.  And, while many employment sites now feature an engaging vocabulary, they continue to rely on a term that is anathema to the very talent that establishes their business.

Words have meaning, of course – they convey information – but they also elicit responses – they touch nerves – that shape the perceptions of those who read them.  For that reason, the choice of words as much as their definition has an impact on how working men and women view a site.

Many words in recruitment are benign.  They aren’t loaded with freight or laced with hidden meaning.  However, one term in particular is especially problematic.  Though jargon to recruiters and job boards alike, it is anathema to everyone else on the planet.  It is the term “job seeker.”

Why is that term so hateful to working people?  Because whether it is preceded by the word “active” or “passive,” it subliminally positions a person as a supplicant for work.

The Active & Passive Interpretation

To put it bluntly, both those who are actively looking for a new job and those who are passive prospects think the term “job seeker” signals the existence of prejudice.  After all, they read the same blog posts that everyone else does – you know, the ones that report on surveys which find many if not most recruiters view today’s job seekers as damaged goods.

Those actively in the job market may not be turned off by the term – they have no choice – but to them it says the site is (consciously or unconsciously) putting them at a disadvantage in their quest for employment.  Passive prospects, on the other hand, refuse even to acknowledge that the term applies to them and avoid the sites that use it.

If you have any doubt about that, consider that surveys show the majority of traffic to most job boards is composed of people who are unemployed.  There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the capabilities of that population, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it represents less than one-fifth of the workforce.  At any point in time, just 16 percent of all U.S. workers are actively in transition, and that percentage is probably similar in other countries.

What does that mean?  An awful lot of job boards are competing for the same, small cohort of the population that has no choice and missing out altogether on the much larger cohort of people who do.

How can you redress this situation if it’s occurring on your site?  Not simply by using different words.  Making that change is obviously important, but if you hope to influence the perception of your site, you must do more than replace one word with another.

For example, you might decide to replace the term “job seeker” with the more respectful word “candidate.”  Site visitors will certainly notice the difference – it’s such a rarity among job boards – but they may not understand why you’ve made the change.  So, also include a visible statement – not one hidden six clicks deep in your site – that affirms your organization’s commitment to positioning every visitor – those in transition as well as those just kicking the tires – as a valued employment prospect.

Jargon is often criticized for its lack of clarity, but in the case of the term “job seeker,” its impact is exactly the opposite.  To active and passive candidates, it sends a clear (if unintentional) signal that a site doesn’t care if they’re seen as damaged goods.  That impression, in turn, undermines the site’s appeal and, therefore, its ability to deliver talent to its customers.

Food for thought,

The Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle is brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.

Register for a Conference & Get a Room – that’s right, attend the only conference totally dedicated to showcasing the products and people of the talent acquisition solutions industry, and you’ll get your hotel room for free, if you register by July 31st!  For more information, please click here.

This Week on Jobboarders

This week, Jobboarders features:

It’s Time to Get Job Boards Out of the Minor Leagues by Turner Williams.  In recent years, social media and search engines have gained popularity as sources of hire, while job boards are starting to be perceived as archaic.  When most job boards operators hear this they are confused because, when they analyze their data, the number of candidates they deliver to employers has remained substantially the same.  So why is there this shift in perception?


•    Large Niche Job Board for Sale

Who’s Coming to the TAtech Conference & Expo?  Tons of employers have already registered for the TAtech Conference & Expo on September 19-21, 2016 in Las Vegas.  We’ve listed some hints to help you identify several of them.  Can you guess who they are?

Jobboarders Book of the Month: The Final Report of the TAtech-reThink Data Global Survey of Applicant Tracking Systems.  This report presents aggregated data on current ATS product design and interoperability trends and on perceptions of the market for ATS companies in 2016 and the challenges they face over the next three years. It offers a unique portrait of the current state and future direction of today’s ATS community.  TAtech Members can obtain a copy by emailing  All others please visit the TAtech Bookstore.

So visit Jobboarders today and ready your business for a successful tomorrow.