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The Most Unpopular Term in the Job Market
Amidst all the talk about optimizing the candidate experience, one topic has been all but ignored. The vocabulary we use has a significant impact on the perceptions of those we are trying to recruit. And, one term, in particular, is widely used, but conveys a message that distresses some prospects and repels many others.
A.S. Byatt once opined that “Vocabularies are crossing circles and loops. We are defined by the lines we choose to cross or to be confined by.” 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 matters in recruitment. In the minds of the people who visit corporate career sites and read job postings, an employer is defined as much by the words it uses as it is by the information it provides or the practices it follows.
The impression is often unintentional, but it is real and potent nevertheless. And, one term that is now jargon to recruiters but anathema to everyone else on the planet is “job seeker.” It says an organization views prospective employees as supplicants 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 an organization that may be prejudiced against them. After all, they read the same news reports that everyone else does – you know, the ones that report on surveys which find an unspecified number of recruiters who now view today’s job seekers as damaged goods.
Those actively in the job market may not be put off by the term – they have no choice – but to them it says the employer may well view them as Losers. Passive prospects, on the other hand, refuse to even acknowledge that the term applies to them and avoid the organizations that use it.
If you have any doubt about that latter point, do a survey of the visitors to your corporate career site. Ask about their employment status, and you’ll almost certainly find that the vast majority – 80 to 90 percent – are unemployed. And, yet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at any point in time, just 16 percent of the workforce is actively in transition. In other words, your site is plumbing the depths of the 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? Not simply by using different words. To be credible, a change in vocabulary must be more than simply a matter of semantics. It must reflect an organization’s culture and values.
So first, change the mindset of your organization to remove any conscious or unconscious bias against any prospective hire because of their employment status. That means ensuring a more inclusive perspective among hiring managers and receptionists as well as recruiters.
Second, change the vocabulary on your corporate career site and in your job postings to remove any impression that you view potential applicants as Losers. To have a lasting impact on the perception of your organization’s employment brand, however, that involves more than simply replacing one word with another.
For example, you might decide to replace the term “Job Seeker” with the more respectful word “Candidate.” Site visitors and ad readers will certainly notice the difference – it’s such a rarity among employers – 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 treating everyone 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 the organization views them as damaged goods, and that impression, in turn, undermines the organization’s ability to recruit high caliber talent effectively.
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Be At Your Best With the Best Resources
The best recruiters use the best resources to get the job done. And, when it comes to reaching top talent online, their choice is clear. It’s WEDDLE’s Guides for Recruiting Success. Get yours today!
WEDDLE’s 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. This is the 10th edition of the Guide the American Staffing Association called the “Zagat” of job boards and social media sites.
WEDDLE’s Guide to Association Web Sites. This book details the recruiting resources and capabilities that are available at the Web-sites of over 3,000 professional and technical associations.
Finding Needles in a Haystack. This one-of-a-kind guide lists over 25,000 keywords and keyword phrases, across 5,400 job and position titles in 28 industries and professions.
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You Pick the Winners
The recruiting field is awash in self-appointed pundits who opine that this site or that one is the best for acquiring top talent. But, they aren’t the people who know best. You are.
That’s why we at WEDDLE’s hold the User’s Choice Awards every year. They are the only awards in the online employment services industry in which actual users – employers and recruiters, job seekers and career activists – get to pick the winners.
So, let your voice be heard. The ballot necessarily lists only a small subset of the 100,000+ job boards and career portals now operating on the Web. You can pick some of them and/or nominate others … but the choice is yours.
Please click here and cast your vote today.