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We need to simplify recruitment language

Impenetrable ‘business speak’ discourages young jobseekers and can knock their confidence too

A study from Business in the Community and the City & Guilds Group recently found that jargon-fuelled job descriptions are one of the primary obstacles preventing younger applicants from entering the workforce.

Certain statistics in the study made for grim reading. For example, not including basic information about the role in the job description was a clear issue – with one in three descriptions not mentioning salary, two in five not stating the working hours, and one in seven not specifying the job location.

A serious lack of transparency about the application process itself was also highlighted as a key issue.

Not only is this jargon hampering young people’s chances of getting into work, it also means that HR departments are falling short in the talent war. Recruiters have to adapt and respond to this setback with a fresh approach to young hires.

To combat this job descriptions need to be as clear and concise as humanly possible. Using impenetrable ‘business speak’ not only dissuades and discourages young jobseekers attempting to enter the workforce for the first time, but can knock their confidence and resolve to keep persisting too.

Understanding jargon is not a measure of a young person’s potential, nor an indication that they are the most suitable candidate for the role.

Recruitment processes must be accessible at all stages for young people from across the socioeconomic spectrum, including those from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds.

However, in my experience, companies across the board must also apply the principles of inclusion and flexibility to employees at all levels. Whether it be female workers returning from maternity leave, or individuals who are finding their feet in corporate roles, as HR professionals we should endeavour to help people seamlessly enter or return to the workplace.

Failing to make recruitment processes accessible could inadvertently screen out those people without access to working role models and networks. These are the jobseekers least likely to have support preparing for job applications. They are also the least likely to know someone who works in the company or sector they are trying to break into, and the least likely to be able to overcome these barriers.

It is crucial that employers set realistic expectations to all people about the skills and experience they can expect to gain from a new role, and what is required of them to land the role they want.

At Ricoh we place a heavy emphasis on providing new staff with the technical skills they need, allowing us to prioritise casting our recruitment net as far, and as wide, as possible.

Recruitment websites and other job platforms need to start making it explicitly clear which roles are entry-level positions, and stop ‘talking up’ roles. This makes the process needlessly complicated and creates unrealistic expectations of what junior roles will entail, which do not then match up to the practical realities.

All job descriptions should be reviewed to ensure they are jargon-free and that all acronyms are clearly explained. Technical language must be kept to a minimum and all job descriptions should contain a clear outline of the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

The business community has a responsibility to help new talent make a smooth transition into the world of work, and foster their development properly once they are embedded in the workplace.

Unless businesses can start to communicate with applicants more effectively what is expected of them, they stand to miss out on a wealth of untapped talent.

Rebekah Wallis is board director, people and corporate responsibility at Ricoh UK