Study ranks Washington as biggest abuser of jargon in job ads; startup CEO tells us why words matter

The technical terms with the highest above-average usage in job advertisements in each state. (Canva graphic)

A new study of the use of technical jargon in job advertisements has identified the worst culprits in the United States. And we would like to speak to Washington State.

According to an analysis by Canva, maker of online design and publishing tools, the state appears to be the leading abuser of complicated and confusing words and phrases, with 598 such terms per 1,000 job ads. The Seattle Times reported the results on Friday.

The most common term in Washington is “cloud first,” which makes perfect sense given the dominance of Amazon and Microsoft in this area, given Seattle’s rise to become the cloud city.

Canva claims it has searched 6.3 million job advertisements for 40 frequently used technical terms. Other states with a less technology-oriented focus on jobs and job candidates than Washington offered puzzles like “peel onion”, “low hanging fruit” and “make hay”. The most overused term, according to Canva, is “team player”.

Textio CEO Kieran Snyder. (Textio photo)

Seattle-based augmented writing startup Textio conducted a similar study of its own a few years ago and said jargon can negatively impact a company’s ability to fill a vacancy with the best candidate on time.

CEO Kieran Snyder told GeekWire on Friday why language is important in job postings.

“One thing that is particularly fascinating about these corporate stereotypes is that while they decrease engagement from candidates from all backgrounds, they decrease engagement from women and people of color,” said Snyder. “These terms seem to be, in a way, cultural signifiers that lead underrepresented groups to withdraw.”

Snyder, who just received the award as CEO of the Year at the GeekWire Awards in May, said she believes in software solutions like those used in the company she co-founded in 2014, “because we’re not very good at predicting whether a particular one Sentence will end up as slang for someone outside of our background or company.

“We are all a product of our own bias, and what sounds like everyday terminology to one may be completely alien to another,” added Snyder.

As for the terms she sees the most repeatedly that she would rather cut out, Snyder highlighted “synergy”.

“We sometimes say that the word ‘synergy’ is an introductory term, which means that wherever it comes up, different jargon is likely to follow,” said Snyder. “For job postings that contain ‘synergy’, it is much more likely that non-technical terms are included than job postings without ‘synergy’.”

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