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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 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 employment sites alike, it is anathema to everyone else on the planet. It is the term “job seeker.”
Why is that term so hateful to individuals? 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 news reports 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. 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 employment sites is composed of people who are unemployed. 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, and the percentage is probably similar in other countries. In other words, those sites are 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 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 employment sites – 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 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.
Personal Commentary & Comments
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