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The 20 words you should probably (most definitely) ban from your job descriptions

A ninja. A winning team. The employer of choice. We have some breaking news: these words don’t actually mean anything. When Katrina Kibben started her company Three Ears Media, she sought to eliminate buzzwords and focus on real recruiting copywriting. While her original list of banned words was published three years ago — it is still very much applicable today.

Jasper Spanjaart on January 06, 2021 Average reading time: 3 min
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The 20 words you should probably (most definitely) ban from your job descriptions

It is an early morning at UrCompany HQ’s coffee machine when your latest recruiter approaches you. “What do you want the new marketing job ad to say?”, she asks. Before you’re able to take the third sip of your morning latte, you sputter out the words. “We need an edgy unicorn, with bags of potential who can hit the ground running within our winning team” Your recruiter nods, and goes to work on the job description.

Two weeks later

While your customary morning eco-friendly latte cup is filled with caffeine goodness, the same recruiter walks by, holding stacks of paper. “Hey”, you ask. “How’d it work out with that new marketing ad? Plenty of choices?”. She looks at you, sighs, and utters the words you needed to hear your entire career: “No one wants to be an edgy unicorn.”

She looks at you, sighs, and utters the words you needed to hear your entire career: “No one wants to be an edgy unicorn.”

‘Abused buzzwords’

Katrina Kibben, source: Three Ears Media

For years, Katrina Kibben has set the proverbial bar when it comes to hiring writing. With Three Ears Media she helps companies make its job posts and descriptions, well… better. We have to go back to March 21st, 2018, when she wrote about a poll she conducted. “When it comes to job descriptions, there’s a particular set of words that make candidates and recruiting pros alike wince. They’re cliches, abused buzzwords and usually – simply untrue.”

“They force these buzzwords into job titles and descriptions just to cram in more words instead of connecting with a human.”

The problem is twofold, she posed. Firstly: they describe the job and day-in-the-life experience rather than zeroing in on personal motivation and the inspiration of the right candidates. Moreover: seldom do they actually make sense. “They force these buzzwords into job titles and descriptions just to cram in more words instead of connecting with a human”, she wrote. “Worse? Most of the time they use these phrases simply because someone forgot to proofread the job description they’re recycling from several years ago.”

“They’re the ultimate indicator of if people are just calling it in or they really care from the candidate experience POV.”

We hope she’ll forgive us for recycling this content — but nearly three years later, these words are still well and truly alive in job descriptions and ads of all kinds. In total, she amassed 20 words that should really be banned. Kibben: “They’re the ultimate indicator of if people are just calling it in or they really care from the candidate experience POV.”

The banned list of 20:

  1. Top Talent
  2. Ninja
  3. Fact-paced company
  4. Rockstar
  5. Start-up vibe
  6. ‘We’re like a family’
  7. Employer of choice
  8. Winning team
  9. Employees are our greatest asset.
  10. Self-starter
  11. Work hard, play hard
  12. Guru
  13. Unicorn
  14. Rockstar
  15. Edgy
  16. Join our team
  17. Unlimited earning potential
  18. Hit the ground running
  19. Lead by example
  20. Fast-paced
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Jasper Spanjaart

Jasper Spanjaart

Writer and editor at ToTalent

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