The 10 most hated buzzwords to avoid in modern business

12 October 2022 3 min. read
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As corporations compete for talent, many may be losing out to rivals due to something as simple as using the wrong word in a job ad. A new study of online jobseekers has revealed their 10 most hated buzzwords, which firms would do well to avoid in future.

For decades, new entrants to the labour market have lost sleep when trying to craft the perfect resumé in a buyer’s market. Each week, a new study of employers seemed to reveal a different list of bugbears which would supposedly see a recruiter shred the application sitting on top of their inbox. Sometimes the term ‘passionate’ was an essential adjective to show convince a prospective boss of motivation, other times it was framed as a hackneyed cliché that revealed someone afraid to take the risks needed to stand out from the crowd.

In recent years, however, the tables have turned drastically. Record employment rates have seen employers attempting to win over a shrinking pool of talent for key roles, while the Covid-19 pandemic led many under-appreciated staff to re-evaluate their lot in life, and simply ignore job ads they decided were not worth their time. In this context, the shoe is very much on the other foot, as employers bemoaning how hard it is to fill positions suddenly find themselves obsessing over which adverbs and adjectives to put out in their latest job posting.

Has the use of trendy language in a job posting ever influenced your decision to apply

A new survey of more than 1,500 workers by Preply has revealed which terms are the biggest turnoffs in employers. The study found that almost seven-in-10 workers had been influenced by the use of language in which jobs they applied for.

Mary Glowacka, Centre of Excellence Lead in the Human Resources Chapter of Preply, commented, “Business jargon is at times a necessary evil, with three out of four respondents saying it can make a person sound more professional, but that doesn’t mean people love every snappy catchphrase exchanged between co-workers. In the workplace, employees and people managers use a distinctive type of corporate jargon that can sound like a lot while meaning very little. Some buzzwords are so bad that if people see them in a job ad, some won't bother to apply.”

Preply discovered a series of ‘red flags’ which would put workers off applying for jobs. The foremost of these was the suggestion applicants should be a “rockstar”, something which might suggest a company is looking for employees who are naïve enough to be flattered by a silly title, while settling for pay under the going rate.

Terms mostlikely to be red flags + Terms least likely to be red flagsSimilarly, ‘wear many hats’ was the second most off-putting phrase. This is possibly due to its implication that employees would be required to take on extra responsibilities to those set out in a job description, but without additional compensation.

That is not to say all jargon was seen as a red flag, however. Acknowledging that business environments all deploy a degree of distinct buzzwords, employees also identified 10 terms least likely to be red flags in job descriptions.

First among these phrases was ‘empower’, something which suggests that employers are not simply looking for yes-men, but problem solvers capable of reaching their own conclusions to improve the organisation. Meanwhile, despite its vagueness, ‘competitive salary’ was at least seen as indicating that employees’ efforts would be properly compensated. And there was even an indication that that old favourite, ‘passionate’ was welcome in job ads. At least for now, anyway.