I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but somewhere along the line, the word “jargon” seemed to acquire a negative connotation — and became something that many career counselors warned against using on resumes, in interviews, and in other aspects of the job hunting process. Personally, I’d argue the exact opposite. In my experience, most job hunters don’t use NEARLY ENOUGH jargon to really establish their credibility as an expert or maximize their chances of landing opportunities in today’s market!
A case in point? The other day I was chatting with a new client who is an expert in the IT data management field. We were working on his resume and I informed him that one of the keys to modern resume methodology is to load the document up with a slate of juicy, relevant buzzwords that will appeal to both computer scanners and human resume screeners alike. When pressed, however, he said he couldn’t really think of any additional language that needed to inserted beyond what he already had in his document — and that the phrase “data management” pretty much summed everything up.
Having gone through this ritual with clients a few thousand times to date, however, I knew that this was likely a failure of imagination on his part. There had to be more to the story. We just needed to put our brainstorming muscles to work. So the first thing I did was jump on Indeed.com and run a search for any executive-level jobs with the phrase “data management” in the title. After popping a few of the initial listings open, I asked my client if he had any clue what terms such as master data, metadata, data architecture, data governance, data warehousing, virtualization, and Hyper-V meant. “Sure,” he said, “I know all of those terms — that’s all the stuff I specialize in!”
Needless to say, after I pointed out that his current resume failed to emphasize any of these specific words and concepts, I think he got my point — and we worked these new terms into the presentation immediately, right near the top!
Think this is an extreme example? I assure you, it isn’t. The average professional tends to be so close to their own industry and work environment that they often take many important phrases, terms, and competencies for granted and overlook them completely when assembling their job search materials. This can be a fatal mistake from a lead generation standpoint. Simply put, jargon establishes credibility. There are few things that will convince an employer or recruiter that you “know your stuff” as quickly as using all the right language, in the proper context, when talking about your experience and capabilities. If I was hiring an outplacement consultant, for example, I’d be wary of anybody who didn’t know what a functional resume was, versus a chronological one, or who didn’t talk freely and knowledgeably about things like exit interviews, personal branding, retained recruiters, and dependable strengths. The mere fact that they weren’t using this language would lead me to suspect they really didn’t have the expertise I’d require. And in my experience, every specialized occupational field has a similar set of terms that only true “insiders” understand and know how to use correctly.
So as you put together your own job hunting materials, and work on your interview responses, don’t be afraid to include a healthy dose of jargon related to your professional field. If you water everything down to high-level language that everybody will understand, chances are you’ll sell yourself short and damage your credibility. I’ve heard rumors, in fact, that the next generation of resume-screening software will be MUCH smarter (in a sense) than current programs and will actually be programmed to analyze jargon, in context, to help weed out superior candidates from pretenders. Instead of just hunting for the words “supply chain” anywhere on a resume, for example, they’ll also look to make sure related words are listed, too, such as Lean, Six Sigma, and APICS. They may even insist that these additional terms show up within a certain number of characters around the main phrase, just to make sure the person’s use of these skills is directly related to the core competency sought and that the person’s application of these skills took place within a similar time frame. No question about it — the technology is going to get a lot more sophisticated on us in a hurry — so don’t wait to infuse your job search “packaging” with all the right terminology!
P.S. This advice applies to LinkedIn profiles, as well. The other day, I went hunting for a great example of a CFO profile on LinkedIn to share as part of a new webinar I was conducting, and sadly, after reviewing 20 profiles or so, I couldn’t find a single one that seemed to contain all of the right terminology. And since LinkedIn is now the #1 place that companies go to proactively recruit talent, I fear that a lot of you out there might be getting passed over for some opportunities, simply due to “profile anemia” and a failure to pack your profile (especially the “Specialties” section) with all the right terminology!