Job descriptions are the online dating profiles of hiring. You need the right language to spark interest.

Much can be gleaned from these few hundred words. Does the company tout its on tap beer and dog co-workers? That might raise a few flags. Do they outline their values? That could be a good sign.

Even specific words can be revealing. Textio, a software platform analyzes the language of job descriptions, knows this. Textio sells recruiting teams a tool that flags potentially problematic language in job descriptions and identifies areas for improvement.

Words hint at the real culture

How you describe your company to others says a lot about what's going on in the inside.

"However you try to spin it, the truth of your cultural environment shows up in the language that your team uses to communicate -- especially when your entire company uses the same words," Textio writes in a blog post.

To show the impact of individual words, Textio analyzed the language of 25,060 job descriptions from 10 top tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. They looked for which words appeared most frequently in each company's descriptions.

Some of the results made sense. The word "nerd" appeared frequently in Twitter's job descriptions. Google favors "first rate." Facebook likes to harp on "storytelling."

Wickedly smart and maniacal customer obsession

Other top words were somewhat odd. Amazon stands out. Compared to the next closest company, Amazon used the word "wickedly" 33 times more frequently in their job descriptions. "Maniacal" appeared 11 times more frequently in Amazon job descriptions.

According to Textio, "wickedly" and "maniacal" statistically result in a higher proportion of applications from men. Due to their recent banning of one interview question that tends to hurt unrepresented applicants, it's clear Amazon is aware of gender bias during the interview process.

Both "wickedly" and "maniacal" are adjectives, so it's important to see how Amazon uses them in job descriptions. I dug up a couple recent Amazon job postings to see:

  • A job for a Technical Customer Service Associate at Amazon: "You will be surrounded by people that are wickedly smart, passionate about cloud computing, and believe that world class support is critical to customer success."

  • Qualifications for a Business Intelligence Engineer at Amazon include: "Maniacal customer obsession and focus."

Here are the frequently used words and phrases in job descriptions across all companies Textio analyzed:

  • Amazon: wickedly, fast-paced environment, maniacal

  • Apple: comfortably, maintaining control, empathetic

  • Facebook: our family, ruthlessly, storytelling

  • Google: first rate, prove that, tackle

  • Microsoft: driven personality, insatiably, competing

  • Netflix: Weed out, bull by the horns, disciplined

  • Salesforce: Work hard play hard, hungry for, building alliances

  • Slack: Lasting relationships, meaningfully, care deeply

  • Twitter: Nerd, passion for learning, diverse perspectives

  • Uber: whatever it takes, high-performance culture, all-star

Textio says 100 percent of the words favored by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Uber tend to attract male candidates. The others -- Apple, Facebook, Salesforce, Slack and Twitter -- were more balanced, with a mix of phrases that attracted applications from both men and women.

But they don't recommend simply swapping out certain words simply to come across as more inclusive. "Changing the words you use won't change your culture overnight," Textio warns. But if you aspire towards building a more inclusive culture, it's time to start having conversations about how to get there. ​

Published on: Apr 24, 2018
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