Troubling Terminology in Job Advertising – Avoid being Too Cool.

So, you’re recruiting for a tech savvy, energetic, creative type and want to be sure that your job posting attracts the right candidates.  You look at how the brand name, superstar companies (where everyone wants to work) are advertising.  Soon you have a list of cool adjectives to feather into your job description.

younger-workers-in-casual-meetingBut be careful.  You may have just put your company at risk.  There have been a number of new terms pushed out in digital recruitment advertising recently that seem clever.  However, they may cross the line when it comes to EEOC nondiscrimination rules.  One in particular that has gotten a lot of attention lately is the descriptive phrase, digital native.

This term was coined by the author and consultant, Marc Prensky, back in 2001.  He adopted it really as a metaphor for describing attitudes of people who grew up in the digital culture, as compared to those who came of age in prior periods (digital immigrants).  He never meant it as a way to describe someone’s technical knowledge.

Like many buzzwords, this term made its way through contemporary business publications leading to the inevitable simplification of the definition.  Lo and behold, the advertising industry started to use it with their high-tech clients and many big-named firms incorporated into their recruitment posts.  The problem, of course, is that it clearly describes someone of a certain age.

This is verboten by the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) which prohibits advertising or actively recruiting for candidates based on their age.

Read this short article in Fortune to get an idea of how this is being used.  Other terms that fall into the danger zone of potential age bias are: Recent Grad, Young Blood, Class of 20…

Although there aren’t a ton of complaints made to the EEOC on the basis of discriminatory advertising, why place a magnifying glass on your company’s hiring practices?  It just isn’t worth it. Job postings are important for casting a wide net over potential candidates, but they don’t replace the hard work of reviewing resumes.  In other words, clever advertising doesn’t save you time.   So keep your postings clear, concise, and free from the perception of bias.

Love your Work!


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