Chasing a goose with a klaxon: the language of recruitment

by Stratton Craig

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An unusual job posting caught my eye recently. I love being a copywriter, but the prospect of being a ‘Goose Scarer’ was one I just had to look into.
Roehampton University is seeking a ‘plucky’ candidate to chase away the Canadian geese that are using the campus lawns as a bed-sit. The new recruit needs to be in good physical health, as they’ll be roaming the field to try and out-honk the gaggle. Incidentally, did you know that the flock is only called a gaggle while the geese are on the ground? As soon as they take off, they become an upwardly mobile ‘skein’ of geese instead.
The type of language used in recruitment can often be quite dry. Words such as ‘experienced’, ‘challenging role’, ‘self-starter’ and ‘fast-paced environment’ have come to lose all meaning. We took a brief look at some of the hundreds of general PA and admin job listings on recruitment sites, and discovered that the wording is oddly similar across the board.
Almost all of the postings are seeking someone ‘experienced’, even for positions that seem fairly entry-level in their scope and requirements. In one instance, we saw ‘experience’ used five times within a job description of only 200 words. You’ll need ‘effective communication skills’ or ‘interpersonal skills’, which presumably means the ability to form coherent sentences and not alienate colleagues. We have also seen some clangers: what exactly is a ‘good telephone manor’?
This ‘Goose Scarer’ vacancy sounds far more exciting: the successful applicant will receive ‘FULL TRAINING’ in all caps. You get to use a honking great klaxon to encourage each obstinate goose to move.
Unfortunately for me, the very first item on the list of ‘skills and experience’ required for the position is: ‘not afraid of geese’. That takes me out of the running straight away. Although, as at least one person commented on Twitter, maybe ‘not afraid to say boo to a goose’ would have been a great alternative.
Does anything irk you about recruitment copy? Does the requirement to ‘work well independently and as part of a team’ make you want to lock yourself in a darkened room? Share your thoughts and any examples you’ve seen in the comments below or by tweeting @strattoncraig.

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