Written by
Grace Mehanna

20 Mar 2017

SLAs? KPIs? Jargon-filled job descriptions could be putting off future talent

20 Mar 2017 • by Grace Mehanna

Did you know what a KPI was when you applied for your first job? The answer most probably is no, and unless you work in operations or deal with contracts, you may not know what an SLA is either.

Yet what we consider to be the harmless but silly workplace jargon and acronyms actually become unnecessary hurdles for young jobseekers when they seep into entry level job adverts and descriptions.

Lack of understanding around jobs

Over the past year, working with the City & Guilds Group we’ve run a series of workshops with young people across the UK asking them to rate the accessibility of over 65 companies’ entry level recruitment processes who between them collectively employ over 1.2 million people nationally.

We started our research expecting the young people to pick up on the issues that we are used to seeing, such as unreasonable requirements for previous experience which they did, however they also highlighted something else to us which was quite surprising. 

After analysing the young people’s contributions we found that two thirds of the young people who took part in our workshops didn’t fully understand the jobs they were assessing. From not describing the day to day responsibilities of the role to leaving out key details over half of the vacancies assessed did not have a clear job description.

What’s more staggering is over a third of the job descriptions contained unclear jargon, acronyms or technical language which the young people specifically said put them off applying. 

Common jargon terms

Some of the most confusing terms commonly used in job adverts aimed at young people included “SLAs” “procurement”, “fulfilment service”, “KPIs”, “compliance, “mergers and acquisitions”.

Not surprisingly when we asked young people to try and explain what these terms actually meant, more often than not we were greeted with confused silence.

Impenetrable job descriptions are putting off young people from applying from applying for entry level jobs, causing young people to question whether it is an entry level role and leaving them unsure about their own abilities.

Jargon negatively impacts on young people’s confidence, by making them feel they “don’t deserve” a role or are “not good enough” to apply as they feel “intimated” by the job descriptions or “unsure” of what they’ll be facing.

Implications for social mobility

This also has implications for social mobility. Understanding jargon is not a measure of a young person’s potential or indication that they are a better candidate. The prevalence of ‘business speak’ in entry level job adverts could be inadvertently screening out young people who don’t have previous experience in an industry or access to people who do.

Young people who lack these networks or working role models are the job seekers that are least likely to have support preparing for job applications, least likely to know someone who works in the company or sector they are trying to break into, and therefore least likely to be able to overcome these barriers. All this means employers could be missing out on potential young talent.

That’s why we’re calling on companies to make their entry level jobs jargon free, and have today launched new guidance to help employers to make their recruitment processes more accessible for young people. 


To find out more about Jargon Free Jobs or to arrange for your recruitment process to be assessed by young people, visit https://futureproof.bitc.org.uk/jargonfreejobs or search #JargonFreeJobs on  Twitter.