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Want to attract top talent? Avoid “orange phrases” in your job description

Augmented writing is writing supported by real-world data. Sometimes that data points to patterns of positive words or phrases that help your job post attract more qualified people, and in Textio those patterns show up as “green words.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, some phrases act like a repellent to the people reading your post, and those are “orange words.”

Screenshot of Textio's writing experience with words highlighted for illustration

Orange words are red flags

When you see an orange highlight pop up in Textio, that’s a red flag. Orange words and phrases negatively impact your Textio score, which means your job will fill slower, and it will attract fewer good candidates, than it could if you were to replace that language with something else.

There are a lot of reasons why people can be turned off by what you put in a job listing. People reading your job post are not just looking to buy a pair of shoes, they are looking for a company where they could end up spending the next 10 or more years of their lives. They want to feel like part of a positive culture, like they can contribute to something important, and get fulfillment from their daily work.

Unfortunately, when you use certain turns of phrase, the reader’s spidey senses perk up, and they think, “Hmm, maybe this just isn’t right for me.” There are many different reasons that an orange highlight shows up in Textio; the data points to different reasons in different regions and industries. I’ll just cover a few of the main categories here:

Screenshot of Textio's writing experience with an orange phrase hovered over showing a tooltip indicating fewer people apply to listings that use formal phrases like "the candidate" or "the applicant." Try using "you" instead

  • Corporate cliches — Everyone knows a good corporate cliché. When they are first introduced in to popular culture they have a meaning but over time they are used so often and in so many contexts, they simply lose their linguistic value. Often they represent cultural metaphors that are moving away in relevance such as: be a team player.
  • Jargon— Jargon is a lot like corporate cliches, in that often, the words have been so ground-down they have lost their meaning. Do you really want someone to leverage their assets, or create synergy on the team? The more specific you are in a job listing about what people can actually expect to do the more powerful it will be.
  • Directive language — Many job posts include a list of requirements and expectations. This makes a lot of sense, but the tone you take is incredibly important. People want to be in environments where they have the opportunity to grow and learn new things. By using directive language, someone might feel like they are walking in to a “command and control” organizational structure, which can be a big turn off.
  • Formal language — You want to engage people with your job. If they see words like “candidate” or “applicant” the job listing becomes not about them as an individual, but about anyone that could potentially do the job. By using informal language people feel like you are directly addressing them, and can imagine working at your company.
  • Job and locations specific language — The impact of words on people change all the time. But they also change based on the type of job and the location of that job. Textio is able to find language patterns that apply only in certain situations. For example if a job listing for IT professionals mentions “establish” they will be turned off, but if you switch that to “develop”, they are more likely to apply. However, the reverse is true in personal services and product management, they would rather “establish” something than “develop” it.

These are just a few of the types of words and phrases that can hurt the effectiveness of your job post. And remember, this is not just someone’s subjective decision—orange highlights in Textio mean that the data clearly shows a history of poor performance for that phrase when it comes to hiring outcomes. Textio’s predictive engine is constantly ingesting millions of recent job posts and uncovering new language patterns. As new patterns are found, there will be new types of orange words cropping up in Textio.

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