Utilize Your Robust Words Wisely

Question for you: Is it OK to end a sentence in a preposition like the word “for”?

Here’s another question: Is it OK to say things like “I’m going to aggressively recruit Susie” — or are the words “to recruit” supposed to stay together, to avoid the “split infinitives” we all learned about as kids?

The answer: who cares? Well, OK: sometimes those things above matter. Other times, there are more important things to think about.

But words can matter. 

The incorrect use of “its” and “it’s” which has seeped into so much advertising and other writing can make people look dumb when they’re not. That matters.

Whether you use the word “employee” or the word “worker” matters. Using the word “employees” sounds a bit more dignified — like you’re not talking about bees. Using the word “workers,” however, may be more accurate if you don’t want to refer to an independent contractor or temp as an employee.

That reminds me: Using the word “temp” in the office for a temporary employee can be degrading. (“Has anyone see the temp?”) Temps have actual human names like Jennifer Johnson, just as other employees. Other workers, I mean.

A lot of recruiting articles that people send me include the word “leverage,” as in, “We were able to leverage a number of social media tools.”

As far as I can tell, the writers actually mean the word “use,” but for some reason they use a longer word.

Some people have also started to say “utilize” for “use,” as in, “We were able to utilize a number of social media tools.” 

Again, as far as I can tell, they actually mean “use.”

The way you use words online — like in career websites –matters. Have you ever seen something like the following?

Check the box if you’d like us to remember your computer, so that you don’t to have to submit your resume/bio next time.

When a candidate reads the above from a mobile device, she subtly and subconsciously thinks, “Computer? I’m not using a computer!”

This isn’t a big deal. She gets what you’re talking about even though she was using an iPhone or whatever mobile device. But “computer” in the example above makes her subconsciously think she’s dealing with a 2005 company, not a 2010 company.

The word “robust” is creeping into a lot of recruiting articles too. Everything seems to be robust. 

I used to dislike the word “synergies” even more than I dislike the words “leverage” and “robust” in recruiting articles. But I’ve started using “synergies” more than ever lately when talking, as it so often describes what I want to say.

Some words that recruiting and HR professionals use mean so many things to so many people that they no longer mean anything. A recruiter for a large southern California-based restaurant chain asked me today if I knew of companies that were good at diversity recruiting. The word “diversity” has meant so many things that I had to really narrow it down with her: Do you really mean minorities? If so, that excludes women — right, since they’re not a minority? Or no? Do you mean people with disabilities? Do you mean gay candidates? Or does skin color and the other above categories not matter, because you mean diversity of thought — people who don’t all think the same?

Some companies actually mean “minorities” when they say “diversity” — but others mean “specifically those minorities that I employ too few of, and not all minorities.”

And then there’s the odd, new use of the phrase “a diverse candidate.” How an individual can be diverse is beyond me. 

I wish people used more words sometimes. I like details. When you ask a grocery store employee where the grape juice (or other food item) can be found, they sometimes answer only with “Aisle 5” rather than “Aisle 5 and Aisle 8” — directing you to some grape juice and not the healthier grape juice, often in a second place.

Sometimes I find that people use too many words. Someone recently told me about an “African-American janitor at Borders” who was very helpful, and seemed to know more about books than a lot of the other employees. I couldn’t figure out why the person telling me this pointed out his race. Would they have said: “I met this really smart white janitor at Borders”? 


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