Cloud first, blue sky thinking, granulation, growth hacking.

Regretfully, when it comes to abusing that kind of jargon in job ads, Washington state is the country’s biggest offender.

A recent analysis of 6.3 million online job descriptions posted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia in April by online publishing tool Canva looked for 40 commonly used phrases such as “team player,” “core competency” and “take it to the next level.”

It found that Washington is the most prolific state in the nation when it comes to jargon-filled job ads. Out of every 1,000 Washington job ads placed, 593 of them contained code-like acronyms, technical babble or business buzzwords that are used and understood in some professions, but vague, overused or difficult to understand for the average person.


The professions most likely to use jargon in ads are information technology, marketing, finance and business, human resources and media, the analysis found.

Jargon can have a legitimate role in help-wanted ads, according to Michael Handford, a professor of applied linguistics at Cardiff University.

 “If I write an advertisement and the phrase ‘applicant must have expertise in corpus linguistics, and be fluent in R’, then this jargon will perform a very important and justifiable gate-keeping role — this is what the job requires, so there’s no point in applying if you don’t have those skills. I don’t think anyone has a problem with this type of jargon,” he said.

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But jargon relating to a particular mindset (“doer,” “self-starter,” “go-getter,” “team player”), or a willingness to perform in the role right from the start (“hit the ground running,” “proven track record,” “proactive,” “take it to the next level”), or to a set of terms that are business clichés concerning intelligence, problem-solving skills and creativity (“laser-focused,” “think outside the box,” “blue sky thinking,” “thought shower,” “peel the onion”) is different, he said.

“I’d envisage that many people would find this latter group relating to creativity … as particularly egregious, even ludicrous,” he said.

Remember, he said, the purpose of a job advertisement is to attract potential employees, not put them off.