Episode 10: Applying for a job (1): The language of job ads

At the beginning of this part of a miniseries on finding a job, Erika sets the scene by referring to a very recent study on the specific challenges faced by people who start their careers in times of crisis:

Arellano-Bover, J. (2020). The effect of labor market conditions at entry on workers’ long-term skills. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13129. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3573299

We then talk a bit about different ways a company or business can advertise positions they hope to fill. The most basic one is perhaps the sign in the window or at a roadside: 

We also touch on the use of English in job ads in non-English speaking countries and Bernard mentions two studies showing, respectively, that job ads in English make the position seem more challenging, but also that this effect may be waning:

van Meurs, F., Korzilius, H., Planken, B., & Fairley, S. (2007). The effect of English job titles in job advertisements on Dutch respondents. World Englishes, 26(2), 189-205.

Hilberink-Schulpen, B., Nederstigt, U., van Meurs, F., & van Alem, E. (2016). Does the use of a foreign language influence attention and genre-specific viewing patterns for job advertisements? An eye-tracking study. Information Processing & Management, 52(6), 1018-1030.

The effect that wording in job ads can have on who applies, especially from a gender perspective, is detailed in this study, referenced by Erika:

Abraham, Lisa, & Stein, A. (2019). Words matter: Experimental evidence from job applications. Working Paper. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YKifRzy_kWuIIdB3MLS4VHht3okJa8pa/view 

Bernard then cites an example showing that even repetitive manual jobs – mushroom picking, in this case – can be advertised to make them sound attractive. Here is the original online advertisement he mentions: 

(Have you noticed that applicants need to be able to speak and read either Dutch or English well?)

This does not always work though: not even the patriotic colours, the request to do something for your country or the direct gaze at the viewer in the ad below helped to recruit enough British people to pick fruit — in the end, the UK government and National Farmers’ Union chartered flights to bring fruit pickers from Romania to the country.

Our final example in the first part of the episode anticipates both the subsequent interview and the analysis: it advertises a placement for graduates and is taken from Ruth Breeze’s book Corporate Discourse (Continuum, 2013, p. 61). As Bernard says, it sounds like the kind of  job Buzz Lightyear, a character from the film Toy Story, might apply for…  

Apart from her book on corporate discourse, our interview guest, Professor Ruth Breeze, has also studied learner autonomy and, more directly related to the topic of this episode, the language and images on recruitment websites:

Breeze, R. (2002). Attitudes towards learner autonomy among Spanish university students. Atlantis, 24(1), 23-36.

Breeze, R. (2019). Recruitment websites and the socialization of new employees: dialogicity and graduation. In Sancho Guinda, C. (ed.) Engagement in Professional Genres. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 197-216.

The text and image we analyse in the final part of the episode can be found here: https://www.ibm.com/blogs/jobs/2018/09/13/being-the-futures-of-ibm/

And that’s it — see you for episode 11, which will be on how to reply to an interesting vacancy.

Listen to the episode here

Full transcription of the episode

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