Anyone who is familiar with my writing knows I am not a fan of jargon. The “insider” language in any field is meant as a shortcut for daily communication between knowledgable professionals on technical topics. Every time “scientist one” wants the opinion of “scientist two” on his latest hypothesis, he shouldn’t have to repeat the premise. Jargon helps speed up communication.
Communication is meant to clarify ideas between people, but when jargon is taken too far, it has the opposite affect. It separates people into two groups: those who know and use this language, and those who are not in that club. The result creates gray areas of meaning between people and widens the gap of understanding.
Using Jargon on Your Resume
In my resume writing service, I sometimes see a resume that is so heavy with jargon that it is almost written in code. (Those are the days I praise Google for easy and free translation tools.) My first reaction to this type of resume is to wonder what the writer is trying to hide. Then, my sympathy kicks in as I realize I am dealing with someone who is not comfortable with the use of language in interpersonal communication.
Often, when we untangle all of that business-speak we’re left without any substance. The fact that you, “drove marketing position using digital strategies that increase ROI” doesn’t really tell a prospective employer what you did. Would you be in a hurry to hire the person who, “proactively takes necessary action to remove obstacles between affiliate requirements and company’s ability to satisfy them?” I would want some definition to be sure that “necessary action” was legal, moral, appropriate…innovative.
There is another side to finding jargon on a candidate’s resume, however. Someone who speaks your language knows your field. That person is an “insider,” and isn’t that what you are looking for. Employers want to find people they know will fit into their existing culture. What better way to demonstrate belonging than to use their language.
How Much is Enough
I ask this question all the time. Just last week, I was asking “How Much Sex Talk is Enough” in the context of including personal information on your resume. Jargon deserves the same evaluation. Some is good, but too much is a non-starter.
At an entry level in any field, a little jargon shows potential employers you can use their language appropriately.
The standard is different for executive level positions than for entry level, and it can vary by industry. I often have to remind IT professionals that at the executive level, their resumes will be evaluated by people who do not have such deep technical knowledge. In these situations, jargon is a deterrent because it cannot be deciphered. At an entry level in any field, a little jargon shows potential employers you can use their language appropriately. The problem arises when you end up stringing business-speak phrases together to make full sentences and paragraphs. In these cases, the action is lost or obscured.
Tips for Including Jargon in Your Resume
Like most things in life, using jargon on your resume is a balancing act, and there is no single rule that works in all cases. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Describe your job duties in the terms you would use if you were explaining what you do to your mother (or at least someone outside your industry)
- Strive for a sprinkling of jargon, acronyms, or industry-specific terms, ensuring there is “regular” language between them
- Define industry-specific acronyms the first time you use them, just to be sure there is clear understanding
- List the names of programming languages and networking applications that apply to your experience and skills (not really jargon) because they could be buzz-words looked for by potential employers
- Ask someone outside of your industry to read your resume and point out anything that is difficult to understand
- Vary the language you use in your resume to avoid over-use of words like “optimize” or “monetize”
Remember, the resume is just another specialized communication tool. Know your audience, and present them with a few nuggets to get their attention. Your use of language could be as important as your ability to increase ROI.
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