Recruitment-speak: the art of the bleedin’ obvious

It is ironic how the headhunters seem to be in the greatest need of ‘creative, fresh-thinking candidates with proven communications skills’, writes Iain Murray

There is no marketing job quite so dispiriting as the job of marketing marketing jobs. This verbose and repetitive observation is what comes of reading, purely out of curiosity, the recruitment pages of a national newspaper.

Consider how the amateur goes about the task of filling a vacancy. Look in any newsagent’s window and you will see “Wanted: cleaning lady”. Simple, effective – says it all. The advertiser does not say: “Candidates will have a strong record of dirt elimination, ideally within the domestic sector, and outstanding broom and mop skills. The successful candidate will be self-motivated and results orientated and will thrive in a furniture and floor-focused environment.”

Nor does the advertiser stress the challenge of the job. You won’t see: “With a house steeped in dirt and grime, occupied by accident-prone owners and frequented by cats, this domestic environment is a leader among household filth and offers an exceptional challenge to the person appointed.”

Contrast that with this recruitment ad for a brand director for the brewer Coors. It begins: “Outstanding Brands are built by outstanding People.” You feel that ought to be followed by the injunction: “Discuss.”

One is reminded of Dr Johnson’s riposte when it was said: “He who leads free men should himself be free.” He retorted: “It might as well be ‘Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat’.” It is entirely possible that outstanding brands could be built by quite ordinary people.

But Coors presses on: “Due to our expansion (that ought to be “owing to” but we’ll let that pass), we are looking for an exceptional, creative and commercially astute Brand Director to drive consumer commitment for a portfolio of brands…” Well, you wouldn’t want one who wasn’t commercially astute, would you? And what’s this stuff about driving consumer commitment? Is that like driving fat oxen?

Next, it addresses the reader personally. “You will have an expert knowledge of consumer and trade marketing principles…” Better expert than amateur, I suppose. “You will have developed brand architectures…” Hold on – I thought you wanted a driver, not an architect. Are you serious about constructing Carling Black Label with a flying buttress here, a pediment there and – who knows – a pilaster or two? Isn’t brand architecture a mite pretentious?

Finally, it reaches for the off-the-shelf description of the paragon required of every recruitment advertiser. “You must be a leader: highly motivated and passionate about success, with excellent commercial, communication and leadership skills… Above all, you’ll be creative: relentlessly pursuing new, better and more effective ways of building your brands. Your fresh thinking and appetite for success will enthuse the business as a whole.”

You will, in short, be like Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way.

To be fair, Coors is simply sticking to the formula favoured by all recruitment advertisers. Take this one, for a group marketing director who is expected to “raise brand awareness across all stakeholder groups”: “With outstanding interpersonal and influencing skills, candidates will also be able to operate effectively at all levels up to plc board and will be able to effectively manage a challenging workload… Self-motivated, resilient and highly organised, candidates will thrive in a team oriented, fast paced and sales focused environment where delivery is paramount.”

This conveys the strong impression of a recruitment consultant sucking up to his client. For although it is unlikely that anyone short of the Archangel Gabriel could bring to bear the virtues of self-motivation, resilience and organisation in a frantically fast environment where teams orient themselves the better to receive interpersonal and influencing skills, what board of directors would not relish seeing their organisation described as fast paced, sales focused and paramount in delivery?

Here’s another one: “The successful candidate must be self-motivated and results orientated… First-class communication and influencing skills and proven negotiation abilities are also essential.”

Dispiriting though marketing recruitment may be (after all, Mary Poppins is a work of fiction), it is nevertheless a doddle. All that is required is a supply of clichés, readily available on the open market, interpersonal and influencing skills, and a brass neck.

Does the need to justify an exceptional fee by cloaking the commonplace in reach-me-down jargon remind you of another group of self-styled professionals? Here’s a hint: “Within easy reach of local amenities… this highly desirable… in a much sought-after area… early viewing is advised.”

Strange how those wanting marketing people are so unimaginative at marketing. It seems that what the headhunters most need in their own organisations are highly committed, self-motivated candidates with a strong track record in communications and person-to-person leadership skills whose creative, relentless fresh thinking and appetite for success will enthuse the business as a whole in a kind of orientated way. After all, as someone might have said, outstanding candidates are recruited by outstanding people.

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