The purpose of language is to communicate, not to obfuscate. For you, that means that the language you use when you speak or write should be as clear as possible. Using big words when simple ones will do (please note that I linked to a definition of “obfuscate” above), and using jargon or buzzwords may actually have the opposite effect to the one intended.

First, for employers: You may be relying on your jargon for a couple of reasons. For one thing, you use it so much that it might sound commonplace to you. For your clients and protential recruits, however, it can be alienating and confusing. People use different dialects as a way of identifying insiders and outsiders: are you excluding people by accident? Or are you doing it on purpose? Using jargon in a job posting, for instance, can help you weed out applicants quickly. But what if you are excluding people in parallel industries that don’t use the same terms? New hires could quickly pick up the new words and phrases, but if you season your ad with too many, they may not feel qualified to apply.

For applicants, it’s the same thing. You’re tempted to use the industry buzzwords to signify that you are a member of the in-group. You know what you’re talking about, and you’re broadcasting that you have the qualifications to do the job. But what if you’re wrong? What if this industry uses a term slightly differently? What if you misunderstand the term? And what if the people doing the hiring (an HR manager, for instance) isn’t familiar with the jargon you use in your field as an educator, medical professional, or financial advisor? Or what if the buzzwords have changed? Are you dating yourself? Your skills may be up-to-date, but using archaic language can negatively affect perceptions.

And speaking personally, while jargon is useful and usually effective, buzzwords feel like “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Parroting buzzwords and cliches indicates lazy thinking. If you were really “thinking outside the box”, you’d come up with a newer, better, less threadbare way to describe the practice.

Keep it clean, folks. Be simple, direct, and use the right word. For help with communication as it applies to your job search, you can always come see us at WIL. Good luck.