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Your vagueness is costing you opportunities.

01 Nov 10:00 By Lawrence Akers


Years ago, there was a song by Faith No More called, 'Epic'. In its lyrics, it questioned ,'It's it. What is it?' While vagueness can have its place in helping to generalise and to create a sense of ambiguity, when it comes to job opportunities, specifics are where things need to go.

I can assure you that candidate, client and even recruiter alike are guilty of being vague. In some cases, especially with recruiters, it may be intentional however when it comes to clients and candidates, you're both trying to sell something to the other party and so you need to be specific to ensure that they clearly understand what the offer is and if it is going to work for them.

Let me give you some examples.

Imagine for a moment that I have a Graphic Designer sitting in front of me and I'm interviewing them for a job opportunity.

I ask them, 'why don't you tell me a little bit about your last job? What did you do there?'

They respond with, 'ohh, well... I pretty much did everything, you know? I worked with the marketing team to take their briefs and then I pretty much did the design for everything after that.'

Now, the problem with this response is that it assumes I have a clear understanding of everything that this particular marketing department might do and need. Given my job, you would hope I would have some understanding but it is a lazy way of answering a question that doesn't offer me any actual unique and valuable insight into that person's role or what they did, let alone what they achieved.

Think of it from my perspective. Sure, I will obviously acknowledge that some people are better at communication than others and I may coach this person on the spot around better communication skills. After all, I have often told people that if they're going to stuff up an interview, mine is the one to do it at because I will give honest feedback that will help them moving forward. It doesn't install much confidence though because either you are struggling with communication or you don't actually have the experience needed (or both) and the only way you're going to be able to get over that hurdle is to ensure that I hear something that says you do.

This is a moment where experiential responses are going to be truly beneficial. Take a moment to paint a vivid picture about what you were required to do. What were the challenges, if any, in taking a brief? What kind of range of work did you have to do? How many jobs would you have at any given time? Was this conceptual work from scratch, or working within a style guide, or a combination of both? Was it print or digital, or both? How did you know you were successful in that job? Tell me the story!

If your answer contains the words, 'anything', 'everything', or the phrase 'stuff like that', then you're failing.

Clients, you don't get off easy either. Tell me, what does a 'culture with a good life work balance' mean now? Again, we can guess that it might mean flexible starting and finishing hours, working from home, Friday drinks, a social club, day care facilities - seriously, I don't know because you're hiding behind a buzz word that has been used so much, my eyes glaze over every time I read it because it actually doesn't tell me anything about what that looks like or how you achieve it. Yet, these are some of the very points that might tempt an outstanding candidate to actually leave their current job and apply for yours.  

It's bad enough when I have to take a job brief and have requests like 'folios with a bit of a flair'. Really? The amusing part is when I do push back and ask them what that means and they realise that trying to articulate a subjective concept is actually a lot harder than they may have thought.

The reality is that you want to be able to create an emotion with your communication. You want to create a feeling of confidence, or intrigue, or a positive state.  If you resort to lazy communication, then you should expect a disengaged response. Jump on Google and look up the research on how much emotion contributes towards the decision making process - it's huge! If you're not telling stories that captivate people, make them feel something and have them saying a resounding, 'YES!! THIS IS PERFECT FOR ME!!', then you're not doing your career or your company any justice.

In the recent Audible campaign, we have Rebel Wilson encouraging us to make words great again. I couldn't agree more. Let's learn how to engage people in conversation again and leave them feeling spellbound by how amazing the opportunity in front of us actually is.