The new campaign from Business in the Community (BITC) - #jargonfreejobs – highlights the need for employers to make entry-level job descriptions more accessible to young people. For the past 18 months, BITC has been running youth recruitment ‘mystery shopper’ workshops. At these events, groups of young people were invited to test the recruitment practices of companies for entry-level jobs, and to give feedback on the clarity of process and language. BITC then confidentially shared the results with the companies in question, and provided practical tips to help them improve the way they recruit young people.

The mystery shopper programme revealed that:

  • one in three roles were hard to find on employers’ websites
  • one in three job descriptions didn’t mention salary
  • two in five job descriptions contained jargon or technical language
  • two in three young people found the job descriptions difficult to understand.

In response, on 20 March, BITC launched the #jargonfreejobs campaign and a best practice guide for employers on how to make jobs accessible and attractive to all young people.

The CIPD is proud to support this campaign and indeed, significantly helped raise awareness of it on 20 March, by inviting its following of more than 90,000 Twitter users to share examples of the worst jargon-filled phrases they’ve come across recently in job descriptions.

Youth employability is high on the CIPD’s agenda and raising employer awareness about the importance of investing in young workers remains a key priority. The not-for-profit professional body has long advocated the need for employers to play a role in reducing youth unemployment and has produced an online practical tool to help SMEs explore how and where young employees can help address current and future business challenges. The guide provides information sheets, checklists and action plans to help organisations recruit, manage and develop young people. Commenting in the guide on entry-level roles, Chris Wright, Education Producer, Royal Exchange Theatre, says:

‘If you introduce and manage a young person successfully, they can become part of the fabric of your organisation. It’s not just something your organisation “does”.'

To help employers improve their practice when it comes to recruiting young people, the CIPD has also produced this helpful report Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus: Addressing the young people/jobs mismatch. The report explores the discrepancy between employers and young people at the recruitment stage, and encourages employers to make the labour market more youth-friendly. Key recommendations include:

  • make the business case for recruiting young people to line managers and colleagues
  • adapt your expectations of young people so that you’re realistic about how work-ready they will be when they first arrive
  • ensure your selection processes are youth-friendly and transparent. There are a number of basic things you can do to ensure you get the best calibre of young people applying for opportunities:
    • Provide the closing date and contact details for the advertised position.
    • Be open about the recruitment process, what the stages are and the expectations during those stages.
    • Develop simple, easy-to-use application forms.
    • Be clear about the selection criteria and review it for each new job – is experience or a degree really essential?

The CIPD's research into the behavioural science of recruitment and selection reveals that even small changes to how you frame a job advert can have a disproportionate effect on who applies and, subsequently, how they perform on the job. To avoid bias in recruitment, organisations should be encouraged to test their job adverts by designing two or more variations, and measuring which ones lead to more interest or applications from certain groups.

In addition to adapting recruitment methods and widening access routes, employers also need to recognise the skills individuals gain through social action as part of their recruitment process. Entry-level candidates often don’t know how to sell themselves during the recruitment process and without encouragement from employers, might fail to highlight key skills, such as co-operation and communication, that they’ve developed from taking part in voluntary activities. In a letter to the Times earlier this week, the CIPD, as one of the Business Pioneers of the #iwill campaign for youth social action, called for more businesses to back social action.

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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.