Choose Your Next Words Carefully

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Choose Your Next Words Carefully

By EdSurge Jobs     Mar 12, 2019

Choose Your Next Words Carefully

Jobseekers and employers alike need to pay close attention to the language they use to describe both opportunities and experiences. Words materially affect whether you get a job, what kind of offer you receive, whether that offer is compelling—and even what kind of salary you wind up receiving.

Researchers at Harvard reported in the Harvard Business Review that both men and women more frequently describe women as “nice”—more communal, more collaborative—than they do men. Men get described with more standout adjectives (“He’s superb!”). Women get fewer superlatives—and more vague ones. “Research has also found that, in other evaluative domains, like teacher evaluations, men are more often described as “brilliant” and “genius,” and called out for their ideas, while women tend to be acknowledged for their kind demeanor and execution.”

This happens in verbal recommendations and even on people’s resumes, Harvard researchers found. They looked at hundreds of resumes, filtered out jobs where Census data suggests that 75 percent are already held by women, and found that women still used more communal words to describe themselves on their own resumes. “Women seem to depict themselves as nice, over and beyond the previous workplace experiences they have had,” the researchers noted.

Sadly, nice doesn’t always get the job. Even well-intentioned references can cast more doubt in potential employers’ minds. A woman applicant might be described as someone who “needs minimal supervision” while a man is described as a “real self starter.”

Take a look at how you describe your work experiences, and make sure you’re not underselling yourself. You might even consider chatting with the people who provide your recommendations: How do they describe you to others?

Words matter—so choose them with care!

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