Posts Tagged 'Job hunting'

The future of broadcast news

Following a positive reaction to my proposal to reclassify many apparent crises as palavers, or even kerfuffles, I have taken a few minutes to blue-sky the Kerfufflometer, which I believe will add to the Talknormalist content of broadcast news. I know that many influential broadcasters are avid readers of this blog. You know where to find me.

Tighthead or loosehead?

A prop forward and his ear

This week’s jargon argument with Crossrail, where I got cross – because being told what grown ups have already decided is not a “consultation” (no matter how many leaflets it stuffs through my letterbox) – leaves me in need of a relaxing true sporting jargon anecdote for Friday afternoon.

The moral of the story: when you don’t understand their jargon, don’t commit to an answer. Especially in a job interview.

My friend Stuart, from my judo club, has been practising for many years. He has two permanent cauliflower ears as a result. A few years ago he decided to join the police.

At his final interview the superintendent saw Stuart’s puffy ears and muscular build and immediately decided that this man must be a rugby prop forward (see above). Stuart had never played the sport and didn’t know that, in rugby jargon, props play with their heads on the tight or loose side of the scrum.

The senior officer tried to put Stuart at his ease with small talk.

“Tighthead or loosehead?” he asked.

And Stuart said: “Actually yes, I am circumcised.”

Show me the remuneration

I know not everyone had wine but we're still five Euros short

Justin Webb tweeted from Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday morning:

Can’t talk simple this am: pay becomes renumeration and softness emollience. coffee please

Several people tweeted while he was at the coffee machine to tell him that the word he was looking for was remuneration, but I sympathise with Justin. I didn’t realise that renumeration meant “counting something again”, and not “earned money”, until I was about 30 years old.

I still have trouble saying and typing the word. More embarrassing, I have similar problems with the word laboratory. It’s a good job I never worked for the chemistry press, or my peers would have split their sides when I asked questions at press conferences.

Justin and I are not alone with this remun/renum mix-up: journalists have used renumeration when they mean remuneration around 100 times a year for the last 10 years (You have no idea how long this blog is taking me to type). On 23 August, Chemical Week made the same error. Ha! Who’s laughing now, chemists? Wearing your white coats, reading your trade paper in your labra-, lobaro-, your places of work.

If you suffer because you can’t say or spell remuneration, I don’t care, because – unlike nucular – it’s a pointless word that doesn’t need our respect. It’s a classic case of word obesity. Take Justin’s advice and say pay instead: problem solved. Everyone understands what you mean and you don’t sound pompous. Both my 1965 edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage (I write as if I have copies from other years), and Essential English for Journalists agree.

If you decide to use “pay”, you’re not following the trend towards increasing word obesity. I made an index of the relative frequency of remuneration against pay (both in articles also containing the word job) from 2001 to 2009. The data is from articles published in North America and Europe:

The complicated word is twice as frequent as it was in 2001, but “pay” is almost unchanged in frequency. Most of the growth in use of renumer-, remuren-, that word has happened since 2007. Perhaps it is because we are rarely more than a day away from a story about what bankers are banking for themselves, and “pay” doesn’t seem grand enough for their piles of unearned income and bonuses.

Maybe the word we use to describe income should have at least as many letters as the income has digits, which means that only cleaners without visas and bloggers earn “pay” these days.

What about the rest of us? For Talknormalisers who want to feel special about pay, I’d suggest describing it as compensation. It’s still a pompous way to talk about money, but I like it because it sounds like they gave us the cash out of sympathy.

It’s called a holiday


Scarborough: a commitment to integrating modern architecture that is perhaps most reminiscent of Barcelona.

Now that most people are mostly back in a country that mostly matches the one on their plane ticket, it’s time to strike an optimistic note about one other thing that didn’t fly last week: the attempt by holiday operator Thomson to popularise the phrase “awaycation” to describe a holiday overseas.

Thanks to Will Randall for showing me the press release, based on a survey by Opinion Matters. It needed someone to point it out to me, because afterwards I could count only four publications that wrote about it – and one of them only printed the word to make fun of it.

The awaycation is the latest shot in marketing’s tedious Buzzword Wars. Imagine, if you will, a group of dedicated marketers and PR people in early 2008, huddled into a meeting room, desperately trying to make the prospect of a week in Scarborough seem attractive to people who would prefer to take their leisure in Ibiza or Florida.

There’s a reason why we choose not to go on holiday to the same places that our parents visited. It’s broadly speaking because, compared to most popular destinations in the world, a British holiday is what travel experts call a bit crap. But call your holiday a staycation” and you’re not just eating overpriced jumbo haddock and chips while watching the drizzle, you’re part of a global economic trend. Also, it gives the travel section something to write about that isn’t holiday companies going down the tubes or how you’re only getting one Euro per Pound.

The tedious buzzword magic worked for the staycation marketers – seven uses of the word before January 2008, more than 4,000 since then –  so in 2010 Thomson, which owns 77 planes and even bought a Boeing 787, needed to work the same magic by describing something like a staycation which involves getting on a flight. Just don’t call it something boringly descriptive like a holiday abroad. It’s much better than that, it’s an awaycation!


This tedious rebirthing isn’t new, because there are so many reasons beyond inspiration-free desperation for marketers to do it. It might just be the self-importance that turns a personnel department into human resources. It might be a way to do an about-turn without making it look like you were wrong, which turns outsourcing into insourcing, rightsourcing or even upsourcing.

Or, sadly, it might be our need to see every event in our lives as a jolly project with a special name and a happy ending. Losing your job has always been a pain for you and an opportunity for buzzword manufacturers. In vogue at the moment: you’re apparently re-careering.

If you have expertise in inventing pointless words for marketing purposes but currently find yourself unavoidably re-careering, perhaps a job in an expanded Ministry of Euphemisms for Bad Things is on the cards. On the evidence of this election, trying to pretend that it’s OK really is one part of the public sector that has continued to expand in the recession. If we’re going to fight the Buzzword Wars, our troops need to have the right euphemisms. Sorry, I meant they need to be optimally resourced with appropriately context-sensitive descriptors. These meaningless government phrases don’t invent themselves, you know.

A quick search shows that even the mildly silly “re-careering” had a better run in the press than “awaycation” has, so far at least. I find this encouraging: we have discovered that it is possible to come up with a marketing buzzword that’s so obviously rubbish that everyone simply ignores it, like a bad smell.

Passionate on demand

No matter how well the corporate communications job interview goes, best not to demonstrate this type of passion

More correspondence this week. See how good Talk Normal is when you join in?

I have just read a job application where someone writes that they are passionate about corporate communication… in the last few days, three young people in interviews have told me they are passionate about PR or technology. OFGS!

says our correspondent.

I think our chipper hooray-for-everything applicants are merely responding to their job market conditioning. If you doubt me, do a Google search for “Are you passionate about”. We understand that employers don’t necessarily want experience, it’s no secret that recruiters are a bitt iffy about people who sound like they might be black, but we’re apparently thrilled by candidates who lie about how passionate they are.

If you are selecting on passion you’re also probably going to disqualify the best applicants, because they are the ones who, when you ask if they are passionate about vegetables for example, will say “Of course not. I’m not mental”.

Yet we all know the requirement to pretend to be passionate on demand is part of the interview. If you’re recruiting at the moment maybe you could spice up your recruitment process by adding a short test with questions like “Do you find repetitive dull tasks thrilling?”, or “Is being treated like a child extraordinarily motivating for you?”, I bet you’d find a large proportion of people who would tick “yes”, simply because it’s an interview.

A quick scan of the job boards shows that that I could enhance my employability (let’s be honest, there’s quite a bit of headroom there) if I could bring myself to admit that, yes, I am passionate about change control (a business analyst), beer, tax, cake, and telesales. “IF YES THEN APPLY NOW!!!” the last advert says, hinting that it might be one of those telesales jobs where the ability to bully vulnerable people is the type of passion they’re looking for. But thanks to political correctness going mad you can’t put that in an advertisement any more.

I was surprised to find several advertisements asking if I was passionate about recruitment. You’d have thought that recruiters, of all people, would have realised the limitations of asking for fake passion; or maybe they just want to attract extremely insincere people. In the job you might have to simultaneously lie about the employer to the candidate, and the candidate to the employer. This is difficult for most people, but it’s probably more accurate to say that it requires a passion for commission than a passion for recruitment. even has a page of user-supplied answers for the interview question “What are you passionate about?”. I’d suggest that, if you need someone at to tell you the answer to this question, your passion might be lacking an essential element; but then again, if recruiters are so bored that they have to ask you this question, it’s probably a crappy job anyway.

If I ever go to a telesales job interview I’m using this model answer from the article, as suggested by “Scar”:

I’m passionate about everything in the way most people are only passionate about their ‘pet’ subjects. This is both an advantage and a downfall at times: it means I give 110% to everything I do, whether it’s watching paint dry, stuffing envelopes, writing an article or running a company.

Please, please can someone let this guy run a company passionately for us, and tell us how it goes. He’s probably available: I looked up “Are you passionate about watching paint dry?” on the internet and, sad to report, it’s one of the few manifestations of passion on demand that recruiters aren’t seeking.

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