Job Jargon – Nonprofit Marketing Job Descriptions That Leave You Wondering

ktesonGuest blogger, Katy Teson is a young eco professional working in nonprofit marketing, media and outreach. Her experiences at regional and national organizations are the inspiration for her blog, where she writes about the “Swiss Army Knife” approach to nonprofit life. 

If lack of salary information is the #1 frustration when it comes to nonprofit job descriptions, industry jargon must be #2. After all, you’re not only looking to see if you’re qualified – you want specific information to know if the position offers you advancement and a little excitement plus what you can expect from a paycheck.

In reviewing eco-nonprofit marketing positions, so many employers use jargon-y terminology as a way to connect to the larger marketing and communications industry. Fair enough. The problem is when we start moving away from talking about deliverables and areas of responsibility to focus on undefined future scenarios or list vague platitudes. Ugh!

Are We Missing Out?

I fear that nonprofits are missing out on qualified candidates by making job seekers do a Google search to define “cross-platform integration.” In this world of tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Xers, a candidate can very well have the know-how but not know the lingo. If the talking-the-talk is important, then by all means use your job description to indicate that requirement. For most nonprofits, however, that’s probably not the case.

Take a look at these are examples of jargon and ambiguity from recent search for nonprofit marketers:

Develop the narrative arc for integrated, multi-channel campaigns, including audience engagement plans, content creation, and timelines

  • extract raw data from existing databases and derive market insights
  • episodic information sharing
  • build organizational capability by identifying skills needed and recruiting and developing staff in alignment with strategic priorities
  • create an impact-focused, metrics-driven communications and engagement strategy
  • develop tactical strategies and technical implementation to leverage enhanced platform functionality
  • work with the marketing engagement assistant to implement pre-strategized testing
  • assist supervisor with list management, list hygiene, and list growth
  • work to ensure there is a deepening interconnection and cross-pollination among the programs and initiatives.

On a positive note, there are gems like this one for a Manager of Digital Brand and Outreach for Humanity United. Direct, open to creative approaches, and personality. Seems like a good formula to me!

For those of you on either end of the job equation, hiring or applying, what do you think about jargon in job descriptions? Is it just “fluff” or a useful way to evaluate candidates? Please share your opinion here.

Guest Blogger on July 11, 2013 in Jobs and Hiring | 3 comments
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  • George Watson

    I thought no one would ever ask! LOL
    Some jargon is acceptable when the shorthand is part of everyone’s vocabulary who should be applying for the job… CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) would be a simple example. But some jargon says nothing specific… cross platform integration (which platforms are we using, and are we going to need to build or rebuild them?). My other pet peeve is never revealing the scale of operation with its budget. It’s one thing to look for a Communications Director for a $50K budget in local print, and quite another for a $1 Million budget across national print, outdoor, broadcast, internet and social media.

    And just a general comment on job descriptions, which I believe are themselves a problem as a result of trying to get too much out of one person – drop the laundry list approach hoping to get the one person in the universe with 40 different professional skills and career experience in at least 5 or more. Make a realistic assessment of what you expect the employee to do on a short (weekly/monthly – tactical) and long-term (3 yr – strategic) basis, the principal skills and experience (and level) needed to accomplish those tasks, make allowance for what the right individual could quickly pick up, and concentrate on getting the best fit for the core objectives of the position. If the job is transitional to more senior management or there is a need within the organization to meet other challenges on an occasional basis, hiring over qualified makes good sense as well. (And don’t specify an MBA unless you really need an advanced degree to do the job. You might scare off some very good, well experienced Bachelor or Associate degreed candidates. And generally MBA’s want more money and may not stay long if they don’t get it.)

    Due to lack of experience, HR people sometimes write off-spec or over-generalized job descriptions because of their lack of knowledge of the job. Sometimes the job is not what it was when first specked. A review with the person supervising the position is essential, but even that may be inadequate. Don’t hesitate to do some research on the profiles of people in other companies with the title (does yours sync with the responsibility and skill level?), experience and proposed skill set to be sure there will be candidates that will be able to see themselves in this position. A salary check on some of these people and their titles will also insure an attractive compensation picture for prospective candidates. And even if you can’t afford a good executive recruiter, ask one you know for a 2nd opinion on what you’re doing. The good ones will take a few minutes to lend some advice if they understand it’s for a worthy cause. They may even throw you a candidate or two. ;-)

  • JL

    I think my main frustration with job ads like these isn’t so much the jargon as the completely unrealistic expectations. Who in the world can do all of these things? And is it more important for you to hire someone who has experience in all of that, but turns out to be a butterfly who can’t stick to a job; or do you want someone who knows a bit less, but can commit to something?


  • Nancy Schwartz

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, Juliette. The point you make—that communications roles now require (or ask for) skills from online programming to audience research and graphic design—is something I’ve noted as well, and plan to cover in a coming post.

    In a casual conversation recently, Idealist leader Ami Dar told me that the expectation for finding someone with all of those skills is unrealistic, but the hope burns strong. Too bad folks have to compare themselves to an impossible ideal right out of the gate.

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