As I sort through the details of my new role I’m starting to see what we need to focus on. One area that can use a lot of development is the content and language in our job postings. At the moment they’re sandpaper dry and not very informative. I’d like the postings to be a realistic job preview—at least do a better job than they do today of outlining what life will be like in the role, with the team and the manager, and as part of the university.
I’m also thinking about how we scale this effectively. It’s relatively easy to create an authentic and compelling job preview for a specific position, or even several for a department, but it’s going to be more difficult doing it for the whole university. Another complexity is that the work will be distributed among business partners within the departments and colleges of the university, all with differing language skill levels.
We could, of course, standardize the language and the content. Make it so that only minor changes are made to each position to allow for a consistent brand experience. Except, of course, that would be terrible. When I’ve worked on projects to standardize language conventions I’ve watched the power of the message die a horrible death. The nuanced details of the specific role are lost completely and we are left with an empty husk of words. We are left, essentially, with another version of the dried-up language I’m trying to get away from.
Is it easier to maintain “brand” through rigorous standardization? Perhaps. Is it more effective at attracting the right candidates? I really don’t think so.
And, honestly, I don’t even know how good standardization is at its intended task: preserving the brand. Because everyone writes a little bit differently (or better or worse), you’d have to employ one person (or clones or robots) to write all the content in order to be completely consistent. If you don’t then the voice, the tone, the word choice, and the overall “feel” of the language will differ. Sometimes dramatically.
So why do it at all? Seriously. I’d rather embrace what’s good about the individualized approach (authenticity, specificity, immediacy) and expend my energy mitigating the bad (spelling, word choice, topic choice) than working very hard to create standard language no one cares about. I’d rather lean toward freedom and vibrancy and away from standard and staid.
Anyway, we’ll see if my high-minded ideals actually work. My goal is to create a project in the fall and get a few English and Communications majors involved. I’ll report back periodically on this experiment and document it’s success or failure. (I’ll hope for more of the former and less of the latter).