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Connecting to Job Seekers: The Language Breakdown, Part 1

Staffing companies and job seekers are not speaking the same language. In this two-part series, we’ll review what it takes to connect to job seekers.

The Industry Struggle

The staffing industry has long struggled with the image projected to job seekers, and this struggle is not without just cause. An ASA study1 revealed that many job seekers see staffing companies as a revolving door of talent. One survey respondent even described staffing companies as a “conveyer belt of workers”.

In an attempt to combat this false image, many recruiters feel a constant need to stress the value of the jobs they offer. The language they use typically falls into one of two categories:

  1. Bridge Language: Some popular phrases include “temporary jobs are a bridge to fulltime employment” or “many of these temporary jobs lead to full-time positions.”
  2. Flexibility Language: Examples include “temporary workers have the flexibility to work as little or as much as they want” and “temporary employees have the flexibility to change jobs as often as they desire.”

These narratives are so ingrained in the recruiter’s mindset that bridge and flexibility language often dominate the conversation when speaking to a job seeker; it becomes the main value proposition. But job seekers aren’t looking for a magic bridge. They have a different struggle.

The Job Seeker Struggle

On the other side of the wall, job seekers have one, single, primary need: Find a job. Now.

They are frustrated by the search process. They feel the reality of the dreaded “black hole” phenomenon every day. They spend their precious time and energy submitting application after application and have nothing to show for their efforts.

They are disillusioned by the lack of human interaction in the search process. They feel that they can’t get an interview, or even an update on their application because they can’t find anyone to talk to. Ultimately they feel like they are wasting their time.

The frustration of job seekers is not unwarranted. Corporate applicant tracking systems auto-reject an estimated 75% of applications. Though it’s clear that ATS platforms save our industry thousands of hours a year, its equally clear that that the whole process is designed to weed applicants out, not invite them in. And job seekers can feel it.

Many job seekers have reported believing that if they could just get in front of the right people, they would have a shot at getting a job.

The Disconnect

Frustrated job seekers don’t have flexibility or a “bridge to better positions” on the top of their list. There is only one thing on their list: a job.

So when staffing companies waltz in with promises of getting them “on the career ladder” or “flexible hours”, the message doesn’t connect to the job seeker’s most immediate need.

In fact, some bridge and flexibility language can actually backfire. Survey respondents indicated that phrases like “temporary jobs make you more employable” offended some job seekers. They heard “more employable” as a thinly veiled message that they are currently “less employable”.

When faced with flexibility language like “choose when, where and how you work”, many job seekers felt a huge disconnect with their primary need. Job seekers who are eagerly seeking work are actually more likely to value stability, reliability and a regular work schedule. This disconnect creates an even more dismal view of the staffing industry.


To truly appeal to job seekers, we need to connect the dots between the staffing industry’s struggle and that of the job seeker. In the final installment of this two-part series, we’ll talk about how to bridge the gap.

1Source: The New Language of Staffing: Handbook for Communicating Your Company’s Value to Job Seekers, an American Staffing Association publication.

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