The Top Tech Job Search Terms

by Phil Stott | November 04, 2015

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The speed of change in the tech industry can be one of its biggest selling points or its greatest threat to your career, depending on your perspective.

For proof of that concept, consider the list of the most-used terms in tech job postings, which come to us courtesy of Textio, a startup that is dedicated to predicting the performance of all kinds of written material online. Having identified some 50,000 phrases that can affect the "number, quality and diversity of candidates who apply" to a given listing, the firm is capable of tracking which terms show up most often, and which are likely to cause an ad to sink without trace. Here, then, are the "biggest winners" that Textio identified over the past year:

1. Artificial Intelligence

Textio's data showed that usage of this term has quintupled over the past six months among the strongest performing job posts.

2. Real-time data

Don't know what this means? It might be time to learn: the data suggests that it's a major trend in current job ads.

3. High availability

See above. (Hint: it's not talking about your work hours).

4. Robust and scalable

They might seem like buzzwords, but they're popping up in ever-increasing numbers on tech job ads, which would suggest that you should at least pay them lip service in your application and interview.

5. Inclusive

Not a strictly tech-related term, this was one of the more interesting insights from the data: firms are increasingly ditching "diverse" in favor of this descriptor of their openness to people of different backgrounds and cultures.

While all of that is fascinating if you're writing a job description, it's not just hiring managers that can benefit from this: job seekers have a lot to gain too, including a snapshot of the skills and attributes that employers are crying out for, and the kinds of keywords that they're likely to be screening for. Similarly, using some of the terms on Textio's list of those that have declined of late likely won't harm your application, but they could make it seem like you're not up to speed with the latest developments in the field:

1. Big data

I know. Having covered the explosion of big data in the consulting world, it would appear that we've arrived at the end of the cycle for the term's popularity—hardly a surprise, given how often it was used to describe everything from basic spreadsheet analysis on up. I await the rise of the next "must-have" term with bated breath.

2. Virtual team

Textio notes that "virtual team is more than ten times as likely to appear in job ads with low applicant counts as it is in more successful listings." Which is fine with me: the term always sounded more like something that only existed in the imagination rather than, y'know, an actual team that was spread across different places.

3. Troubleshooting

Frankly, I'm a little surprised to see this one on the list, but only because I haven't heard anyone  use it for what seems like 5 years. Just in case, though: if there's any phrase that is likely to  remind someone of Microsoft's Clippy, you probably shouldn't include it on your resume--whether you're looking for a job in tech or not.

4. Subject matter expert

My initial assumption was that this one's dying because it sounds like an irritating affectation from the office blowhard. But apparently that's not the only reason: Textio points out that it's also because SME's are less versatile than full stack engineers, which would likely be a particular disadvantage in a startup environment.

5. Drug-free workplace

OK, this is the one example that you probably wouldn't have been putting on your application anyway, right? But still, it's kind of fascinating that ads that contain this phrase are among the lowest-performing identified by Textio. Which rather raises the question of whether applicants are seeing the line and thinking "nope: I need a workplace where I can blaze freely", or if the ads themselves are the problem—because if you're stipulating this, you're already signaling that (at the least) you don't trust your employees. Either way: unless your job has something to do with drugs, it's probably best not to mention them at any point in the process. 

What's your take on these lists? Are there other terms or trends that you would add to either of them? Let us know in the comments below.

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Filed Under: Consulting | Interviewing | Job Search | Resumes & Cover Letters | Technology | Workplace Issues

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