It’s all in the words they choose.

At this time of the year quite a lot of students ask me to review their graduate programme applications.  My starting point is always the website of the organisation in question as these days most of them provide a very comprehensive set of information regarding the skills, knowledge and abilities they expect from their graduate trainees.

Many students often say to me that all the organisations say the same thing, but on closer reading there are often wide differences.  As an example, I was looking at one list of skills for a role in Private Banking the other day that at the beginning said ‘Robust client skills’ and ended ‘Exceptional levels of customer service’.

The student I was with had dismissed this as an error on the firm’s behalf, mistakenly including the same skill twice, but I really think that this was a carefully chosen set of phrases.  Exceptional customer service is an oft used phrase that means being attentive to the customer, taking time to treat them as an individual, identify their needs, and ensure that there are satisfied with their service – happy customers come back, and recommend you to their friends, so it’s good business.

But what of ‘Robust client skills’ – robust is the key word here; defines it as ‘requiring strength or vigor’, which says to me that it’s not the same as just having good skills, it’s more about applying force with these skills.  Now this seems strange until you start to think who the customer is in this case; Private Banking is only used by seriously rich individuals, and these people are very used to having their own way, and at a time and place that suits them – they don’t queue up in a Bank on the high street, the banker goes to them. 

It’s easy to imagine that pleasing these people, whilst balancing all your other clients & duties, and bringing a profit to your Bank, takes quite Robust approach after all.

I suppose that the point here is that recruiters spend a lot of time and effort carefully choosing their words, and that applicants therefore need to spend an equal amount of time understanding them – and if it all looks like euphemistic management-speak then don’t worry  – I’m here to help.

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