What’s Hot and What’s Not: Buzzwords Winners and Losers in Tech Job Postings

“Big Data” is so 2014.

Technology changes frequently, and so do its buzzwords. Some of the most effective terms a year ago, such as big data, no longer have the same importance with job applicants, according to a study of more than 500,000 tech job postings by Seattle startup Textio. Stale jargon is being replaced by hotter trends, including artificial intelligence (or AI) and real-time data.

For the study, Textio tracked more than 50,000 unique phrases commonly seen in tech job listings, said Kieran Snyder in a blog post, the company’s chief executive officer. The startup compiled a list of terms that experienced the biggest changes in impact, positively and negatively, over the last year. Among the five biggest losers, none were turn-offs to job candidates in 2014, which shows how fast the industry changes. Among the top five buzzwords, only two were even on “our lexical map a year ago”, Snyder said.

Textio creates language-analysis software used by more than 3,000 companies, including Twitter and Expedia, to edit their job postings. The tools rely on artificial intelligence to scan text and suggest tweaks designed to improve a company’s chances of attracting strong applicants.

Each term included in the study was measured using three main criteria: the number of people applying for a job containing the phrase, the percentage of those applicants with the skills and background to qualify, and the time it took to fill the role since the job was posted. The results were then ranked by changes in effectiveness from a year ago. Here are the top five winners and losers:

Biggest Winners

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) Snyder says while the phrase has been around a long time, the last six months its usage among the strongest performing tech job listings has quintupled.
  2. Real-time data. It’s not news in 2015 that software built on a static foundation has a hard time competing, and tech companies are increasingly bringing this forward in their job listings. Real-time data shows up twice as often in the top 25 percent of job listings as it does in the bottom 25 percent.
  3. High availability. Creating personalized and relevant experiences means that you’re making products that are always available. High availability (along with its close kin high availability service and high availability architecture) shows up in 42 percent more job listings than it did a year ago, Snyder said.
  4. Robust and scalable. Usage of the two words together broke big in tech job ads over the summer and has tripled over the past two months.
  5. The diversity conversation looms large in tech, so it’s not surprising that job ad language reflects it. But the specifics are changing. Last year, equal opportunity statements were fifty times more likely to contain the words diverse or diversity than any other phrase. While diverse is still everywhere, its positive impact on attracting applicants from underrepresented groups is slowing down. Over the last six months, Snyder said, many forward-thinking tech companies have replaced diverse with inclusive in the broad workplace culture statements that have themselves begun to replace conventional equal opportunity statements.

Biggest Losers

  1. Big data. Two years ago, everything was all about big data, but Snyder noticed that it had started to drop off six months ago. Today, engineering jobs that mention “big data” perform 30 percent worse, on average, than those that do not, she said. “Now, it’s so highly saturated that its use has passed into cliché.”
  2. Virtual team (or v-team). Corporate jargon performs poorly in every industry, but nowhere more so than in tech. Job seekers are neutral on distributed teamand working group, but 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, the study showed.
  3. Both IT people and software engineers are excellent troubleshooters, hopping on problems or debugging challenges wherever they pop up. But while the skills remains relevant, the term to describe it has shifted. Job posts containing troubleshooting perform twice as poorly as those containing problem solving, fixing, or diagnosing in a similar context.
  4. Subject matter expert. In many senses the subject matter expert is the opposite of the full stack engineer: the subject matter expert knows one thing very well, but only one thing. Listings containing full stack engineer perform an average of 32 percent better than listings containing subject matter expert.
  5. Drug-free workplace. Number one way to sink your tech job listing? Advertise that you’re a drug-free workplace. Job listings containing the phrase are over twenty times more likely to perform in the lowest quartile of listings – and six months ago, the effect was only half as strong, according to the study.