Scenario A: You just finished an interview where you explained to the Human Resources (HR) manager your role in a recent project that brought revenue of $500,000 to your previous employer. The HR manager is the first point of contact in the interview process at the company for which you yearn to work and has just interviewed five other candidates. You used a lot of technical jargon in your explanation and your message was not clear. You never make it to the second round of the interview process.

Scenario B: You recently spent four hours at a job fair where you, in the midst of streams of other potential candidates, left resumes and talked for a few minutes with representatives from companies looking for technology workers. You explained your impressive credentials but while you were talking the company representatives politely took your resume and distractedly glanced from side-to-side and looked out beyond you. As soon as you walked away you registered on their "forget that one" radar and have received no follow-up interviews.

Scenario C: You are interviewed by a team of people in a group interview and are asked to give a short report on a theoretical programming project where you are the project leader. You try to impress by relaying technical details and using the latest terminology in your area of expertise. Some of the members of the group interview team are company executives who, although are part of the company, spend their time on business management and political issues and have only a vague idea of what you are saying. Your chance to impress and inform is lost to them and they play a strong role in the hiring decision.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

The Internet is no longer a new entity. Everyone understands the terminology associated with business on the web. When we talk about what we do in our businesses we know that the savvy and well-informed people to whom we speak understand what we tell them. Right?

Think again. The Internet is no longer a new entity and technical jargon is far from a new issue in the technology - or any business. Unfortunately, those who have grown up with technology have to communicate with Human Resources people and managers who knew life prior to the Internet's popularity or who are not so familiar with technology. This does not always equate to an age difference. These people have a focus other than technology as their concerns are on business operations, marketing, and personnel issues.

Your challenge as a job candidate in the technology industry is to modify the technical jargon when you interview and meet with potential employers-even those within your same industry. Most people appreciate and recognize clear, succinct communication regardless of their backgrounds. The hiring manager may be familiar with technical terms but others with significant hiring authority may not.

As an example, in an interview you are asked to explain the project to which you last contributed at your former company. The following is part of your description and is typical of what I hear at trade shows and at networking events. For obvious reasons actual names and locations are omitted.

“Product@Name is the next-generation suite of products by, the largest provider of enterprise business performance software exclusively for the mid-market. Product@Name integrates all enterprise processes with online operations to focus a client's entire enterprise on the customer. Product@Name grows as the client grows, combining a powerful front office XLNT application with back office financial, distribution and manufacturing applications. Product@Name allows a client to attack new opportunities and challenges, satisfying the make-or-break demands of eCustomers, eSuppliers, ePartners and eEmployees.”

Huh? Exactly what encompasses the next-generation other than Star Trek? What products are within the suite? Can you substantiate the claim that the company is the largest provider? Does your audience truly understand what enterprise business performance software represents? What market is the mid-market? Your project probably automates a client's operations by putting its processes online but will it really automate ALL processes? How does doing so focus the entire enterprise on its customer? The last sentence is vague ... what make-or-break demands of these e-people (whoever they are) will be able to be attacked?

I am being tediously picky to make some points. The following are techniques you can use to minimize technical jargon when you speak:
- Avoid unsubstantiated claims - the declarations that you are the largest, the number one, the primary, the best. Unless you can show specific data that backs your claims, don't make the claims. Such claims are what I call marketing hoo-rah and turn me off rather than make me more interested in what you have to say.
- Name names and identify people. Give the specific names of your products or services. Identify demographics using specific parameters such as "businesses with revenues between $1,000,000-and-$5,000,000 a year" or "Call Center and Administrative personnel."
- Forget the "e", "x", and "i" prefixes. They are over used at this point in time. When you start talking about eEmployees in addition to all the other "e's", something is seriously out of place.

At a job fair you explain to a company representative that you “work for which is an F2B allowing the provision and utilization of integrated industrial software suites that drive strategic, planning, and operational decision-making based on real-time plant floor information”.

2B or not 2B and dooby dooby do, I say. We have heard of B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-client/customer). What else is a business but an entity that conducts business with a client ... even if the client is another business? Now we have F2B which, I am told, is factory-to-business. "Ion" is another over-used set of characters to eliminate as much as possible.

Speak (and write) in the first person and in the active present tense. In your explanation say that your company provides and factories use integrated industrial software suites rather than allowing the provision and utilization of said suites. The rest of this description is a bit vague but at least I understand the overall concept of driving decision-making based on real-time information. That the business is a factory makes the plant floor reference sensible.

Additional suggestions on how to make your interview or networking discussions more clear include:
- Speak in the first person and the active present tense. Say "I manage application development projects" rather than "I am a manager of projects of an application development nature." Instead of explaining that "My project encompassed icon-driven, Palm-enabled B2C wireless database functionality" say that "I develop programs that run on wireless Palm-type devices. Businesses use the programs to help their clients manage databases more efficiently."
- Get rid of the 2Bs. Either say the complete words or find others that mean the same thing.
- Practice the points you want to make in an interview with a mentor who understands the concepts you want to communicate and with whom you can brainstorm alternate ways of saying what you want to say.
- Practice what you intend to say to a prospective employer with people you know do not know your topic. When their questioning stares and cloudy eyes become clear and comprehending you've got your message clean.
- Say it out loud to yourself while looking in a mirror. You may feel foolish but when you say what you're going to say out loud it sounds different from how you thought it would sound. You suddenly hear what others hear and will clear up some of your jargon on the spot.

It takes time, effort, and practice to eliminate technical and industry jargon. The effort is worth it if your audience determines your career, your finances, and your future.

Technically speaking ... jettison the jargon.

Author's Bio: 

Sylvia Henderson runs a business called Springboard Training. She conducts experiential programs for organizations that want more effective leaders and for people who want to communicate more clearly to achieve more personal and more professional success. She facilitates workshops and conference education sessions, keynotes, develops educational tools, and authors program-related articles. Sylvia integrates principles of adult learning into her programs by actively engaging audiences in the learning process, using toys and props to generate interest and emphasize points, and weaving her avocation as a motorcyclist into analogies and metaphors that tie into messages targeting your needs. Sylvia’s real-world experiences include 20+ years as a corporate trainer, team leader and manager practicing the leadership, communication and motivational skills she now presents in her programs.