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Looking for a role when leaving the Services is difficult enough and is not helped by impenetrable job specifications and an expected CV “language” which leaves even the very best, at a loss for words.  

I remember when I left the services more than a decade ago, looking for roles in the corporate world, in any world in fact, was always made more difficult by the utterly indecipherable job descriptions that one stumbled across during the hours of trawling through job boards, company careers websites or online networks. They left one cold and simply baffled; was the job suitable for a Lance Corporal or Warrant Officer, Lieutenant or Lieutenant General, what on earth was the job actually about, what would the successful candidate actually do?  (Some will immediately pick a hole in this and say that former Service rank doesn’t matter, and I’d agree to some extent, but I would suggest, in the minds of most service leavers, it does, at least initially).   

Most organisations have clever people writing job specs and cleverer people signing them off, so they’re almost certainly grammatically correct but does an unnecessarily verbose or overly academic job description help anybody?  We all understand that within certain disciplines there is very particular language. Frankly, if you don’t understand the language when you’re reading the job description, you shouldn’t be applying for the role anyway, but making job descriptions really fit for purpose seems to me to provide an organisation with the best chance of finding the right candidate. Isn’t a job description simply a sales pitch?  Isn’t it an attraction tool to draw out the best candidates? Is it written with this goal in mind? Almost certainly not.  


The other side of the coin, of course, is the language of the CV.  A friend of mine once described the CV as a very blunt instrument with which to demonstrate something extremely complex. He’s right of course. The CV needs to grammatically correct (no excuse not to be when there are so many tools to help), but expecting a service leaver to write in the third person and in a manner that will show that they have the right skill sets and talents to match the indecipherable job description in an industry that they most likely have little idea of, seems to make only limited sense, and yet is still what is expected.  To make matters worse, the very act of sitting down and writing one’s first CV can be agonising at best, demoralising and confidence stripping at worst. Is it any wonder it’s all such a struggle.  

In providing advice for writing job descriptions, ChatGPT suggest as a Bonus Tip: Keep It Concise and Reader-Friendly: Avoid excessive jargon, long paragraphs, or overly complex language. Use bullet points, subheadings, and a clean, easy-to-read format. A well-organized and concise job spec is more likely to capture candidates' attention and encourage them to apply.  

If I were ChatGPT I’d be making this a rule and would be suggesting employers do so as well.  

If you’re a a member of the Naval community (Royal Navy, Royal Marine, Royal Fleet Auxiliary  service leaver, spouse, dependent), and this rings true with you, please do call or register for advice via the White Ensign Association website.