companies that use “cool” language in job postings

A reader writes:

I’m a recent college graduate living with my parents in a city I really dislike. I have a full-time position in this city, which I realize is a blessing as many of my classmates are working at Blockbuster and McDonald’s as they try to find “real” jobs, and the job is a good one. In fact, it’d be perfect if it wasn’t in my current city. But it is, and therefore I’m still looking for other employment.

A position recently popped up in the same industry (software), doing pretty much the exact same thing that I do now in my dream city. I was really excited as I clicked on the link to read the job description and was immediately turned off by the language the company used. The first sentence of the description is that the company is “looking for its next rock star for its marketing team.” Now, in my experience any job description that uses language like “rock star” or “all-star” is a scam so I started to look into them. They seem to have a legit Web site as there are multiple demos of the software targeted towards customers, there are press releases archived that can be verified through a simple google search and a strong partner portfolio.

I can’t tell if I’m thinking this company is too good to be true because it seems like it’d be a perfect fit for me in the perfect location and I’m just turned off by their poor choice of words, or if it really is too good to be true.

What are your thoughts on companies who try to act cool and find “rock stars” for their team?

I don’t think it indicates a scam. In fact, I think there are a lot of companies out there trying to liven up their ads and using non-corporate sounding language like this.

As an example, I think Starr Tincup does it especially well. Of course, there are companies that try to do it and fail and instead just come off sounding cheesy. But really, it’s just an ad. Apply, talk to them, get a feel for what their culture is really like. You’ll pick up a lot more during the interview process than you will from their ad.

{ 17 comments… read them below }

  1. LW*

    Speaking of scammy job-postings, how much contact information do you recommend including on resumes and cover letters? Just email address and phone number? Or address as well? Just city and state with number?

  2. Meg*

    Generally when I a see a more relaxed posting it's a reflection of the company culture. You can probably show a little more personality in your cover letter and in the interview.

  3. Kerry*

    I'm amused by this, because companies used to pay a lot of money for a recruitment strategy consultant (me) to come and make their ads sound like that.

    It's fine if you want to work only for companies that have old-school ads. Just don't be surprised when they have a 200-page employee handbook, and you're only allowed to wear a certain color sock, and you can't access the internet because it's not "work related," and you have to fill out seven forms to take a day off…

  4. Anonymous*

    Original poster, here.

    Thanks for the advice. To explain further, the rock star bit was the only reference to a culture not unlike what Kerry suggests. It didn't really fit with the rest of the post.

    I've been burned in the past by "companies" looking for a "rock star (insert job title here)" that are complete scams that are collecting personal info and selling it. They're really the only people who I've seen use phrases such as that.

    The company in question here does have a more laid-back culture which I would really enjoy, and after looking into it further I can forgive the randomly placed "rock star" comment. However, I did a little research in my employment contract and found that I have a heavy duty restrictive clause in there because of the nature of our business, so I don't believe I can even apply for it.

    I appreciate the response though, I'll keep it in mind as I continue my search.

  5. Anonymous*

    Just curious – how can an entire city be either good or bad?

    I could understand if it was based on climate, population size, current events (Detroit), or even not wanting to live in the same city as one's parents, but disliking a whole city, especially when a person has what qualifies as a 'perfect' job…?

  6. fornow*

    I know a of a few very reputable companies in my city (Indianapolis) that use similar language in their job postings. Both companies look really fun to work for, and the language they use in their job postings reflects their corporate culture really well.

  7. MeredithElaine*

    Over the past few years, I've heard phrases like "all-star" and "rock star" used in more corporate environments. If I saw that kind of wording in an ad, I wouldn't think, "wow, they might be hip/laid-back" etc. I'd actually think more the opposite, "oh god, they're using corporate-y buzzwords, ick!" and be less encouraged to apply because of that.

    Go figure.

    But then again, in this market, I'd apply for almost anything, because you really can never tell from an ad. Everyone reading will have a different take on it, depending on their perspective and history.

  8. Jonathan*

    In the recruiting industry in my city, the term 'rock star' is used a lot. It may have even reached the point that it's no longer cool or edgy to use it; it's just the common buzz word… though I've never actually read it in an ad.

    Bottom line, I wouldn't discount the company because of it. Continue with your normal application process.

  9. The Gold Digger*

    At my neighborhood association board meeting a few years ago, someone complained about the term in the newsletter, "Sales in the 'Hood" about home sales in our neighborhood. What if people don't know what it means?

    I laughed and said that if our middle-class, almost completely white neighborhood newsletter was using it and if everyone on the board knew it, it was a mainstream term.

    As is "rock star."

  10. Anonymous*

    "Rock star" is definitely past its prime and very cliche and is mostly used by non-traditional church youth groups at this point. A lame term. I bet the company would be "fun" but creepy cultish to work for. Do you want to be expected to "rock out" with coworkers every weekend?

  11. Anonymous*

    Just apply for the job and see where it leads. If it continues to smell fishy, decline to continue with the hiring process.

    So long as you don't give them money and/or valuable personal information, you can't be scammed.

  12. Anonymous*

    The 'Rock star programmer' hasn't totally fallen out of favour in the software industry. Just hope that you don't run into a prima donna.

  13. Anonymous*

    "Rock star" is actually an extremely common phrase used by startups in the SF Bay Area / Silicon Valley. I was surprised to hear it was a red flag for a scam for you, as I'm accustomed to it meaning the company is laid-back, typically "work hard, play hard" culture, looking for someone who thrives on going for it all the way, putting their heart and soul into their work.

  14. Sabrina*

    On how a whole city could be bad… if the OP is currently living in Omaha, I feel their pain. :)

  15. E*

    Apply for the job. If it's really in another state, there's a decent chance that any non-compete you signed wouldn't be enforceable, or wouldn't be enforceable in the state you'd be moving to.

    If/when you get a job offer, then you could bring up the non-compete, or check with a lawyer.

    $200 is cheap to know if you can get your dream job or not, and a decent attorney should be able to give you an idea if the noncompete can be enforced or not.

    A general rule though is that the more restrictive they are, the less likely they can be legally enforced.

  16. Anonymous*

    Thanks for the advice, E. I'm still debating applying for it. My only worry is that it is with one my current company's direct competitors, which is what my non-compete states I cannot work for specifically. If it were just another software firm, I wouldn't feel it could be enforced, but they sell a parity product that is gaining some sales force and knocking ours out of some companies.

  17. Anonymous*

    The red flag makes sense; in my experience, "rock star" or "rock and roll atmosphere" usually screams "MLM" or "commission-only boiler room sales gig."

    But, your mileage may vary.

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