Saturday, September 22, 2012

Energetic = Extroverted?

A great, thought provoking polemic last week suggests that the word "energetic" in job descriptions is a concealed means of discriminating applicants on the basis of age. After all, the young always have boundless energy, don't they?  (Well, not always, but never mind.)  No doubt it does often reflect that inaccurate stereotype of older workers - we Americans live in a youth obsessed culture, after all.

I have long suspected that such words as energetic and outgoing instead are often code for  "extroverted". When I ran an informal search on a major job posting site, it produced more than 1,000 job ads that contained the word "outgoing" and less than 300 ads with the word "quiet".  Of course I didn't read all those ads to see how they used the words and my quick search was entirely unscientific but the numbers still are suggestive. And yet, more reserved, introverted individuals - introverts - often are great professionals in every way - from their thoughtful focus to their results without lots of supervision to their listening skills to their quiet leadership.  

It's my hope that raising this issue will stimulate more HR staff and hiring managers to explicitly define what they do mean by "high energy", "energetic" and "outgoing" and then - most importantly - come to grips with how they may stereotype individuals (not to mention shortcut their own options) by making such outward characteristics a litmus test.

 A Discriminatory Word in Academic Job Descriptions

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