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Well, didn’t last week’s blog The F Word: To use or not to use? cause a stir.

Within hours of the blog going live, I had a lively social media exchange with Vend’s Talent & Innovation Manager, Troy Hammond and various other interested parties, all with something to say on this (clearly) polarising topic.

Troy wrote a blog in reply to mine; My reply to Ross Clennentt’s blog about our use of the word……. ‘F%#&;’.

Wellington-based HR blogger, Richard Westney then weighed in with his blog on the Ross v Troy sloush; A culture to swear by (broadly supporting my opinion).

A day or so later, Australian blogger, Dan Nuroo, blogged My take on F-Gate (broadly supporting Troy’s opinion).

I encourage you to read all three blogs for an insight into the different views on this topic.

One thing is for certain; Vend received a lot of extra and free publicity for the (still open?) vacancy.

Like many of their contemporaries in the technology space, Vend are working hard, very hard, to carve out a distinct culture that attracts the type of people they need to build their business. You only have to take a quick look at their Careers page or their Tumblr page to get a sense of their people and the environment.

It feels similar to Australian technology company, Atlassian, who have become famous for their distinct culture; and whom I blogged about nearly six years ago when they promoted a very different sort of recruitment agency engagement model.

Interestingly Atlassian have always had, as one of their proclaimed values, Don’t #@!% the customer.

In the Atlassian video See how we live our values, we hear various Atlassian employees discuss that value using the actual F word, however in the audio the word is beeped out.

Clearly, for the Atlassian Directors, the public use of the F word is a bridge too far, and unnecessary for the message, and culture, to be effectively communicated to the target audience.

Maybe us Aussies are a bit too uptight and we need our Kiwi cousins to show us more than just how to play rugby and one-day cricket? Maybe the Kiwi style is more casual and conducive to the public use of the F word (I doubt if it’s any different inside a company though)?

The obvious point to make is that a person like me (as a 48 year old, beardless, family man with none of the key selection criteria from that ad) is not the target market for this (or I suspect, any other) Vend position, so why would Vend care what I think?

If they can attract the right candidates for this role (and they  assure me that they are doing so) then my view is noted, but irrelevant (as Troy points out in his blog-in-reply).

In summary, I disagree with what Vend are doing BUT

  1. I support free speech (within the law), and
  2. I encourage any company to keep doing what’s working for them (within the law and the appropriate industry Code of Conduct).

I just want to reiterate my original point; using the F word in any external communication, without any other context, may not necessarily be seen by the reader as representative of a be-yourself ‘culture’ (as Vend insists) but more as a look-at-me piece of showmanship from the keyboard of a recruitment advertising writer who’s too lazy to find a better word to use to attract the right candidate for their culture.

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Nick Houldsworth

Hi Ross

I've been reading your blog and following the Twitter debate with interest, and, to be honest, more than a little surprise. But like you, I respect free speech, and actually agree with parts of your reasoned argument.

However, I would like to comment on the last line:

>> a look-at-me piece of showmanship from the keyboard of a recruitment advertising writer who's too lazy to find a better word to use to attract the right candidate for their culture.

I wrote the job ad. Not one of our hard-working, talented recruitment team.

I wrote the ad, because its a role thats very important to me, and I care deeply about the company I helped build, the people who work here, and our mission. How I wrote the ad, is how I would talk to someone in person about the company and the opportunity, and frequently do. So I opted, on this occasion, not to censor myself in the job ad.

Vend doesn't have a culture of swearing. Vend has a culture of passion for what we do. If occasionally that passion is so strong you can only express it with a swear word, then I believe most people would agree that is OK.

The real tragedy here, as I read back on my own copy, is not the use of a swear word, but the use of a swear word as an adverb to modify an adjective. Now that is just lazy grammar, and I accept full responsibility for that.

Nick Houldsworth
Chief Marketing Officer


Nick states that Vend "doesn't have a culture of swearing" yet " How I wrote the ad is how I would talk to someone in person" – so Nick you swear in the work environment. As for the F word, use of it shows a lack of vocabulary be that adverb or adjective. Nick you are totally wrong and Ross is correct.

Adam Walker

I'm with you Ross. Swearing is not appropriate in job ads or within the business environment at all. The constant use of swear words, and I'm sure we will see more of it, is just an example of societies move towards unrestrained behaviour that is termed being 'modern' and 'up to date'. Nah, its just ugly, like it always was.


I think you were pre-screened for the job and it was found that for you, this is not the right company or job for you. I always think multiple layers of prescreening saves everyone a lot of time and bother, don't you?


hhhmmmmm, would seem if you check @KiwiLandingPad twitter page on NZ company billboards in USA, seems using fuck to attract your most important asset, your people – does not extend to attracting clients – maybe fucking clients don't matter as much as fucking employee's

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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