‘Who will employ them? ’Questions as engagement strategies in Nigerian job portals online
This study investigates the use of questions for engagement by writers in discussions in online job portals. Based on a mini corpus of 40 postings together with their comments consisting of 139,104 words extracted from Naijahotjobs and Nairaland job portal discussions, the study addresses the functional use of questions in the presentation of writer's stance, the possible variation of questions with the topics being discussed, the rhetorical functions of questions and the use of question clusters in discussions. The analysis shows that two major kinds of questions were frequently used for engagement – wh- and yes-no questions. This represents two levels of complexity in interrogation – open-ended and closed-ended levels. It also reveals that the two most prominent groups in the discussions (motivational writers and graduate job seekers) used questions differently for engagement purposes. Motivational writers who typically assumed the position of experts used questions to engage the cognition of readers and sometimes to threaten their face, while graduate job seekers tended to ask information-seeking and confirmation questions based on issues agitating their minds about their unemployment situation. In addition, graduate job seekers asked what I refer to as ‘protest questions’, which focus on social issues connected with unemployment. This study therefore shows that beyond networking and getting relevant information about how to secure employment and advance in a career, job portals have provided a space for interrogating, confronting and guiding job seekers on the social problem of unemployment in Nigeria.
Key words: questions, engagement strategy, job portal, Nigeria, unemployment