“We are so hiring.” The small red type reads: “(and a professional, motivated, energetic, team oriented attitude).”
It’s not just the photo that tells you that the target market is young and female. It’s also that little word “so” – and, more to the point, the way it functions as a verb-intensifier.
So+verb is new enough that it doesn’t have a fixed name. I’m calling it Shopgirl So because of the retail association here, but in a November 2011 blog post linguist Arnold Zwicky called it GenX So (“named that for its spread in people from Generation X”). An undated and equally scholarly post at Yale Grammatical Diversity Project calls it Drama SO. (“So” is all caps to convey emphasis; according to YGDP, “In Drama SO constructions, so must receive the highest pitch accent in the sentence.”)
Or you could go back to the beginning and call it Clueless So, in acknowledgment of the movie of that name, released in 1995: “Oh thank you, Josh, I so need lessons from you on how to be cool.”
In fact the OED, in a 2005 addendum, gives that Clueless line as the earliest citation for so+verb (“definitely, decidedly. Freq. in negative constructions”). The construction also showed up in TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as early as 1996 (“We so don’t have time”).
(“So” is a busy little syllable these days. I’ve written previously about “not so much” = “not at all” in advertising; see also Ben Yagoda in Lingua Franca, “So It Turns Out That Everyone’s Starting Sentences with ‘So’.”)
Intensifiers in general are often associated with the speech of girls and women, and so+verb is no exception, as all of the above examples suggest. Zwicky, however, says the connection may be spurious:
The stereotypical associations of GenX so are to young white women (in the U.S.), no doubt because of its prominence in the movies Heathers (1988) and Clueless (1994). Studies of actual usage (though admittedly small in scale) suggest that the actual association with women, while apparently real, is smaller than the stereotype would suggest; and as the GenXers have aged, they seem to have carried this usage with them, and it’s spread to many people not in GenX (like me).
The other line in the sign that caught my attention was the slightly unidiomatic “gift for the gab.” The standard idiom is “the gift of [the] gab” (“an ability to speak easily and confidently”), but that’s not my main gripe. I’m just not happy about “gab” in this context: call me old-fashioned, but I’d prefer that sales associates not “talk idly or incessantly, as about trivial matters” while on the job.
Note too the cheerleading for corporate passion in the ad.
Related trivia: Travel writer Dan Buettner called San Luis Obispo “the happiest city in America” in his 2011 book Thrive. And Cal Poly SLO’s mascot is called Musty the Mustang.