Job postings range from regurgitated job descriptions to carefully
crafted sales pitches.
At some level all job postings are designed to give you
enough information to qualify yourself in or out of applying.
And, if well done, the compelling copy and clarion
call-to-action spurs you to "Apply!" "Submit!" "Enter, enter, enter!"
Before you take the plunge
So, you're ready to apply online.
Before you dive in, dizzy with anticipation of landing your
dream job, consider: What do these common job posting phrases really
"We have an immediate opening for..."
Job openings rarely coincide with your being in the right place at
the right time. Assuming you're qualified, ask: "Why didn't you
contact me first?" and "Why the urgency? Why now?"
Do multiple openings mean they don't plan for success, yours
or theirs?Ask. You'll rarely get the unvarnished truth but it beats
missing all together what the posting probably glosses over.
"Must have this and must have that"
Whether it is a PhD or simply ability to work the late shift,
there's no getting around the "requirements."
Or is there? If the requirements are so exacting that very few
people could ever qualify you just might be the best candidate after
If you possess the most important jobseeker "must haves" --
guts and determination -- apply. But if you're not otherwise well
qualified, back off. It can only end in tears.
"This and that preferred"
Compared with "must haves," "nice to have" suggests a more inclusive
It may indicate a culture that values employees and realistic
goals -- all good things.
However, wishy-washy "requirements" attract bozos that you'll
probably end up having to compensate for down the line. "Nice to have"
may also mask a recruiter's indecisiveness too, so be cautious.
Remember, your preferences matter too. Just be sure to express
them as "must haves!"
"Work in a fast-paced, results-oriented environment"
If you're applying for the U.S. Olympics' swim team, or a job that
requires you to have lightning-fast reflexes to stay alive, like Bomb
Squad Operative for example, this line may sound too obvious.
Typically it means however fast you work it will never be fast
enough, and whatever targets are set at the beginning, the bar will be
raised many more times than your "performance-based" salary ever will
"Ability to work under pressure and with minimal supervision"
Does this mean without a good manager or clear direction, when
rudderless self-doubt overtakes you the pressure will be coming from
Or, despite your new manager being inept, you'll be the one
found wanting, with pressure coming from the higher-ups or customers
Sure, any one of us may be called on to do a tracheotomy in the
cafeteria but that's life, not work. Whatever! Roll up your sleeves...
"An exciting opportunity to develop your career"
Well, that's fine and dandy if formal career development is part of
the employment package, detailed up front along with what "exciting" is
being measured against.
This language is often used to puff up an entry-level job or
to offset below-average compensation and/or working conditions.
Notable exceptions to this: a job with the Armed Forces or a
White House internship, neither to be confused with "job security" or
"Have excellent communication skills"
Most of the time this line, along with its expanded "oral,"
"written," and "presentation" versions, is meaningless.
The difficulty in objectively measuring communication skills,
(mediocre, excellent or otherwise), combined with the infrequency of it
ever happening, means that recruiters and hiring managers can get away
with making unchallenged; decisions based on their personal level of
"Bilingual candidates are strongly encouraged to apply"
Believe it or not, the majority of jobs that advertise this fail to,
a) specify what the other language should be; and b) offer any real
encouragement (as in pay more money, not lip service).
Heaven help the Swahili speaker that was "encouraged" to apply
for a position that recruiter failed to communicate, in any language,
requires fluency in Spanish.
Now, what is it English speakers say about what happens
when you assume?
"Compensation commensurate with experience"
Translation: "We have an amount budgeted but we don't want to
pay that if we can get away with paying you less, or we find a
lesser-qualified candidate who will accept less than you
If later you hear, "Sorry, you're over-qualified for this
position," you'll know that you should have read between the lines
before being undersold by someone who also bought the line, "An
exciting opportunity to develop your career!"
"Email your resume with salary history and expectations"
It seems reasonable to be asked for your resume if you want to be
considered for a job. But asking for salary history up front should
raise red flags.
The value of information being exchanged goes up with
increased levels of mutual interest, no? On the bright side, emailing
your resume gives you the chance to include a link to Salary.com. That takes care of "salary
Recruiting is a two-way street
Just as the cliches and tired turns of phrase you see on job postings
can tell you much about the recruiting process, the same cliches and
tired turns of phrases found on countless resumes say something you may
never have intended to say! It happens.
Next: What your words say to recruiters
In part two, we'll share what recruiters think when they read lines
like: "Seeking an exciting opportunity to develop my career"
and "I am an excellent communicator!" Yeah, right...