Deciphering What a Job Description REALLY Means

Job descripton decodedDuring my job search, I felt like I became a master at decrypting and interpreting the slightly vague vocabulary and jargon used in job descriptions for the variety of positions for which I applied. Healthily

I always thought it funny how people make careers out of teaching job seekers how to format and maximize their resumes; we even have a whole category of the blog dedicated to resumes and cover letters. But, there doesn’t seem to be as much emphasis on employers developing clear and concise job descriptions that contain the same types of generalities.

What are they really looking for when the description wants someone who “thinks outside of the box?” If job descriptions want someone “highly motivated,” does that mean there are employers looking for people who are “highly unmotivated?” All of these questions and concerns can be cleared up with these explanations.

“Good interpersonal skills”
Even if you will be alone or independent of a team, the ability to collaborate is a very important aspect for any job. You don’t have to be the office social butterfly, but you need to know how to work with those who could have different communication styles than you.

“Highly motivated”
Yes, the job market is slowly recovering. And yes, you might not have the experience yet to land your dream job, but that doesn’t mean you should apply to any and all jobs available. Do your research to find out if the job and employer are things you want to be a part of instead of just a means to a paycheck.

“Work well under pressure”
We all have deadlines. Some deadlines can be made at the beginning of the year to be a certain amount of units sold or made by the end of the year, and others can be projects due by the end of the week set by your boss an hour ago. You need to prove that you can consistently make deadlines and keep your cool when they are short or get pushed ahead.

“Critical thinking”
When employers want someone who can think outside of the box, they aren’t asking for a candidate who thinks he or she is the next Steve Jobs. It’s true that a critical thinker is often someone with unique, groundbreaking ideas with the drive to implement and see them through, but they really want someone with a balance of teamwork and initiative. Show employers how well your teams have performed, then display the unique ideas you’ve implemented in the past.

“_____ – level”
So they are hiring for an entry-level, junior-level, or a senior-level job. How do you know which one you are qualified to be in? Entry-level jobs require little to no previous experience and are generally best for those just graduating from college or looking to enter an industry.

Junior-level jobs tend to require three to five years of work experience, but you should also consider the size of the company, too. A few years of previous work may qualify if you want to move into a management position in a small company or nonprofit, but you may need at least five for the same position in a large corporation.

Senior-level roles generally need at least five years of experience. These are generalities, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re short a year or two of experience if you can make a strong case that your skills and accomplishments are a good fit for the open position.

This can get confusing since levels won’t always be spelled out. For instance, most Administrative Assistants are junior-level jobs, which will need more experience than entry-level Receptionists roles.

“Working Knowledge”
You don’t have to have actually used a program, tool, method, or knowledge to have working knowledge of it – you just have to be familiar with it. Even though my primary responsibilities are writing and research, I’m familiar with using Adobe Photoshop® and InDesign®. I just won’t be able to make a pamphlet or logo.

“Preferred/Required”
When skills or experience are preferred, the employer would like you to have them but it won’t necessarily disqualify you. Required experience are skills or tasks the employer is expecting you to have.

The exact amount of experience is sometimes negotiable, and you can use more general experience and transferable skills that could apply to the specific job. But, sometimes it seems like employers can get these confused or at least undefined. There have been a few jobs where I met the required experience but not the preferred experience. Apparently, several people did too, because a few weeks later, they would repost their job description with the preferred experience as the required.

“Command of” or “proficient in”
I love it when job descriptions use these words. It brings back memories of my fraternity days when we’d have our memorization tournaments and the sheer competitiveness of proving our proficiency with the rituals. In the job market, being proficient means that you should have good hands-on experience with tasks or techniques, but not complete mastery. To have command of a skill means that you are so experienced with a skill that you could teach it to others.

You don’t have to feel like Indiana Jones trying to decode ancient languages on a treasure map when reading job descriptions. With these guidelines, tailoring your resume to fit the description will be a lot easier. What are some of your favorite phrases mentioned in job descriptions? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments

  1. Jozette

    I have ran into so many problems since I have been looking for a job. I have been well over qualified for the positions that I apply for with all the years experience I have, but I am starting to think its my resume or my age. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do or can do? I have also noticed that the same job is on there for months and months, but they say they need some one right now. What is up with that? Also i have noticed that now since I have a car again and on the road looking for a job, I get them from the internet and then I go to the location. I went to one place and they told me they hired someone back in June, this was in Janurary. What are they thinking or doing to people looking for work. This is very hard a person that has been trying to find a career again, my second career in a new place and industry. False hope isn’t good for people to keep a positive attitude to try and get a job. Please let me know what you think about these issues.

    Jozette Poole

    1. Emily

      Karey,
      I had missing teeth, too, but your personality will DEFINITLY overcome this! I used personality to compensate, and they got past it. Now the I HAVE teeth, ironically, I feel LESS confident. Go Figure!!

  2. Toni Cotter

    Fantastic information! I have shied away from so many job advertisements because I didn’t know these “definitions.” While no one is exact, they are truly helpful! Thank you!

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