How to Read Between the Lines on a Job Description

Beware: Job seekers aren’t the only ones who sometimes get creative when it comes to selling themselves (i.e. resumes and cover letters that have been, shall we say, “tweaked” to make a person look like the ideal candidate). 

Some employers have a tendency to use verbiage that makes their open positions sound better than they really are. 

Over the years, I’ve noticed some popular job descriptors that should be viewed as warning flags a potential employer might be trying to put an overly optimistic spin on a less-than-stellar work situation. 

Thus, when reading the want-ads, consider the following translations: 

Motivated team-player – Looking for someone who needs a job badly enough that they’ll put up with lots of unmotivated, annoying people from whom you’ll have to get buy-in on almost everything you do. 

High achiever, driven to succeed – Must be a complete brown-nose whose sole mission in life is to please and impress management. 

Customer-focused – Can take a lot of abuse from clients AND management and still act pleasant. 

Resourceful, independent self-starter –Since we have absolutely no time or resources to train you, we expect you to figure everything out for yourself… quickly. 

Attentive to details – We have strict policies and procedures and won’t hesitate to blame you for everything if you make a mistake. 

Flexible, enjoys multi-tasking – We are unorganized and change corporate directions daily, so you’ll need to be able to clean up our messes and do jobs A) you weren’t told about in the interview, and B) aren’t trained to do properly – all on a moment’s notice. 

Agent of change – You’ll be responsible for implementing a bunch of stuff we’ve been unable to make happen with a group of people who are digging in their heels and refusing to convert. 

Works well under pressure – Our management team considers everything urgent and is going to micro-manage you daily. 

Solution-oriented – We are going to give you lots of messes to clean up and expect you to figure out how to handle them without our direction and with a big smile on your face, even though we aren’t going to give you any resources or support to get it done. 

Okay, so you know I’m being sarcastic. 

But, let’s not forget, all humor is rooted in a bit of truth, right? 

I’m not saying any job posting with one or more of these terms should be crossed of your list of potential employers. 

I’m just pointing out every job seeker should do their homework to make sure they have a realistic understanding of what a potential employer’s work environment is really like. 

Fact: There are no perfect jobs or perfect employers. 

I know these are desperate times and many people feel compelled to accept any job offer they get. 

However, in doing so, you could jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. 

You need to honestly assess an employer by asking questions that will help you see their flaws (tactfully, of course). 

Remember, employers are like a potential mate. 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can change them once you are together. 

Take off your rose-colored glasses (or, beer goggles, for you younger readers) and choose an employer for who they really are – warts and all. 

Finally, I leave you with this last piece of advice… 

If you do see any of the terms above coupled with “unlimited income potential,” “rapid advancement,” or “ground-floor opportunity,” then before your apply, I just hope you’ll ask yourself, “Why are they trying so hard to impress me?” 

Need I say more? 
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