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Translating Job Ad Jargon into Plain English

Actual job adJob ads have their own jargon, and it can be helpful when writing your resume and cover letter to understand what it means when an employer says you should be a "self-starter" or "xxx skills would be a plus." The job ad pictured here is a real posting pulled from Monster.com (with identifying details removed). Using actual phrases from this ad, what follows are some translations to help job seekers understand what the employer is really looking for.

Very small team
They work together on everything, so everyone has to play well together or it won't work. No prima donnas. No body odor. No a--holes. No whiners.

Self-starter
They want someone whose motto is "Just do it," (or in redneck-speak, "Git-r-done!") A self-starter doesn't sit around and wait to be told what to do next. S/he sees what needs to be done, asks questions if necessary, and does it.

Pitch in and do whatever is needed
Occasionally, you will be asked to go pick up bagels for a meeting or help stuff 1,500 envelopes for tomorrow's trade show. The person they hire will need to understand that no task is beneath them if it contributes to the success of the business.

Flexibility and ability to work well in a team are essential
This basically reiterates all of the above, which tells you how important these things are to the employer. "Essential" qualities are generally non-negotiable (unlike those that would be "a plus").

Order processing, entering orders, following the order through …,
answering phones, sending out catalogs, filing
These duties are all pretty easy to learn, so the important thing to stress is how well and accurately you can do them.

Attention to detail
They're looking for the kind of person who doesn't make stupid mistakes that embarrass the company, such as typos or transposed numbers, or even such small details as crooked shipping labels.

Excellent communication skills
You're "the face" of the company when you're speaking or corresponding with clients. They don't want someone who sounds like an ignorant, gum-smacking thug, or who writes like a 3rd grader.

Good math skills
Same idea as above. Perfect words and perfect numbers.

Cheerful, get-it-done attitude
Don't whine, don't sigh, don't roll your eyes, don't call in sick on the day the team is supposed to clean out the file cabinets.

Common sense
This is pretty self-explanatory (unless you lack the trait in question). They want an employee who will think things through and who knows it's better to ask a stupid question than make a stupid mistake.

Ability to learn quickly
It's frustrating to train someone who forgets it all the next day. They want the kind of person who asks questions, takes notes, creates cheat sheets, and doesn't claim to understand if they don’t.

Office and customer service experience are a plus
This goes back to the fact that duties and directly related experience are less important to them than attitude and personality. When qualifications are listed as a "plus," that means they’re non-essential. They would be nice to have, but it's not a deal breaker if you don’t have them.

The environment and dress are casual, but our commitment
to the work we do is very professional

They want someone who, while wearing jeans and a hoodie, can present a professional image on the phone and in writing. 

Pride in maintaining high standards
They are proud of their company, and they want you to be proud, too. No slackers or shoddy workers.

Once you get used to thinking like a hiring manager, it's easy to see what these common terms really mean. Armed with that knowledge, you can tailor your resume and cover letter to show the employer that you understand their business needs, and have what it takes to fulfill them.

Got a favorite piece of job ad jargon? Leave a comment below!

RELATED LINKS

Writing a Resume When You Have No Experience
The Basics of an Effective Job Search
8 Job Search Sites You Probably Haven't Tried Yet

 

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