Decoding Job Descriptions

Posted January 14, 2013 by

Job descriptionsThe more time you spend searching job boards and scanning through job postings, the more you may start to recognize certain phrases and terms that appear over and over again. Some of these terms may be a little confusing or open to interpretation. Here’s a simple guide that can help you make sense of a few of the most common phrases.

1. Three to five years of experience

If an employer requests three to five years of experience from an applicant, this doesn’t actually mean you’ll be out of the running if you’ve been in the business for two and a half years. Nor does it mean you’ll be dismissed as overqualified if you have six years of experience. It simply means this is a position for those in the early stages of their career. If you graduated a while ago and you’ve held at least one professional position in this field, feel free to apply. But if you’re a middle-aged executive looking for significant responsibility and managerial experience, keep your expectations reasonable; the level of this job may be too low for you.

2. We’re always hiring

“We’re always hiring” means “we’re in no hurry to fill a specific position, but if you’re talented and capable, we don’t want to lose you.”  Free to apply to a company that posts this message, just recognize that your resume will probably be filed away in a database and you’ll need to actively follow up if you’d like a response.

3. Job requirements in ALL CAPS

If job requirements are listed in all caps (NATIVE SPANISH SPEAKERS ONLY, NON COLLEGE GRADUATES NEED NOT APPLY, or SAN DIEGO RESIDENTS ONLY), don’t ignore these requirements. In some cases, if you lack a few of the listed credentials, it’s okay to apply anyway and take your chances. But when managers are serious enough to shout something in all caps, applying without the listed credentials will only annoy and alienate them.

4. Master’s degree/French fluency/ HTML experience a plus

If certain credentials are listed as “a plus”, this means many of the job seekers who apply for this position will have these qualifications. So simply possessing them will not guarantee instant success. But if you have these pluses and the job looks appealing in every other way, don’t hesitate. Apply immediately.

5. Employed job seekers only

Watch out for this message, and regardless of your current employment status, think twice before you reach out to a company that embraces this kind of staffing mindset. A red flag like this suggests a company with illogical biases, unrealistic definitions of “success”, and little respect for its employees. This company probably won’t last very long, and in the meantime, it probably won’t be a very pleasant place to work.

6. Salary negotiable based on experience

Before you begin the application process for this position, be ready to advocate for yourself in terms of salary. Conduct some research on average salaries for the position, for the industry, and the similar positions in other industries. Take geographic area into account, and prepare your negotiating strategy in advance.

If you find yourself confused by the language or terminology included in an appealing job posting, don’t assume the worst, and don’t walk away from the position without finding answers to your questions. Reach out to the nearest mentor, career counselor, or career management website. And if in doubt, submit your application anyway. Anything is possible, but not if you let an opportunity pass you by.

Author: LiveCareer (, home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources, and insider tips needed to win the job. Check out LiveCareer’s Google+ page and like LiveCareer on Facebook for advice and tips on all things career- and resume-related.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters, Career Advice for Job Seekers, Salary, Scholarships and Finances | Tagged Tagged