Tired of Strange Job Ads? Try our Job Ad Decoder!

In job ads and interviews, bosses can embellish everything from the benefits (“Flexible vacation anytime!”) to the workload (“Team leaves at 4:30!”). But where employers really stretch the truth is in job postings— a bit like how you beef up your résumé and cover letter to give the best impression possible.

Make sure you know what you might be getting yourself into, and learn to decode every piece of HR and recruiter lingo you’ll encounter on your job hunt. Enjoy the List J


A glossary of the tricky lingo of online job postings…


Ability to multitask and prioritise daily tasks to meet critical deadlines”

= You may be responsible for all sorts of duties that are not necessarily mentioned in the job description, and you may be under pressure to support a manager who is busy doing something else.

“Self-motivated team player”

= Also known as “trial by fire”, very popular with start-ups or SME business owners. You probably won’t be getting much—if any—training, help, or direction from above.

“Fantastic bonus structure”

= This essentially means the company provides a very low base salary rate and you have to put in a lot of additional work before being paid more, either in dollars or incentives (products or services).

“Good sense of humour”

= The place does not care about keeping it PC and you will likely be subject to silly jokes… You can expect that rough language and silly contests will be a part of the corporate culture. (It also could mean terrible clients that you’ll need a good humour to deal with!)

Have Australian industry experience (essential)” or “solid track record”

= You must have been working in Australia in a similar role in a similar type of company, as they want you to be able to walk into the role immediately and take over from the previous person who had experience (and possibly also local connections). Got it?

“Excellent salary”

= Careful guys, before you start planning your early retirement, know that this is probably just a tactic to get you to apply and isn’t necessarily a sign of a six-figure salary. (Want to rake in the big bucks from day one? Learn here ; You are worth what you negotiate.)

“Excellent weekly pay and fast track career growth for the right people”

= They may pay you very little money each week and will only give you more money or opportunities if you meet difficult-to-achieve targets. In a sales role, this could mean that you may have to work many hours for no pay.

“A ‘no job is too small’ attitude”

= Translation: lots of grunt work. You’ll get the crappiest jobs and your boss will expect you to handle them with a smile on your face. Be ready to be asked to spend hours on a cold calling spree and maybe even pick up coffee or dry cleaning.

“Fast paced, dynamic environment”

= You may be expected to work really hard, often without breaks. This may imply that they would like a younger person.

“Fast growing company”

= This one means that they may or may not have a lot of systems and processes in place, soneed to be able to work independently within general guidelines, possibly long hours too.

“Extremely organized”

= Sure, being organized is a normal job prerequisite. But when that word ‘extremely’ gets thrown in, it is (to put it bluntly) a definite warning that your boss is going to be on your ass. Micromanager alert!

“Start ASAP”

= This is a good one and you should pay attention – start as soon as possible! If the position is indicating to start as soon as possible, it usually means that there is nobody in the role at the moment and that they are keen to find people who can start soon. Do not be put off if you have to give a month’s notice, as good candidates for some roles are hard to find (and that could be you!).

“Thrives under pressure”

= Uh-oh, be ready to keep your nose to the grindstone. People have probably left this company because they couldn’t handle it, or have had nervous breakdowns right in the middle of the office… This means the job is a real pressure-cooker with no let up.

“Be rewarded for your hard work” or “Make a difference”

= Simple decoding – this may mean that they would like you to do lots of extra work in your own time.

“Be commercially focused”

= It’s a no-brainer, but I am surprised how many people don’t get this one. This may mean that the employer wants you to increase revenue substantially and PRONTO.


= Old fashioned lingo, but you need to know that this means that the company would like you to work with people both inside and outside the organization, so you need to be confident about your communication skills (this does not mean perfect).

“Opportunities for growth”

= This phrase is a favourite among start-ups with big dreams and small budgets. It usually means you’ll have the opportunity for growth—but only if the company grows, too. These opportunities probably won’t come for a few more years, so it better be a place you’re really passionate about!

“Address the selection criteria” or “Obtain a position description”

= This translates to a simple request: they would like you to write information related to each point of either the key selection criteria or the position description so that they can match your skills to the role. They do not want to interpret the information from your standard resume or a long essay in your cover letter!

“Reliable and dedicated”

= I know, it’s a no brainer. But this may mean that they’ve had staff in the past who were not reliable. In Australia and New Zealand, if you say “yes”, employers interpret that statement as “yes” – our workplace generally takes information literally and encourages people to speak up immediately if a problem may occur.

Contrary to many job seekers’ fears, employment ads are more likely to be ‘wish lists’ than demands – it’s often hard to tell what these companies are actually wishing for.

Whilst I always recommend networking and referrals as the best way to find your next job, if you still decide to search and apply the traditional way, fine tune your radar with our decoder and always remember to hunt wisely!

Happy hunting,