What the Job Posting Might Be Telling You without Saying It

Reading between the lines is one of the most important skills you can acquire as a job hunter. You need to become adept at picking up clues from the ads that will help you determine whether or not it is worth your time applying. For example, certain wording might tell you about the structure of the organization, the average age of the employee or the fact that you are going to be working a lot of hours for very little pay. Here are some tips you can use to decipher what some job postings are trying to tell you, without actually saying it.   

What the job posting - In Article

Fast-paced may mean stressful 

Many employers try to frame the hectic nature of their workplace in a positive light by calling it “fast-paced,” “challenging,” or “demanding.” If you thrive in that kind of environment, get your resume ready. But if you’re looking for a job that doesn’t send your blood pressure off the charts, it might be time to skip to the next one.

Fun may mean young

If the job posting describes the atmosphere as “fun,” “entertaining,” or “awesome,” chances are the company, its employees (or both) are at the younger end of the age spectrum. It is not unusual for newer companies—especially in tech—to gravitate towards the “fun = creativity” mindset. Some people fit in perfectly in this type of environment. Others find it to be anything from counterproductive to totally absurd. Whichever opinion you hold will determine whether you apply or pass.

Entry level may mean low pay

Entry level positions are designed for applicants who are trying to get their foot in the door. They usually require little to no experience, and a heavy investment in training on the part of the employer. Therefore, do not expect to be hauling in six figures when applying for this type of position.  If you’re looking for experience that will beef up your resume, or if you want to climb the corporate ladder by starting on the bottom rung, then by all means, give it a shot. We all have to start somewhere, and so do our salaries. But if you already have experience and want to bring home the big bucks, move ahead.

Traditional may mean hierarchal

Most organizations have realized a decentralized structure, in which employees at all levels are empowered, is much better for morale and productivity than a top-down design. The key word here is “most.” There are certainly many organizations that still believe in a hierarchal structure, and you might be able to pick up on that by observing certain clues in their job posting. Terms like “traditional,” “conservative,” and “old-fashioned values” are likely to be good indicators the boss wants you to be seen and not heard.

Detail-oriented may mean micromanagement

Sure, every employer wants their workers to pay attention to details. But if the job posting seems to be particularly focused on this quality, it could mean that micromanagement is valued rather than disparaged at this organization. If you don’t like someone looking over your shoulder making sure all the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted, you may want to look elsewhere. But if you do decide to apply, make sure your resume is flawless, because one typo could land it in the circular file.

Flexible may mean uncertain

If the job posting either uses the word “flexible” to describe the position, or includes vague language like “and other duties,” this could be a sign the employers don’t really know what they want. It could also mean you will be asked to do everything from filing reports to fetching coffee. If you like variety in your work and don’t mind unexpected curve balls, you’re probably going to love it here. But if you prefer a specific job description with a standard set of duties, this one may not be the best fit.

You don’t have to be a detective or a psychic to decipher the clues lurking in the shadows of a job posting. But you do have to be conscientious. If you pay close attention to what the subtleties of the ad are telling you, you can save yourself a whole lot of wasted time and effort applying to companies that don’t meet your wants and needs.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market