something about everything

8 Ways to Cope with Employer-Speak

When you’re looking for work, you have to deal with employer-speak.  As a seasoned job searcher, I’d like to help you decipher what amounts to coded phrases. Below, taken from an actual job description and rejection letter sent to me from someone I know, are eight common employer-speak phrases and what they really mean.  Employers are referred to as “they.”


Enthusiastic and motivated self-starter. This means you have to smile and look determined simultaneously. Since the muscles in the human face can “lock” when doing this and leave you with a bewildered expression, you need practice. I recommend that you smile and look determined over and over again in a mirror before the interview.

Able to function well in a collaborative, team-oriented environment.  What they really want to know is this:  Do you have the ability to leave your ego in your office where it has space to wallow… and go into the conference room to collaborate with the team, who effortlessly leave their egos in their offices?

Ability to be flexible and work under multiple deadlines. What this really means is this: They work in a “putting out fires” structure and deadlines come faster than a meteor shower assaulting the planet.

Must possess excellent written and oral communication skills.  Given the rapid descent of literacy in America, what they really want to know is this: Can you string together words in the right order to make a declarative sentence:  “My name is John” will usually satisfy this requirement – either spoken or written.

Compensation is commensurate with experience. On the surface, it sounds great. What it really means is this: If you have great experience you’ll get the highest salary on a low pay scale. And if you have less experience, your salary will be commensurate with your lack of experience.


We were fortunate to interview a number of excellent candidates. While on the surface this phrase can uplift you by suggesting you were in the company of elite candidates.  What it really means is this: If there were two elite candidates, then you finished second.

While your credentials and experience are impressive… When you see the word while in front of something that sounds good, you can bet that something bad is approaching faster than a speeding bullet.  We know this because while is a conjunction (Google Wikipedia for conjunction).

We wish you success in your future job search.  Wikipedia says that “hollow” refers to empty space.  This conciliatory statement attempts to fill that empty space with hot air.  Hopefully, you stopped reading long before the hot air reached you.


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