Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reading between the lines, Part 1: Job postings

I've been scanning plenty of job boards lately, and I've become fluent in the secret language that recruiters use to write their help wanted ads. Logic dictates that not all jobs can be good jobs, which means there's lots of terrible jobs that no one wants, and lots of desperate employers trying to fill those jobs by any means necessary.

Correct usage of the secret language is like Febreezing a room full of smokers. The stank is still there, but now your nose and throat stings like Morning Mist, so really, you can't smell anything anymore. Similarly, a well-written job posting can lure a wide range of intelligent, qualified candidates to any tragic workplace you can imagine, simply by masking the odour of their own incompetence with the sweet smell of fruity job prose. This is why it's so important to read between the lines.

Think about your job and your workplace. Now try to remember what the want ad for that job once said. Is it what you expected? Better or worse? Your comments will provide valuable research data on this subject.

In the meantime, to help you navigate the often deceptive world of career opportunities, here's a sampler of phrases used in job ads that you should be wary of.

"self-starter" or "self-motivated" : We're not going to train you, but we're going to expect you to know where everything is and how everything works here. Some mindreading ability would be good.

"fast-paced work environment" (this one's courtesy of Mr. Radloff): We're always in panic mode and there's never enough time to do your job right and people will always be yelling at you.

"a challenging and rewarding career" : There will be many many many challenges and one or two rewards bi-annually. I hope you like pizza parties!

"competitive salary" : We are able to remain competitive by paying you a low salary.

"salary commensurate with experience" : The lowest salary you will be granted after being duped into believing that your experience, however rich and overqualified, isn't up to our expectations.

"detail-oriented" : We have absolutely no quality control happening here, and no one has time to check their work, so you'll be taking the blame for that continuing to happen.

"some overtime may be required" : Some on each weeknight, and some on each weekend.

"must be a strong multi-tasker" : You'll be replacing 3 people who just quit.

"seeking career-minded person" : You better not have kids. Or a spouse. Or parents. Or friends. It would be best for us if you just had nothing going on in your life.

"other duties as assigned" or "assist teams with requests" : A bunch of lazy asshats are going to be bossing you around. See also: Psychotic Secretary

"deadline-oriented" : You'll be 3 months behind on your first day.

"looking for a dynamic individual" : We're looking for an ass-kissing autobot who will buy us all drinks after work.

"must be highly organized" : Your boss is highly disorganized.

"strong/excellent interpersonal skills" : You should be a consummate manipulator with a natural aptitude for back-stabbing.

"creative thinker" : We kinda suck at generating ideas, so we'll be taking yours. Please don't expect any recognition or additional compensation for your talent, which in no way must be allowed to exceed or overshadow that of your superiors.

"fast-growing company!" : The company is fast-growing rich at the expense of your fast-growing ulcer!

"enthusiastic team player" : You'll be doing everyone else's work, in addition to your own.

"commission plus bonus incentives" : You get to eat anything you kill yourself.

"generous benefit package" : Standard statuatory holidays and a first aid kit in the kitchen.

"progressive work environment" : You will hate this place more and more with each passing day.

Tune in tomorrow, when we'll present a fair and balanced look at the secret language of resumés and cover letters...


Leonesse said...

I hate the corporate world.

There, I said it.

Falwless said...




Cap'n Ergo "XL+1" Jinglebollocks said...

you forgot that "fast paced" also means that when something goes wrong, it'll all be YOUR goddamned fault because someone gotta get BLAME, Chuckles, and FAST.

doorknob_dan said...

I think they should just come out and be obvious:

"Look, the boss told me to write up a help-wanted ad, but the truth is he's an asshole and I'm warning you against applying here. Anyways, you need to know AUTOCAD and you'll make $6.50 an hour. If you're desperate enough to take that, just show up ready for work because we're probably going to go through ten of you SOB's the first week anyways."

Gnugs said...

#'s 1,3,6-8,10,13,14 just made me hate myself more for taking this stupid job...

I'm going to go cry in a closet now. THANKS!

Chris said...

I really like the word "asshat." It makes me feel happy to say "asshat."

The Guv'ner said...

OMG. That might be funny as shit but it's still 100% TRUE! And I'm a little frightened now.

However...that image you used on the entry almost made me urinate in my pantaloons. A tall, well built lady with a good reputation to cook frog legs? Holy shit. I want to see the applicants for THAT job. :)

katrocket said...

leonesse: Me too. Wanna start a group on Facebook?

falwless: YES, I AM! Do you have any crack-related jobs for me?

cap'n: Your point is well-taken, though I mentioned the reaping of the blame under "detail-oriented", and I didn't want to repeat myself.

Dan: Hey, I know Autocad. Where do I send my resumé?

gnugs: I'm sorry I upset you, but going gay will not help your situation. Unless you're in the army.

Chris: I think "asshat" is a Guv'ner word. She uses it often, and I find it more office-appropriate than "asshole".

Guv'ner: It's oh-so much funnier if you only read lines 1, 3 and 5. We cryptographers love secret hidden jokes!

pistols at dawn said...

I suck at making resumes, because I only like interesting fiction.

Bill P said...

That's good stuff.

BeckEye said...

I used to actually WRITE employment ads. I had to do several for call-center employees/telemarketers. I'd never spewed so much bullshit in my life.

steakbellie said...


Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

Those are classic!

The Guv'ner said...

SNORT :) That image is the funny. Um...not that I read dirty things like that of course, not when I have the bible in front of me.

Leonesse said...

No, I hate Facebook too. And MySpace.

There, I said that too.

CoffeeDog said...

You should work in HR, hiring people. You'd be able to see through resume BS

Beth said...

I need to print and laminate this; heading for those online boards myself.

Grant Miller said...

Two great lists.

Jana said...

Again I'm impressed. I love reading those help=wanted ads and now I have the rosetta stone to help me read what they really say. Thanks so much for the help! I'm printing these two lists out for my daughter, who is about to enter the wonderful world of dental assistant (or asshat as it were..) She needs a superior cover letter (also an asshat) to show her glowing good points and to smooth over the rough points.
I'm happy to be self employed so I never have to write a resume or a cover letter again, and thanks so much for reminding me to be thankful for being self-employed. Tomorrow those toilets and stanky stacks of laundry will look like their covered in gold!!

Jana said...

(What it should have said:)
Help Wanted: Rotton boss with no sense of humor is looking for someone to take the blame for every single thing that goes wrong around here. He will snoop in your desk and on your computer, he will listen in on your phone conversations, double check every single thing you do, then get pissy when you ask him for input on a project - saying that IT'S YOUR DAMN PROJECT, get OUTTA MY OFFICE. The pay is crap, the hours are long, and there is no personal gain in taking this job.
What it DID say:
Small office seeking detail oriented self starter. Hands-off Manager looking to spend more time fishing.
Hired person - me.....sigh.