Candidates Aren’t The Only Ones Who Exaggerate

This is a guest post from Will Kerr, who lives in the UK. Enjoy the language and spelling. It’s cool to get his perspective from “across the pond” on something I hadn’t heard about before, but it makes a lot of sense.

It should go without saying that, in order to stand any sort of chance at landing a job
by responding to an ad, you’re going to have to pay close attention to the language
it uses, and write up your cover letter and CV to make sure they chime with the tone
used by your potential employers.

However, as well as using the ad’s wording to try and discern how to most effectively
sell yourself, you should analyse it to see how the job is being sold to you. After all,
a job ad is an advert, and just like any other advert, it’s wise not to take everything it
says at face value.

This is an important skill to develop as a job hunter, as it will help you preserve
your most precious resource: time. A successful job hunt is all about having a set of
focused targets. By being able to decode the jargon and euphemisms so prevalent in
job ads, you can save yourself the effort of applying for a role that just isn’t suited to

For example, you’ll see the phrase ‘self-starter’ used a lot and, whilst on the one hand
it implies that you’ll be working in an environment where you’re not going to micro-
managed and your talents for taking the initiative will be given space to flourish, it’s
worth your while being a little cynical about such a phrase. Ask yourself why being
a ‘self-starter’ is such a necessity. The likely answer is that you’ll need to improvise
solutions on your own because the company just doesn’t have the resources available
to give you all the support you might expect – a less enticing prospect.

Likewise, the working environment will almost invariably be described as ‘fast-
,’ which creates the image of a frenetic office trying to keep up with all the
business that’s being generated. If that’s the case, wonderful. But is it not just as
likely that employees are forced to work at a fast pace because of understaffing?

A ‘highly varied’ role sounds great. After all, nobody wants to do the exact same
thing day in day out. However, using this term ambiguously could well suggest
that there is no clear designation of responsibilities within the business, and that
said ‘variety’ will arise primarily from the fact that you’ll be picking up the pieces all
over the place rather than focusing on your own work.

As well as working out when an add is doing its best to make the company sound like
a more attractive place to work than it actually is, you also need to be aware that ads
will also occasionally do the opposite and attempt to put people off.

Often, to try and deter lesser candidates and thus speed up the process of filtering
the wheat from the chaff, firms will exaggerate the skills set a job actually requires.
This can result in some stipulations that are bizarre, or sometimes even impossible,
especially if the people responsible for recruiting don’t really understand the role.

Job ads for IT roles, for example, have been known to demand that candidates have at
least three years of experience working with a certain technology, despite the fact that
it’s only existed for two years! (Aside from anything else, this might indicate that the
business in question doesn’t have the keenest eye for detail…)

Therefore, when reading a job ad’s person specification, don’t be too perturbed if
there are one or two criteria that you can’t quite fulfil. If you offer 80% of what
they’re asking for, you should be in with a shot (though, as focus is key in a job
search, it is preferable to target jobs you know for certain you are 100% qualified for).

At the end of the day, when businesses recruit – as with every other aspect of
their operation – what they’re looking for is value. They want the most talent and
experience they can get their hands on for the salary they have to offer. If they say the
role requires at least three years of experience in the industry, they are far more likely
to receive applications from people with five to ten years experience. This doesn’t
necessarily mean that if only have one and a half years experience that you’ll find the
job impossible.

This also needs to born in mind if you are a highly experienced, highly skilled
professional on the look out for job opportunities. A recruiter may be overstating the
skills set required to reel you in and this could result in your taking a role where you
don’t get to make full use of your abilities.

Will Kerr writes extensively on the varied world of job hunting, from the latest
guerrilla tactics, to the ins and outs of old fashioned networking. You can read more of his work on