Most of us know how to read between the lines when we're looking through real estate listings-"cozy" is usually code for small, "antique" often means that the home needs work. But when it comes to job hunting, there are codes to crack in those listings as well.
There's a difference between "familiar" vs. "proficient" and "required" vs. "desired," points out Maria Stein, director of career services at Northeastern University. You need to figure out what the employer really wants before you can decide whether you should apply for the job-and that can be tough when you don't know the jargon. Here's a guide to decoding job listings.
- If you have command of a skill, software, or task, it means that you are very experienced with it-so much so that you could teach it to someone else.
- When an ability, education level, or skill is desired, the company is looking for something in particular, but may be willing to consider a candidate who does not have it, especially if the candidate is strong in other areas.
- Experienced usually means that the employer is looking for candidates have done the same job, or a similar one, for several years.
- Familiarity with a skill, software, or task means that you know about it but haven't had much experience with it.
- Multi-tasking can be code for "this job has a lot of different responsibilities that may not seem to go together" or "the person doing this job will probably have several projects in the works as once." If you like to focus on a single task until it's done, or if you're not willing to pick up other people's projects, the job probably isn't for you.
- If the job listing says that a certain skill is preferred, it means that the employer would like you to experience with it, but if you don't you may still qualify for the job.
- Proficient means you can do a certain task well but are not an expert in it.
- Proven ability refers to your verifiable accomplishments.
- A related field is one that is one that is similar to, but not necessarily the same as, the one described in the job listing. For example, someone applying for a job in marketing may list her public relations experience as work in a related field.
- Required means that someone who does not have a specific skill, ability, education level, or experience level will not be considered for the job.
- Self-managed means that you can work on your own, without supervision. Beware: Sometimes "self-managed" also means "without resources."
- A self-starter is someone who shows a lot of initiative and is willing to make decisions on her own.
- Working knowledge of usually means that you know about the task, software, or skills and understand what they are, but don't have much experience with them.
It's important to remember that a job listing is a wish list; the details describe the employer's ideal candidate, but you might still be a good fit for the job. Start by making a list of the skills you have, suggests Maria Stein at Northeastern University, and then take a close look at the job posting. If you have enough of the higher-level skills they're looking for, it might be worth applying for the job anyway.
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