What do UK employers actually mean when they seek a passionate, motivated, innovative individual? We help you decode the job application buzzwords
Job advertisements should be taught in schools, probably as a foreign language. At some point most of us realise that a “role” means a job, an “opening” means another job, and a “package” means how much money they will give you every year for doing it.
Yet there are other buzzwords that need some decoding. A study of more than 500,000 recent ads by the search company Adzuna has revealed that some employers are asking for wizards, rockstars and Jedis in job adverts – and they aren’t recruiting entertainers.
Fortunately they are in the minority, but other buzzwords and terms appear again and again. We asked Adzuna to find the 10 words and phrases most commonly used by UK employers to describe the type of person they are looking for. But what do they really mean? And how do you show you have the skills in question? Here are the 10 most requested and some tips on how to prove you have them.
By far the most frequent term on the list, and one of the most forbidding. “My interpretation is that you are going to have a heavy in-tray,” says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University. “You’re going to have a lot thrown at you, and you’d better be able to prioritise.”
A CV emphasizing that you’re used to working hard – and showing enthusiasm for it if you’re called for interview – is probably a good plan here.
Number of job adverts it appears in 68,064
Average salary £31,923
It is ironic that the ability to be understood should be described with a phrase that is so opaque. In some jobs it may refer specifically to giving confident presentations to lots of people, in which case emphasise that; it may also be a way of saying “social skills” – a vital element that employers are oddly reluctant to specify.
“I think there is a degree of emotional intelligence in there,” says Kirwan Hack from career management consultants Fairplace Cedar. Clearly it is hard to demonstrate this on a CV, other than by being articulate and clear, but it is useful to show that you are used to handling people. “The important thing is to demonstrate the different audiences you are used to communicating with,” Hack says. “The more breadth you have, the more convincing it is.”
Number of job adverts it appears in 65,011
Average salary £30,905
A strange one, yet the third most popular. By definition, any candidate who applies for a job is motivated to get it, so this means demonstrating something more pronounced. In part it may be a strategy by an employer to put off all but the most eager applicants; it may also be a way of warning that you are going to have to work independently, and often find your own tasks.
“‘Don’t expect me to molly-coddle you’,” is Cooper’s interpretation. “You’d better have initiative and be a self-starter.” Show off this aspect of yourself as much as you can.
Number of job adverts it appears in 58,955
Average salary £34,837
There shouldn’t be much ambiguity over whether you are a qualified accountant or a qualified nurse, say, but being qualified for some other jobs may be a matter of opinion (“Exactly what is a qualification to be a manager?” Cooper asks, for instance.)
If there is no recognised certificate in your field, assume the word is an invitation to showcase your experience. If a certificate exists, however, don’t stop there. “Often the qualification is used as a baseline,” Hack says. “But if I’m looking at that I want to see how it’s been applied … if there’s something about how they’ve actually used their learning in the role that is an added extra.”
Number of job adverts it appears in 56,551
Average salary £29,007
“I think we’re going to see this word used more often,” Cooper says. And certainly, in a stagnant economy, it has become more common for workplaces to be understaffed, requiring people not only to do their jobs but to be flexible enough to take on others here and there. “It’s mucking in,” Cooper says. “Being willing to do things outside your level of competence, either up or down.”
Evidence of working that way in past jobs would therefore be good on your CV, and show bags of enthusiasm in the interview. Anyone can be flexible – the question is how grumpy they will be about it.
Number of job adverts it appears in 54,049
Average salary £38,780
Given that about a quarter of the UK population has a university degree, it’s no longer a strong selling point on its own – and means very little once you’ve been working for a few years. As such, employers asking for a degree are probably just trying to make their workload manageable. “They’re going to get so many applications, I think it’s a sifting thing,” Cooper says, adding: “You could say you’re ‘educated to degree level’ even if it wasn’t to the point of obtaining your degree.”)
Number of job adverts it appears in 49,686 (+10% since 2012)
Average salary £30,709
“This is really about how you demonstrate the energy and fire you have for the role,” Hack says. Again, this may well be because you’ll be expected to work long hours and do less enjoyable things when necessary. An employer asking for commitment may also be hoping to find someone who will stay for a while rather than using the job as a stepping stone elsewhere. Proving these things is going to be a matter for the interview, because the terms are easily parroted on paper.
“I look at a lot of CVs,” Hack says, “and to be honest I tend to skip past a lot of these words because you’re not going to get it from a CV. But if you say it about yourself you’re going to have to demonstrate it at the next stage.”
Number of job adverts it appears in 47,971
Average salary £28,762
This is in the same territory as “commitment” and “motivated”, but has a more extrovert flavour, according to Cooper. With the lowest associated average salary it also suggests that the applicant’s passion may be relied on to motivate them as a substitute for money. “If I put that on the list I’d want someone who really cares about working in the public sector, the third sector, or whatever it is,” Cooper says. “In other words, ‘We expect that you’re here not just because you’ve been unemployed for nine months.'” At interview, that’s what you’ll have to show, or simulate.
Number of job adverts it appears in 40,471
Average salary £39,156
This phrase is associated with the highest average salary on the list, which makes sense because it’s probably being used by employers who are willing to pay for the finished article. “You want to see that people have been though the mill,” Hack says, “either in your particular sector or something similar.”
As a result you will have high expectations to meet when the jobs starts. “It’s a scary one because it could say, ‘If you don’t, you’re gone,'” Cooper says.
Number of job adverts it appears in 36,581
Average salary £37,680
Clearly some jobs require people to be creative all the time, but in most cases “innovative” will mean something rather different. “The last thing they want you to do is be a free thinker,” Cooper says. Hack suggests the term is really asking, “Are you a problem solver? Can you think of good ways to get through the issues and challenges you’re going to face?”
To demonstrate that you are, he recommends dropping some brief hints on your CV about times when you have dealt with a difficult challenge. “You don’t need to explain how you did it,” Hack says. “That’ll come out at the interview.”
Original Article from The Guardian Money: Leo Benedictus