Read Between the Lines of Job Descriptions

Help Wanted Section of Newspaper

When you are applying for a job, keep in mind that you aren't the only one who is sprucing up your resume and cover letter lingo to help sell yourself. Job descriptions are written with the same type of intent. You never know what kind of environment you'll be stepping into, but carefully decoding job descriptions can help pull back the uncertain layers.

"Self-Motivated Team Player"
You need to expect that this work environment will not give you a lot of direction, hence the "self-starter" request. Creating work for yourself without an agenda from a supervisor is expected. When you do "play with the team," you'll be expected to contribute ideas and work with different types of personalities. It also means that you'll do as the boss says and work on projects across the company as needed.

"Excellent Salary"
This is an advertising tactic to get potential hires to apply. "Excellent salary" means different things to different people. Some people think 70K is excellent, while others believe 150K is excellent. Traditionally, salary is discussed after an offer is made. The employer believes they've sold you on a great job, even if the true salary might come up short on your end.

"Good sense of humor required"
This office resembles a fraternity which includes an environment where foul language, eating contests and practical jokes are welcome. It is also code that they don't take the work that they're doing too seriously, which might mean that they won't take you seriously. You need to be comfortable working in a very relaxed environment where people might be playing flip cup while you're working on a deadline. In order to be accepted you'll need to be a team player and participate in an a pizza-eating contest or two.

"Must have a 'no job is too small' attitude"
In my first job, this meant that I spent Saturday nights lugging heavy metal objects to company events. Other times, this will mean you'll be expected to pull an all-nighter to finish a PowerPoint deck, or maybe come in a half-hour early a few times a month to prep for a meeting. It also means that you can virtually never utter the phrase "that's not my job," because it's been spelled out in the job description that you are up for every task (unless it is illegal or immoral, of course). Otherwise, this boss will expect you to shut your mouth and do the job.

"Extremely organized"
Almost every job description includes "organized" as a requirement, but when they add an "extremely," you might have a problem. This boss will be a control freak with a major case of OCD. They'll expect you to have an immaculate filing system, an alphabetized book collection, and for your workspace and desktop to be as neat and organized as their own. If you thrive in a messy space, this isn't for you.

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