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Demystifying jargon in job adverts

Hello and a warm welcome to Semester Two from the Careers Service.

Here at the Careers Service, we are regularly asked about some of the terminology used in job adverts. In our first blog of 2024, Nicola Meikle, Careers Information Adviser, explains some of the phrases and terms commonly used by employers.

Starting with the job advert

Before you start crafting your CV and cover letter, you need to think about what the employer wants and what you can offer. As employers regularly use specialised terms to find out about a candidate’s personality, ability and experience, the key is to decode the job advert.

Here are some of the common phrases used by employers:

  • Dynamic team/individual – employers are looking to attract people who are unafraid to challenge themselves by taking on something new.
    • This can be shown by giving examples of how you confidently took on new tasks.
  • Creative/creativity –this isn’t always about your artistic skills unless it’s a requirement of the role e.g. marketing/advertising roles. Creativity is also about how you use your creative thinking skills to solve a problem or come up with a new idea.
    • Think about what you’ve been involved in at university – perhaps as a member of a student society you developed a social media campaign to encourage other students to join the society.
  • Adaptability and flexibility – indicate employers are looking for someone to be open to change.
    • This can be evidenced if you were asked to work outside your normal hours to attend events/conferences, work in a different location or change shifts at short notice.
  • Team player – employers want new recruits to fit into the company culture and positively contribute to the team.
    • While many applicants describe themselves as a good team player, you can stand out from the crowd by using an example of how you went out of your way to help a team member through group coursework to achieve a goal.
  • Entrepreneurial people – it’s thought by many students and graduates that they only require this skillset if they plan to set up their own business.
    • But, you can think of “entrepreneurial” in a much broader sense; can cover any examples of you spotting an opportunity to develop or create something new to meet a need. This targetjobs article discusses it further.
  • Fast paced – describes a busy working environment. Employers are looking for someone who can work under pressure, e.g. juggling competing priorities.
    • This can be evidenced by showing how you have consistently met deadlines.
  • Self-starter – someone who can work under minimal supervision. This skill is particularly sought after in start-ups or freelance work.
    • You can demonstrate this skill by evidencing how you initiated a new process with little guidance and got a good result.
  • Commercial awareness – an understanding of the business world. It’s about knowing what’s going on in the world, and how it could impact your chosen sector and company. It is important to focus on the word “awareness” and not mistake it for the word “knowledge”. Bear in mind that you are not expected to know everything about the employer or its customers from day one.​
    • This can be shown in the application stage by explaining what appeals to you about this employer and knowing how your skills and knowledge can be useful in the organisation’s context. Our advice on building commercial awareness will give you more ideas on how to do this.

Also, individual sectors and roles will have their own jargon and abbreviations relating to the specific roles advertised within their industry:

  • B2B/B2C – Business to Business/ Business to Consumer. These abbreviations define who the employer’s target market is and are relevant to sales and marketing roles.
  • SME – Small and Medium-sized Enterprise. These are businesses which have fewer than 250 staff. In Scotland, SMEs can be found in all sectors. Our website tells you about the benefits of working for an SME.

Essential and desirable criteria – what’s the difference?

Essential criteria

  • Definite requirements; skills without which the job cannot be performed well.
  • Evidence by reflecting on your experience so far from your studies (projects, placements, presentations), extra-curricular activities (societies, sports, volunteering) and part-time work.

Desirable criteria

  • “Nice to have” skills and experience.
  • Try to cover as many of these as possible.
  • Don’t be disheartened if you don’t meet all the criteria; some can be gained over time in the role so you can mention how you have the potential to gain these skills. For instance, through undertaking self-directed training or applying some of the knowledge and understanding (transferable skills) from your degree to practical aspects of the role.

Evidencing the criteria

Consider your transferable skills such as teamwork, communication and critical thinking and how you can evidence them with examples. Have a read of our advice on:

  • CVs and cover letters.
  • Common application form questions such as competency questions. These require you to provide evidence of a particular skill you have and where you developed it by using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format to structure your responses and answer concisely.

What can I expect to be paid?

You’ll often see the terms “salary” or “remuneration” – what’s the difference?

  • “Salary” covers a fixed amount of pay the employer pays every week or month.
  • “Remuneration” is a broader term which includes salary, plus any bonuses and benefits.
  • PA – per annum. If the salary is displayed as £25,000 pa, this reflects your yearly salary working full-time.
  • Pro rata – you will be paid a proportion of the full-time salary dependent upon how many hours you work.
  • DOE – Depends on Experience. The salary will vary dependent upon the level of experience you have.
  • Competitive salary – this term can be used if the salary is not stated. This could mean two things; it’s similar to what other employers are paying for roles in the same location or that it’s negotiable. Do your research so that you are prepared to answer salary expectations at interview. Our website provides advice on negotiating salary, under the section “Negotiating a contract”.

Parting advice

After reading today’s blog, you’ll hopefully feel more equipped to understand what employers are looking for in job adverts and make the best application you can.

If you want to talk through what you have drafted, you can do so in two ways:

  • Come to our information and advice drop-ins. These are offered online and on campus. No need to book – here’s the link to our drop-in schedule.
  • Book an appointment with any of our Careers Consultants via MyCareerHub for more in-depth feedback.

(Image credit: Adobe CC Express)


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