Understanding an Employer Job Posting

By Joe Stein

For many Job Seekers, reading an employer job posting is like trying to decipher a foreign language. What do some of these words/phrases mean? Even worse, if/when you can actually understand it; you are often left wondering what the words are really trying to tell you. Surely there must be a secret alternative meaning to what has been written.
 
The ability to decipher a job posting is, however, a crucial piece to the job search puzzle. This skill will allow you to focus your efforts on the jobs that offer you the best shot of landing the job, while also allowing you to better customize your resume and interview for those positions you choose to pursue.
 
In order to provide some insight to all Job Seekers into the world of employers, let us take a look at some of the most common phrases used in a job posting. I will try to provide you with some inside guidance into what that the Hiring Manager may actually mean.
 
·        Experience – In virtually every job posting, there is some reference to the desired experience level of the qualified candidate. Let’s review the two most common terms.
 
- Entry-Level – This term signifies that the position is the lowest on the organizational chart for that department. The compensation will be directly linked to the lower-level of the position. This type of role is generally best suited for someone who is starting their career, or changing careers and need to start at the bottom and work their way up.
 
- Experienced – This is for a position above entry-level. The experience needed may be very specific to the position posted, or more of a general work experience. Sometimes the job posting will reflect that a certain level of education will be accepted in lieu of the desired years of experience.
 
·        Knowledge – This is generally defined in three categories: “working”, “proficient”, or “command of”. This term is usually used as it relates to some type of machinery or technology. Expect to either explain or physically display your knowledge level in this area.
 
- “Working Knowledge” – You have an overall awareness and can perform basic needed tasks.
- “Proficient” – You can perform all the basic tasks well, and have some ability as it relates to more advanced activity.
 
 - “Command Of” – You have a full understanding and can perform whatever task is asked of you. You will also, most likely, have the ability to train others on this item.
 
·        Preferred v. Required – One of the most difficult to decipher is what it means when an employer states that something is “preferred” versus “required”.
 
- Preferred – Generally speaking, the employer is declaring that their ideal candidate will possess this attribute. The fact that the company used “preferred” is an indication that they are legitimately open to candidates who lack this aspect, but are strong in other areas. You can take advantage of this flexibility, if you are particularly strong in other areas.
 
- Required – This is an indication that this item is a “deal breaker”. If you do not have it, you are probably best served to focus your job search efforts towards other opportunities. The employer will also use this term to filter out unqualified candidates from the large number of resumes they expect to receive.
 
·        Competitive – This term is generally used in reference to compensation or benefits. This term usually has little value to the Job Seeker, as most employers use this regardless of where they stand in reference to the market. It is best to do a little research on your own, to determine where this employer resides and whether they fit your needs.
 
·        Casual v. Professional Culture – Culture can be such a tricky item to define. Generally speaking, employers use only two very basic terms to describe the culture of an organization. Further details should be obtained via use of the Internet, networking, or by observation once an interview occurs.
 
- Casual Culture – Generally used to describe an environment that is less formal. This may be used to explain certain terms such as the dress code, management style, or schedule flexibility.
 
- Professional Culture – Generally used to describe a more formal work environment. This may include a more traditional dress code and a more structured company overall.
 
A key to keep in mind is that the Hiring Manager is most likely writing their “wish list” in the job posting. The person, who actually is hired for the open position, will probably have some percentage of what is listed in the posting. It is important for you, as the Job Seeker, to determine when you are not an exact match to the job posting, or whether you have enough of what is wanted to be actually considered for the job.
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.