What job ads are actually saying

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Most industries are rife with jargon, and the recruitment industry is no exception. It only takes a few minutes scrolling through job ads to stumble across terms like “self-starter”, “team player” or “a dynamic environment”.

But what does it all mean?

If you find it all a little confusing and want to know how to interpret what a job ad is really saying, we can help. In this post, we share some valuable insights into the meaning behind some of the industry’s most clichéd terms and a few red flag terms to look out for in job ads.

Common terms you might see in a job ad

In our experience, we’ve found the following terms to be some of the most overused yet most ambiguous terms used again and again in job ads.

“Competitive salary”
 
When you see the term “competitive salary”, it generally means one of two things.
 
The first possibility is that the salary will be in line with the going market rate. If most people working in a similar role within the industry are on an $80k salary, you can expect them to offer something on par with that.
 

The other possibility is that the dealership is yet to agree on a salary for the role. While this could be because of a range of reasons, it’s usually because the employer wants to get as many applications as possible before deciding how much they want to offer the top candidate to seal the deal.

“Pro rata”
 
“Pro rata” means “in proportion”. The term is generally used when advertising part-time roles to describe the proportion of a regular salary the incumbent would receive.
 

For example, if you applied for a role that was 4 days per week with a pro rata salary of $50k, you’ll be paid 80% of the regular $50k salary.

What job ads are actually saying
“OTE”
 
An acronym for either “On Target Earnings” or “Overall Total Earnings” which is often used when advertising sales consultant roles where commissions are involved. The OTE rate is used to describe what you can earn in the role when you combine the base salary with any commissions you earn.
 

For example, a base salary might be $50k but OTE would be around the $100k mark; meaning that if you’re a good sales person and are meeting your targets, you have the potential to earn up to $100k.

“About you”

This is generally a list of the prerequisites the dealership wants for the role. They’re essentially describing the ideal candidate, often listing the type of experience they might have, the sort of ambition or drive they possess, and the type of role they might see themselves in.
 

If you don’t tick too many boxes on this list, you might not be a good fit for the position.

“Team player” 
 
Expect a large proportion of your role to be in a team-based setting, sharing ideas with your colleagues, and working together to solve problems.
 
On occasion, it may also mean you need to have some level of flexibility, as you’ll need to compromise from time to time to be able to manage the multiple personalities and relationships within the business.
 

In some cases, this could also be an indicator that the dealership has experienced high turnover in the role because of an underlying cultural issue.

“Attention to detail” 
 
If a dealership is asking for “attention to detail”, it’s a safe bet that they want someone that’s not going to make mistakes. If you see this listed on a job ad, make sure your resume and cover letter are very polished and free from errors.
 

Some employers will even intentionally include an error in the job ad, before asking candidates to identify it as a test if they genuinely have attention to detail.

“Self-starter” 
 
A “self-starter” is referring to someone that can quite simply, “get on with it”.
 

The dealership is looking for someone that knows what needs to be done and just does it. They don’t require supervision or micro-management and are able to self-manage their time and workload. They don’t need a lot of instruction or to have their hand held so to speak—they’re almost the opposite of a team player.

“Proven track record” 
 
While a “proven track record” can have a couple of meanings, it generally means the employer is looking for someone with dealership experience.
 

They don’t want to have to provide extensive training, but rather want someone that can hit the ground running from day one. For example, an agricultural machinery business may only consider candidates who have built a transferable skill set working in a similar environment like a farm equipment dealership.

“Dynamic environment”
 
A “dynamic environment” usually means the work environment is high energy, fast paced, and in a constant flux of change.
 

It’s likely you’ll be expected to contribute a lot of ideas and have the initiative to follow them up, while being agile enough to adapt to an ever-evolving environment. It can also indicate that senior managers frequently chop and change their mind, meaning you’ll always need to be on your toes.

Red flags you need to look out for

There are also a few terms that should start ringing alarm bells if you see them in a job ad, meaning you should approach your application with caution.
“Good sense of humour”
 
Unless you’re applying to be a stand-up comedian, having a good sense of humour shouldn’t be a prerequisite for a job.
 
While most people are easy to get along with and will interact well with the rest of the team, if a “good sense of humour” is stated in the job ad, there’s a good chance that the last person in the role felt the banter within the dealership was a little inappropriate.
 

There’s a fine line between banter and bullying, and if you’re not someone that enjoys a bit of tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth, it’s probably not going to be a good fit for you.

“Company confidential” or “Private advertiser”
 
An advertiser may choose not to reveal their identity for two reasons:
 
  • they don’t want to alert an employee they may be looking to get rid of that they’re trying to fill the role, or
  • the job may not actually exist and they’re merely trying to build a database of potential candidates for similar roles (something a lot of recruitment companies do).

As a recruitment company, we never list the names of the dealerships we’re hiring for, but you still know who you’re providing your details to. If you find a private advertiser that won’t reveal the name of their company, be careful before applying as you don’t know who you’re handing your private information to.

“We work hard and play hard”
 
They’re essentially saying, “we work really hard”—we’ll put a lot of pressure on you, expect you to get things done, and potentially need you to put in extra hours to do it. However, when the working week’s done, the team likes to head out for a drink together to let off some steam.
 

If you’re the type of person that just wants to clock off at the end of the day and head home, it’s probably not going to be for you as it’s likely there will be a lot of unspoken expectations to get involved in social gatherings outside the workplace.

“A fast-paced environment”
 
This can have a double meaning.
 
It can mean exactly what it says: it’s a full-on role where you’re operating at 100% for 8 hours a day, day-in-day out. But more often than not, it means you’re going to be a “firefighter”, trying to avert disasters and minimise damage to the business.
 

It’s likely the dealership could be disorganised with very few systems in place or processes which are ineffective, deeming the role fast-paced because “we haven’t really figured anything out yet, so you’re just going to have to roll with it”—so good luck to you!

“We’re looking for a passionate employee”
 
“Passionate” can mean both good and bad things when used in a job ad.
 
It could genuinely mean the dealership is looking for someone that’s passionate about something at work or even in their personal life, as an indicator that person will possess some degree of personal drive and ambition.
 

On the other hand, it can also be used by dealerships looking for someone that’s passionate enough to do the job for a little less money or for longer hours than would be expected elsewhere. It may mean they want you to put work responsibilities ahead of personal responsibilities, so it’s something to consider depending on the role.

Should employers use jargon in job ads?

For employers, our one word of wisdom is that when it comes to jargon in job ads, it’s best to avoid it entirely.

While there are multiple reasons why jargon isn’t effective in job ads (including the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence scanning published content), the main reason to avoid it is because candidates just want to see plain English.

They want to know what the job is, what it involves, and the skills required for the role. Anything beyond that is merely “fluff” that’s likely to distract and deter candidates from applying.
 
Teamrecruit is Australia’s most established recruitment agency specialising in truck, earthmoving and agricultural machinery dealerships in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Find out more about Teamrecruit and how we support employers and candidates in the dealership industry.

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