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10 buzzwords all job applicants should be aware of


Man standing with deceiving stare

Buzzwords are eloquent disguises, strategically used to effortlessly help employers do two things. One, hide actualities they would much rather conceal, but must somehow reference within the ad as a fallback measure, to be used, if and when required during a probationary review. Or two, prompt some kind of favourable emotional reaction towards the company, culture or role, to elevate desire and motivation to acquire the role or join the company.

 

In a study commissioned by Skynova it was recorded that less than half of job searchers felt job posts typically included sufficient information. 53% noted that the jobs were made to feel appealing, with 49% noting the usage of annoying buzzwords. Less than a quarter felt like the ad itself was being honest about the role expectations and responsibilities.

 

As of February 2024, there were approximately 928,000 vacancies registered in the UK (Statista 2024). Taking into consideration the rough percentages from Skynova’s study, an estimated 491,000 of the jobs would have been manipulated to be made more appealing, with 454,000 of those ads using buzzwords to gain a favourable standing with applicants. So, it is only fair that applicants fully understand what each of the frequently used buzzwords actually mean. Prior to processing their application, or, accepting any offers.

 

1. We’re a family

 

Objective: To prompt a positive emotional response, towards the company and culture, by claiming to provide an inclusive and safe working environment.

 

When a job claims to be “like a family”, it’s aiming to A) impress you B) take your trust over gaining it and C) disarm you, by making you feel safe, accepted and free to be yourself. It might sound warm, but in reality, it can be unhealthy and manipulative. Companies using the family metaphor may foster positive vibes, but watch out for potential exploitation, long hours and hidden issues like favouritism and office politics. It’s rarely the supportive environment it claims to be. Companies who uphold the values of inclusivity, team work and open communication, do so through proactive protocols and training, not buzzwords.

 

2. Fast paced environment, hit the ground running or fast learner

 

Objective: Conceal the lack of training and intensity of the role.

 

This will most definitely be a sink-or-swim scenario. Get ready for a workplace that is more than likely understaffed, therefore the training and onboarding process will be rushed. In this position you will most definitely have to learn as you go. Companies like this tend to be disorganised, so if you’re a work-life balance advocate, you should probably skip this ad. Job ads that use terms like ‘busy’ or ‘fast-paced’ openly highlight the requirement to constantly learn, fire-fight and survive in a high intensity and stressful working environment.

 

3. Wear multiple hats


Multiple emotions being express by man

Objective: Conceal inflated list of role responsibilities and greyed out lines within hierarchical structure

 

If you enjoy being the Jack or Jane of all trades, then this role is perfect for you. But if you prefer not to juggle multiple roles/projects and adapt to ever changing priorities in a chaotic environment, then steer clear and move on. In this position you’ll find yourself doing 2.5 jobs for one salary, working long hours and constantly being called upon. This working environment will most definitely be understaffed. Lines between departments and the hierarchical structure will be blurred, so do not expect any clear direction or structured support. If you enjoy being a lone wolf and a varied roles then submit that application and ace your interview (10 types of interview questions you should prep for to succeed).

 

4. Results oriented

 

Objective: Conceal unrealistic expectations of the role

 

Set objectives are the only priority, even when expectations are unrealistic. The problem with this approach, is that the company devalues staff input and has tunnel vision. A company incapable of listening to their staff is far from progressive and lacks the ability to improve through lessons learned. If a muted role is something of interest to you, then look no further and proceed with your application.

 

5. Willing to get stuck in

 

Objective: Conceal demanding requirements and unrealistic expectations

 

Be prepared to be asked to fulfil responsibilities that fall outside your role requirements. It will also be wise to expect unwanted tasks from others to be sprung onto you. This type of environment can rapidly become toxic, if line management engage in favouritism. The person in this role will rapidly fall victim to copious amounts of stress. The requirement ‘to get stuck in’ can also suggest that the department or company is understaffed, therefore expect to asked to also work outside your contracted role and responsibilities.

 

6. An immediate need or Immediate start


Mixed group of men and women pointing at camera

Objective: Conceal the fact that someone was either managed out or left without notice

 

These situations can occur, so this should be taken with a pinch of salt. But most of the time, the hiring manager would immediately share with you the reason why they are in this predicament, so long as it is not the company’s fault. If the company is concealing the reasoning, then rest assured it could mean one of two things. One, the company engaged in quiet firing, an underhanded method used to constructively terminate an employee. Or two, the individual left without notice, because they had enough of the toxic working environment. Either way, you should be able to gauge this, quite easily, at the interview stage, when offered the opportunity to ask any questions. Ensure you do so.

 

7. Some flexibility with overtime on occasion

 

Objective: Conceal continuous need for overtime

 

Overtime is something we workers all do, irrelevant of the position you are in. In fact, to be honest the more senior you become the more overtime you actually end up doing. But overtime is not usually something that is regularly mentioned in management ads, because it is an unspoken understanding, most are aware of. So, in a low-level position, mentioning overtime in the ad, tells me that the company is probably understaffed and overtime is not a bypass comment, but most likely something that will be regularly required. Take that into consideration when accepting the role.

 

8. Work hard play hard


Construction worker and partying group

Objective: Conceal the long hours that will be asked of you whilst also prompting a positive emotion towards the company and culture (the word ‘play’ being the culprit here)

 

The principle of working hard and playing hard is that time is of no relevance. That both ‘work’ and ‘play’ are at the forefront of all decision making. Expect a world with no boundaries and high expectations. High-pressured environments expecting 12-14 hour workdays, including weekends, is most likely a definite. The promise of playtime, will definitely not be of equal value to the level of work being completed. The promise will be overshadowed by the emphasis on late nights and pizza deliveries to the office. This world is a re-occurring nightmare for work-life balance enthusiasts, but a dream for workaholics.

 

9. Must have thick skin


Objective: Conceal toxic working environment where managers and leaders are not held accountable for their behaviour.

 

Be prepared this workplace falls short in holding unprofessional behaviour accountable, especially within their management team. The fact that they have chosen to purposefully use this buzzword, within their job ad, only further confirms that this toxic behaviour is not only far from being changed, but worse it actually is condoned. If this sort of work environment suits you, then rest assured you have found your perfect match. Most managers, who exit this type of workplace, find it incredibly hard to survive in a more professional working environment.


GossipPro poster 82% of managers deemed accidental

10. Self-starter

 

Objective: conceal lack of support structure, guidance and detailed onboarding

 

This basically means the company does not have the luxury of time to carry out a detailed onboarding process with training. You will be required to immediately start delivering on all assigned tasks. It is not unusual for line management to have high expectations of a self-starter. So, ensure you are capable of problem-solving, multi-tasking and learning as you go. If your someone who can confidently do any assigned action, don’t fear continuously facing problems and enjoy working alone, instead of in a team. Then this role is yours for the taking. Just remember, at some point everyone burns out, or hopes things will improve, do not expect that from this company. There is a reason why they want a self-starter, more than likely after your departure the same ad will be put up. In short, don’t expect much change.


Want to learn more, watch Job Descriptions Exposed

 

Conclusion

 

Buzzwords often serve a more malicious purpose when utilised in job descriptions and ads. All applicants should ensure they fully understand the meaning of frequently used ones, so they can make an informed decision, when applying for roles. The popularity of buzzwords will continue to remain, but constant presence in limelight may eventually help motivate companies to draw up more transparent job role ads.

 

The use of buzzwords remains prominent in most job ads and when utilised strategically companies benefit from its capabilities. Whether this involves concealing unfavourable details about the role and/or company, or, instigating a positive emotional reaction towards the company, culture and/or role. Motivating job seekers to put forward their applications. Companies cannot be blamed for using psychological tactics to allure talent into their circles. However, job seekers can better equip themselves to safeguard their future and careers to steer away from roles that are a complete mismatch to what they seek and their personality. By studying the job ad to identify used buzzwords and understanding the underlying meaning within in, job seekers can find themselves in an advantaged position. Helping them make calculated and informed decisions, saving time and energy in the long term.

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