We've all been there. You find a job description that's perfect for you. It says there is fantastic career progression. It says the company is world-class and cares about its employees. It sounds like a dream, so you apply.

The first interview goes smoothly, and then the second and the third as well. You're offered the job and you're delighted to accept. You're hired. What could go wrong?

something doesn’t seem to quite add up

From the moment you step foot into the building on day one, something seems off. This wasn't the job you thought it was. The culture is terrible, the people are unkind and suddenly - there isn't even that free coffee they told you about.

Sometimes it seems impossible to fully comprehend what a job will be like from the outset. Marketers use sweeping statements like "approachable staff" and throw the phrase "collegiate" around so excessively that it begins to lose meaning.

Even management tends to hype up their employer during interviews, a practice that can shield you - the candidate - from the truth. So how can you cut through recruitment terminology and inevitably make the right choice?

Two ways: by understanding why companies are using this recruitment jargon, and then knowing how to interpret it!

why do companies use spin?

Because it sells – a marketer's job is to paint their client in the brightest of light so that you don't see any of the dark places. The dirty coffee cups and leaky buildings will be hidden from view until you sit down in your chair on day one. These wizards are paid exorbitant sums to make even the dreariest of companies sound like the bees-knees.

Once you understand what these companies are trying to accomplish when they're writing the job description or advertisement, it's easier to catch the glitches. And don't be fooled - a job description is essentially sales copy. It is designed to attract you, the job seeker, in the hope that you will apply. Recruitment terminology can be deceiving and confusing – thus you must learn…

how to interpret spin?

Your first step to unravelling the mystery is to pinpoint what you're actually being sold. You'll inevitably notice that the company is trying to emphasize one thing, or perhaps several. Identify them and do some research. Do their claims stack up? Are they really the biggest tech company in the Midwest? Do they really have the highest national employee retention for the year?

Facts are facts, and a company can rarely circumvent how many offices they have or what their net profits are. But when it comes to how they treat their employees, they'll sometimes tell a tall tale in order to get the right candidate through the door. This is where it gets a bit trickier. Here are a few warning signs:

1. vague descriptions

Whether it's a description of a job role or the company itself, this is never a good sign. The job description should have very clear requirements and defined responsibilities. Anything less and you'll have no idea what you're signing yourself up for.

At the end of the day, the devil's in the details - so make sure you ask about these details. If there are vague claims being made, they need to be backed up. Ask for proof, dig deep and you'll find your answers.

2. buzzwords

Look out for certain use of buzzwords and keep them on your radar;

  • competitive salary: This can usually mean a couple of things – your potential employer hasn’t decided what the salary will be yet, maybe they’ll try and negotiate this during or after your interview - so something to be aware of. Alternatively they may not want their current employees to know what salary they’re offering for that particular role.
  • OTE: On Target Earnings means your take home earnings will be part basic salary and part performance-related pay. If this is the case ensure you ask what your targets will be at the interview – this will help you make an informed decision on whether or not it’s realistic and achievable.
  • dynamic: This is a term you see being branded about, and more often than not it has connotations of youth attached to it- especially since ‘young’ was banished after the age legislation came in. Dynamism is a process characterized by constant change, innovative activity and progression. It’s always good to ask for your interviewer to expand on what this means to them in the context of their workplace.

3. company culture

Terms like "traditional" can sometimes mean stuffy, whereas "forward thinking" or "tech savvy" can offer up how they want to be seen in the market - and inevitably how they conduct their working environment.

"Collegiate" is vague and can vary from company to company. Ask for evidence of this during interview. What does collegiate mean to them? How does the company actively foster that ethos?

4. how long the role is on the market

If a job has been on the market for a long time, this can be a warning sign. Is it because there's been no interest? Or perhaps because candidates have rejected their offers, either way, you need to find out why.

taking things into your own hands

We live in an age where you – the job seeker – are in a stronger position than ever before within the job market. Yes this is creating a cacophony of noise that at times can make it difficult to cut through, but generally it can be used to your advantage.

Job seekers are empowered by the likes of LinkedIn and Glassdoor - so when trying to cut through this noise, we suggest you make the most of these platforms. If you’re struggling to make a judgement about an employer based on their job detail page, or maybe the interview has left you feeling ambiguous about whom they claim to be – take things into your own hands. 

No doubt your personal and social network is bigger than ever – tap into this and do some digging. Find out what sort of image the company conveys on Facebook or LinkedIn and get stuck into Kununu to see what current and previous employees have to say.

social research – employee advocacy

Employee advocacy is one of the most effective ways of validating a company employer brand these days. This is something to look out for should you decide to take on some social research of your own. LinkedIn can be a good place to start, but then extend this to other social platforms too.

looking for a change?