What Job Adverts Really Mean: Reading In Between the Lines

If you’ve ever applied for a job and it hasn’t turned out as you wanted, maybe you didn’t read the job spec correctly, because in job adverts, not everything is as it seems.

We take a look at some common phrases from actual job adverts and tell you what they REALLY mean…

“Apply in person”

Fat man

Seen less and less these days with the abundance of online job boards, but it is a phrase you will see on some job adverts. Is it a refreshing change to the usual emailed CV, a really friendly way of taking people on? No, quite simply it’s what employers put when they don’t want to employ ugly or fat people.


Man with a ton of work

You might think this is the company subtly suggesting the fantastic opportunities available to applicants. It’s not. ‘Career minded’ means you’re going to be doing some long hours for no pay, and there won’t be a promotion in sight.

“Casual work atmosphere”

Having fun at work

Nobody really gives a shit because the company is on its last legs and it is only a matter of time before it folds. It’s going to be a blast working there for a while with lazy lunch hours, afternoons in the pub, and wearing whatever you damn well want. But it’s only a matter of time until you’ll be signing on at the local jobcentre with the rest of them.

“Competitive salary”

Two pence piece

Competitive compared to whom? What it means is that they remain competitive compared to their competitors by paying the lowest salaries in the market. If a company were paying a really good salary, they’d be proud of it and display it to attract the very best candidates. Hiding it behind a ‘competitive salary’ phrase just means that they will get away with paying as little as possible.

“Duties will vary”

Businessman photocopying

They’ve no idea what you’re going to be doing, but you can bet it’s going to be all the stuff nobody else wants to do. Think photocopying, making tea and nipping to the shop when it’s raining when your boss has forgotten to bring his lunch. The only thing that won’t vary about your duties is that they’re going to be seriously dull.

“Leadership skills are an advantage”

Stressed business man

Your manager is a waste of space but for whatever reason the company can’t sack him. You’re basically going to be doing his job, taking all the flak for absolutely no more money than anyone else.

“Deadline orientated”

Trying to meet deadlines

You’re going to have so much work to do you’re going to be behind schedule before you’ve even started. Better start getting your excuses together now; that work is piling up and you haven’t even got the job yet!

“Must have an eye for detail”

Office calculator

Either their wages department are absolutely useless and you’ll have to go through your salary slip with a fine tooth comb every month, or you’re going to be working with a complete bunch of buffoons and it’s going to be up to you to correct each and every one of their mistakes.

“Must have previous experience”

Railway to the future

Experience has to be previous, doesn’t it? Unless you’re a visitor from the future, of course.

“Must have problem-solving skills”

Rubix cube

The company is in crisis and you’re their last hope to get them out of the perpetual chaos. They genuinely haven’t got a clue and you’re going to have to turn things around pretty quick or you’re going to be joining them at the jobcentre.

“Can work well under pressure”

Working under pressure

Management want everything yesterday, and you’re going to be under constant pressure every minute of every day.

“You’ll be joining a close-knit team”

Small office

Either the team you’re joining have worked together for years and have never, ever accepted an outsider into it, or the office is really cramped and you are going to be sitting on top of each other.

“An exciting opportunity”

Excited business peopleUnless you’re becoming a professional lap dance tester or chief beer tester for the good pub guide, when was the last time you actually felt genuinely excited about a job? If it says it’s exciting, it probably isn’t.

“Ample parking available”

Ample parking

OK, this might be a consideration if you’re working in the middle of a big city, but anywhere else, how boring must the job be if they have to put parking as an exciting benefit of the role?

“Flexible working hours”

Woman counting down the hours

It could mean flexi-time, job sharing or variable hours. Or it could mean you’re going to be doing hours and hours and hours of unpaid overtime. Best find out before you accept the job.

Next time you’re applying for a job, read the ad carefully and consult our article. It could just save you from the job from hell!