Employer speak translated

I have become an expert in job interviews and have figured out what some things means. Sadly this doesn’t mean I am an expert in getting a job, just going on many interviews. What employers say isn’t always what they mean.

“We have others to interview and we will let you know”. Translation: if no one else better comes along we may call you but someone better will come along. I have noticed in EVERY job interview where they said this it meant I didn’t get it. When I have gotten the job they had said things like they will contact me next week. I always assume they are interviewing others but when I have the job the others don’t exist.

The age questions. These range from asking when I attended ┬ácollege to when I attended high school (because I didn’t attend college right away after high school nor did I graduate right away either due to dropping out to work and attend part time). These are overt but have been asked if certain things were common during high school or grade school, like was internet common during college (nope)or did I have a Walkman in high school (yep). I’ve had employers tell me my skills were “old school” and one employer in fact told me I was too old for the job because it was at a top 40 station and “only people in their 20’s listen to top 40”. I had to tell him that I know some top 40 acts but for the most part hasn’t listened to top 40 since I was in junior high or so.

“Yes you applied for the marketing director job but I decided to interview you for the marketing assistant position”. Translation: you are a woman and we hire men for the leadership roles. Yep have had this bait and switch pulled on me a few times where they intentionally interviewed me for the lower level job I didn’t apply for. Sexism is still alive in corporate America. This is related to the next one.

“We have decided this job will be something a little different”. Translation: there really is no marketing director job available but we put it in to get people but the job is really entry level. This one may or may not be the same thing as the above job but way too often I have gone to the interview to find out the job I originally applied for was changed. This happened a few years ago where a job went from $50,000 job to $12 hour part time. I don’t think this was a sexist thing but rather a way to get desperate qualified people willing to make anything.

“Tell me about a time you worked on a project with co workers”. Translation: are you an introvert or an extrovert? Employers generally want extroverts and introverts need not apply.

More to follow.

15 thoughts on “Employer speak translated”

  1. When I was a manager in the 1990s, job interviews were part of the territory. When I told a candidate, “We have others to interview and we will let you know,” it meant one of two things:

    “You’re a very strong candidate and you have presented yourself very well. You’ve made the short list. But I do, indeed, have other candidates to interview.” And even if I didn’t have any more interviews, I still had to consult with my colleagues, and there were other steps in the process, so I couldn’t simply tell a candidate that he won.

    …or, alternately…

    “You’re an arrogant asshole and you’re nowhere near qualified. But if I told that to your face, it would lead to a bad scene. So I’ll be diplomatic. Now go away.”

    Everyone else got, “Thank you for your time.”

    As far as a candidate’s age, in my limited time as a manager, I never made a really bad hiring decision. But the decisions that turned out least well were the times I let someone convince me to take the more experienced older candidate over the more energetic younger one. It’s true that an employer can’t discriminate on the basis of age, but it’s reasonable to select one candidate over another based on energy and attitude.

    This introvert/extrovert/teamwork thing is total twaddle. I was a subway conductor years ago. I could say that I had thousands of co-workers. Yet you faced the problems that came up on the railroad as an individual. In my present role, I ‘m a freelance engineering consultant, pretty much a one-man show. But much of what I do involves collaboration and teamwork with my clients and the project owners. They seem to be happy with my work, and they pay me.

  2. Strangely, rarely do I get “thank you for your time”. When I do those are usually short interviews where I know I didn’t get it. I mostly get the we have other candidates.I don’t think age has much to do with energy because I am just as energetic as a teen really, especially in warmer weather. I wouldn’t want to hire a bump on a log but would hire the best candidate regardless of age.

  3. Also, with the jobs I have been doing for years I rarely do anything with my coworkers. I have made up stories that I worked on their projects but in reality I did my own and they did theirs.

  4. “We will let you know either way.”

    Yah, as if they won’t call you if you DO get their job. Ha.

    I can name only one time something positive came from that comment – I got a second interview, but not the job.

    Other interviewspeak catchphrases, translated:

    “We will make our decision by Friday.”: “If I call you to tell you you didn’t get the job, It’ll be way after Friday.”

    “Energetic candidate needed”: “We need a candidate that can keep up with our daycare center of a company when the place gets hopping.”

    “Professional demeanor required”: “We will trust that you don’t break down and cry when things get bad here.”

    “Internet research required”: “Expect to spend hours on the net looking for useless information the boss wants. Usually it’s to find out when the next available tee time is at his golf club.”

    “Must have form of own transportation.”:”We are located in the middle of nowhere — it is deserted out here and scary as all heck to begin with and so scary that not one public bus will touch our area with a 10 foot pole.”

    “Strong telephone skills required”:”We get a lot of stupid clueless people who don’t know what they want when they call us; it is up to you to solve the mystery and keep your marbles while you’re at it.”

    “Experienced Secretary Needed”:”Welcome back to 1950. Now, get in that office, take dictation and serve me like a good little secretary does.”

    “Professional dress required”: “We expect you to dress like a 1% on a peon salary. Sorry, no clothing from Target, JCP, H&M or your local bargain store.”

    “Must be able to work under pressure”:”You will be stepped on, mistreated, sworn at like you’re a plebe, and in general be treated like dirt by everybody here.”

    “Must be a team player”: this is like seeing “attractive” in one of those dumb personal ads — this means they expect you not to rock the boat, speak up, come up with “good ideas” or complain about anything at all. ANd to do as you are told, even if they tell you to take an airborne propelled sexual relation at the lunar satellite.

    “Ensure smooth flow of organization of information”: “Take down a phone message and give it to whoever the call is for, if they can’t get to their phone.”

    “Maintain database of client information”:”Update the boss’ cell phone directory.”

    “High attention to detail”:”the boss forgets everything so you’d better remember everything.”

    “Located in North NJ.” “We don’t want to say where we are. We are peculiar that way.”


  5. All kidding aside, you used to be able to tell from the content of the interview whether you were in the running for the job or not.

    And it used to be that you were able to get a real reason for not getting the job. It was none of this “oh if we tell you can sue our asses” bullshit. Huh? If you tell me that I had less experience than the person who GOT the job, it’s admissible in a court of law? Sure, any court will be glad to be cluttered with a bullshit trial like that one.

    Do you all think we are a bunch of 4 year olds who can’t take it? TELL us why we did NOT get the job! This way we can remedy what is wrong or we can improve on what is deficient.

    “We have decided the job will be something a little different”? That means they are all set to throw something at you that is way outside your scope and expertise or that they plan on winging it and giving you something peon and very routine to do.

    Or maybe it means “We have no idea what it is you will be doing at all. We don’t know how to formulate a job description or even put down some basic guide rules.”

    It is also pretty much a kiss of death if an interviewer does not touch the topic of salary and benefits. If they are remotely interested in you, they should at least ask you “What salary are you looking at?” I cannot see how not discussing salary is positive; I cannot name a time where no salary was discussed and I got a job offer as a result of that interview. They’d offer you the job and NOT discuss the salary first or ask you what you’re looking at in the way of a salary? I don’t think they would.

    Then there’s the truly scary things:

    “We don’t know what the compensation will be yet.” This is unacceptable; budgeting the salary is the first thing a reputable department does.

    “We curse a lot around here but that’s when things get under pressure. So don’t pay us any mind.” Excuse me? Either you people are low class and trash or you think cussing at your people will speed up the work…which shows me there is something fatally wrong with the management dynamic, the work flow dynamic, the employees themselves or the bosses or all of the preceding. “They like to say ‘f” a lot…” Very good. This is classy indeed.

  6. Dude, good employer speak and I have come across most of this. I agree 100% about the salary because every job I either took or was offered all of them discussed salary upfront. A few asked my range and they said it was around that but none have ever not discussed it. Those were the jobs I never got a second interview.

    Interestingly almost all of the jobs that had long interviews or I got to a second or third interview were usually the ones who called me. I remember one in particular where the HR guy told me they were interested but the person had more experience. I looked it up and this person who got hired (a white woman like me)had about 10 years more experience. I was glad she got it over me because she was more qualified. All of the jobs that called me were all jobs where a more qualified person got the job. The jobs where a lesser qualified person got the job were ones where I either got an email rejection or no rejection at all and I found out someone got the job. Interestingly, a few of these companies where the more qualified person got the job called me for an interview for another job and in fact contacted me before I contacted them.

  7. I guess I am a prude in my old age…yeah, real good they say “f” a lot.

    And who wears professional dress 5 days a week these days? I can see that happening if it’s a very upscale and high end company — they won’t expect anything less than pricey attire. And there are still companies that do not permit ladies to wear pants, believe that or not.

  8. <p>More interviewspeak:</p>
    <p>”Must be able to multitask”: This is another “given.” They want to show you it’s “not” a dead-assed place to work. Or it could mean “We will give you too much to do so your only solution is to do everything at once.”</p>
    <p>”Must be able to work independently”: “Nobody will train you. You are on your own from Day One.”</p>
    <p>”Mandarin helpful”, “Hindi helpful” or “Vietnamese helpful”: “We buy our cheap crummy products from that country so when we get a slew of returns from our customers because the cheap products we purchased from them have broken/spoiled/gone bad and are unfixable/perishable and had to be thrown out, you will need to call these people overseas and give them hell in their native tongue.”</p>
    <p>It could also mean “This is NOT an American owned company so you’ll have to talk to the boss in his or her language since they don’t give a hoot enough to learn OURS!”</p>
    <p>”Self-starter; willing to complete tasks as identified, but before explicit assignment”: “MIND READER REQUIRED!”</p>
    <p>”Making yourself available to your peers to assist with overflow, special projects and day-to-day tasks”: “We are too cheap to hire more people so you will be doing the jobs of 2, 3, 4 or possibly 5 or more people.”</p>
    <p>These are honest to goodness job requirments that I am finding on CL…and you wonder why everything is such a mess in the employment field and so many people are out of work! It’s because of nonsensical “requirements” like these!</p>
    <p>If I want nonsense, I’ll go read “Jabberwocky” and try to figure out what it is saying.</p>
    <p>”Proven tact and good judgment in confidential situations”: heheHE…”When only the teacher’s pet is getting a raise, we want you to keep your damn mouth SHUT. Same goes for when we are trying to go behind an employee’s back and put an ad on line for that person’s job, because we want them out the door: Keep your damn mouth SHUT.”</p>
    <p>”We will relocate the chosen candidate, if needed.”: “In this moribund and deader than the frug economy we were not able to hire a body that lived within commuting distance.” Nothing screams DESPERADO more than the preceding line appearing in a help wanted ad!</p>
    <p>”Must be organized”: “The staff will lose an elephant in a elevator so you must keep track of where they put faxes, files, telephone messages, emails, presentations, their keys, their coat, their stuff, their Aunt Minnie, their shadow and anything they lay ther mitts on.”

  9. Dude, if I’m not mistaken (and I could be)there was a lawsuit a few years ago that said requiring women to wear dresses or skirts is discriminatory. I haven’t encountered that one and would turn down a job requiring me to wear dresses or skirts. I never wear them and it’s reasonable to say my next time wearing one will be at my wedding. Last time I wore a dress was at my grandma’s funeral last year and it’s because I wore my suit to the wake and being family I would be on display.

    I see “must speak Spanish” all the time and that seems to mean “we tend to hire illegals who can’t speak English so you must be able to speak to them”. I noticed this one especially in social service jobs and factories.

  10. And out here we are getting “Must speak Arabic” and pretty soon “Must speak Hebrew”!

    2 of the largest growing demographics in our area.

    Pretty soon it will be “English a plus.”

  11. Here’s another good one, from a phone interview:

    “Thank you. We will be getting all the names and resumes together and interviews will probably be next week…”

    This is another way of saying “I talked to you and it’s no.”

    “I will show your resume to the boss and if he is interested, I will call you in for another interview.” Another ole standby that means “not interested.”

    I have NEVER seen another interview set up after either one of these phrases-that-pay were uttered. It just means Goodbye and Thanks.

    And interviews are a crapshoot. They can keep you there 21/2 hours and it will still be no; this happened to me last winter — and the guy took about 3 weeks to get back to me to tell me it was no.

    Also meaning NO:

    We have other people to see
    We are still conducting interviews
    To be fair, i want to see everyone else
    When can you start
    I will show this info to my partner(s) and they will decide who to call in for the interviews
    We will be deciding who to hire by what is on the apps

    And they go as far as saying “You’ll be sharing an office with me” “You’ll be working over here” “You’ll fit right in with the crowd here” — stop this positively insane MESS and be a man or woman and say “Thanks but we are looking for another type of candidate. Thank you for your time” and then show the person the door.

  12. I too have had phone interviews where they said a variation of “we are calling people next week to come in” and rarely if ever are they going to call me. When they do call me for an in person interview they always say when they will call me back.

  13. And if it is a small company and the owner or president is interviewing you — or for that matter, if it is a schlub who is in sole command of hiring — IF they want you that badly they will hire you on the spot.

    That is how I have gotten all of my job offers: on the spot or by the very latest, before the evening is over. I’ve gotten phone calls at home at 10pm with job offers from hiring managers.

  14. Today I got a call for another job and he asked me if I was open to either part time or full time and I said either and he said good. Translation: “this job is part time, no benefits”.

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