NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you spend enough time searching for jobs, all the postings start to blur together thanks in part to the common phrases that seem to pop up in every listing.
The precise qualifications and responsibilities may change from one posting to the next, but the wording tends to be similar. Every recruiter seems to be looking for a “self-starter” or a “team player,” someone with “good communication skills” who is “results oriented.” There’s just one problem: What does any of that actually mean? And how much do you need to address it in your application?
“Sometimes the things listed on the posting are just stream of consciousness,” says Anita Attridge, a former human resources manager at companies including Xerox and Merck who now works as a career coach with the Five O’Clock Club. For some postings, “being organized” may be a throwaway term, for others it may be the key requirement to landing the job. “What you want to do is look at the job itself – the job description – and based upon that think about what would be most important in that particular job.”
According to Attridge, there’s a good chance you will end up addressing many of these generic phrases in other ways on your application and in the course of the interview. For example, if “punctuality” were one of the words, just responding promptly to emails from the hiring manager and showing up on time for the interview would be enough to prove that you are a punctual person. But some buzzwords and phrases may need to be addressed more explicitly.
MainStreet picked out a list of common buzzwords based on suggestions from recruiting experts and data from LinkedIn on the most common terms that appear in job postings. Here’s a breakdown of what those terms mean and how to address them in your application.
“Results oriented” is a stiff phrase that simply means the candidate should have a history of accomplishments and innovations in their career, even if these accomplishments are as simple as finding a way to do a task that shaves off an hour of work time each week. Rather than explicitly state in your resume or cover letter that you are results oriented, Attridge recommends sprinkling examples throughout your resume.
“The biggest mistake that people make on their resumes is that they stick to writing about their responsibilities and not the results,” she says. Rather than use up space on your resume defining your job duties, she urges candidates to talk about how they helped the business.
“Team player” is the recruiter’s polite way of saying they want someone who knows how to play well with others and “check their ego at the door,” according to Bruce Hurwitz, a career counselor and president of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.
If it’s clearly a position where teamwork would be a key part of the job, Hurwitz suggests referencing some of the teams you’ve been a part of and what you accomplished in those teams on your resume and in the course of the interview. It’s generally a good idea to show that you have experience as a participant on a team and as the leader or go-to person for a team.
Good Communication Skills
At its most basic level, the phrase “communication skills” just means the company wants someone who can read and write well – a point that you’ll likely demonstrate with the quality of writing in your cover letter and the way you handle yourself in the course of the job interview. Beyond that, Attridge says the phrase is also a way for recruiters to make sure the candidate has experience communicating with co-workers to facilitate various projects. To address this latter point, she recommends adding a line to your resume or cover letter saying you have a “proven ability to deal with people at all levels of the organization.”