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Job Listings: What They Really Mean

7 want-ad terms you need to know to get that dream offer

This might also imply a greater time commitment. "An entrepreneurial company probably works long hours," says Bill Peppler, managing partner at Kavaliro, a national staffing agency. "It's more of a lifestyle, not just a job. You're always on the clock, you never know when you'll meet opportunity."

4. "Effective at influencing at all levels"

This could mean you'll need to be good at winning over people who outrank you in the organization and people who are below you. Expect that office politics will be a big part of this job.

HR people sometimes use another bit of favorite jargon to define this one, "manage up" and "manage down."

5. "An active external learner"

"External" tends to mean outside the specific duties of the job and workplace, such as at seminars, trade shows or a local college. It can be particularly important for job hunters age 50 and over to demonstrate that they're "active learners," able to acquire new skills and not just continue to do things the old way.

6. "Deliver sustainable disruptive value"

Many companies like to describe their technology as disruptive — it's so new and innovative that it disrupts the market, the established way of doing things. So they're of course looking for people who like to overturn the old ways. "Sustainable," another favorite word in HR circles, means that the "value" will stick around.

7. "5 years progressive experience in a significant leadership position"

"Progressive" in this context has nothing to do with political views, but implies a career that's been smoothly trending upward.

Notice that the seniority of the advertised position is not specified. Simmons interprets it as meaning someone at a level to have profit-and-loss responsibility for a department. Leslie Hawkins, human resources director at Realty in Motion, a company in Bellevue, Wash., suggests that the company is looking for someone who's been a vice president or who has run a division, as opposed to a small team of five people.

For better or worse, you need to understand these terms and take them seriously when you apply. Lots of reputable companies use them.

Then there's job posting language that companies might have been better off leaving out, because they send up red flags for applicants: stay away.

Take the phrase 'Must be comfortable with ambiguity,'" Simmons says. "It can suggest the company really doesn't know what it's doing."

You may also like: 6 responses to use if you sense discrimination.

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