Careers Advice

Decoding Job Descriptions

Feeling frustrated trying to understand job descriptions? Use our handy jargon buster to help you out.

Published: 25/06/2019

SME = Small and Medium-sized Enterprise: these are organisations which employ fewer than 250 people.

Per Annum (P.A.) = per year: Most vacancies will use this term to describe your salary. It means your role is salaried and will be paid in monthly instalments. If the placement is shorter than 12 months, the salary will be calculated on a pro rata basis.

Pro rata = according to the contract length: If you are applying to a 6-month contract for example, your salary and other benefits like annual leave will be calculated accordingly.  

DoE = Dependent on Experience: This term is often used to demonstrate that the company may consider a higher salary or other benefits for candidates with more experience.

Navigating a maze

How about in the skills and experiences section? What are employers looking for? First things first, don’t look at the skills list in isolation. Review it with the placement brief and job description to understand why those skills are relevant to the role you’re applying to. Every skill is important in the description, so try your best to address it. If you don’t have the skill, demonstrate your willingness to learn and openness to training. If it’s a current weakness, explain the steps you’re taking to address it.

Attention to detail = free from errors: Employers regularly use this wording to ensure they receive applications from candidates who can submit accurate work. The easiest way to demonstrate this skill is to submit a CV/application free from spelling and grammatical errors.

Flexible = able to adapt to situations as and when they arise: This is a common phrase at workplaces that need to alter to meet changing demands. You may need to work outside your normal hours, travel somewhere other than your usual workplace, or be able to cover a colleague’s work if they call in sick. Flexible can be used in conjunction with ‘dynamic’ which usually means a positive, confident approach, i.e. to willingly take on new tasks and challenges. Use examples which focus on when you’ve successfully changed your approach to deal with a challenge, or when you failed and took positive lessons to use in the future.

Driven = hardworking, ambitious, motivated, able to apply yourself to a task: Use the rest of the job description to understand what each company means by this word. Employers need dedicated staff who can get the job done, potentially under tight time constraints or under challenging conditions. You can demonstrate your commitment to completing a task by offering evidence of your approach to motivating yourself and others to achieve project outcomes, complete coursework, engage actively in group activities, complete awards, or achieve sports goals.

Team player = understanding your strengths in a team and appreciating those of others: Candidates often wrongly assume that they can demonstrate this skill by stating that they have worked on group projects. What the employer wants to know is how you support your colleagues, value their opinion while introducing your own, collaborate, cooperate with colleagues with a different point of view, and find solutions and compromises. Use examples where there was a challenge to overcome, you achieved team goals by recognising your team’s strengths, or you made a concerted effort to support a team member.

These are just a few of the commonly used words and phrases; make sure you do your research and understand what the employer means before submitting your applications.

Find current vacancies on our graduate placements page.