Justine Brooks
Friday, April 23, 2021
5 min read

Decoding & Understanding Job Adverts

Sometimes it feels as though a job advert really looks like it’s written in English, but is actually written in a secret language of its own. As a jobhunter, this can truly twist your mind. Statements that may sound positive can actually be euphemisms for a tiresome requirement or an unhealthy company culture. In other cases, attractive phrases can just be thrown in to attract as many candidates as possible. Fret no more, jobseeker – we’re here to help you navigate a tricky job ad!


What’s in a name?

In a world where you can name a job literally anything, job titles are sometimes chosen for their desirability rather than their accuracy. Therefore, it’s always a great idea to have a close read of the job description to understand exactly what your daily responsibilities would be!

For example, employers and recruiters are well aware that graduates tend to gravitate towards marketing roles like moths to a flame. Many proclaimed “marketing” opportunities are just sales roles dressed up pretty to turn some graduate heads. Before chasing a dreamy job spec, first investigate whether it’s too good to be true to avoid heartbreak.

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Work hard, play hard

“Work hard, play hard” is more than just a David Guetta lyric; it is the zealous philosophy of countless fast-paced, high-intensity workplaces. 

Some professionals thrive while living life like Speedy Gonzales, and many companies manage to achieve an enjoyable work culture with this attitude.

However, this phrase could be an indicator of employees’ need to “play hard” just to survive the horrors of the company’s intense day-to-day grind.

In other cases, only half of “work hard, play hard” is a reality – and it’s not the fun half. You may need to keep numerous plates spinning simultaneously, maintain a poised exterior and somehow manage to go the extra mile while you’re at it – and the “play hard” is an awkward boozy lunch with the team once a month. Not ideal!



The request of “flexibility” truly is a wild ride. Will you be buying your boss’s dog food? Will you be working on a Saturday? Who knows! Without further investigation, it truly is a mystery.

By requesting a very flexible candidate, a company might be covering themselves; it allows them to assign ad hoc work that suits their (and perhaps only their) schedule. A truly “flexible” candidate will bend like Elastigirl to work after 5pm and on weekends whenever needed.

If you appreciate a consistent schedule, this may not be the role for you. But, if you’re the spontaneous type who enjoys life with a bit of spice and variation, this could be your element!

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Self-proclaimed diversity and inclusion

They say they value inclusivity – great news! But, even better news would be evidence of a robust D&I strategy to back this claim up. It’s all very well and good slapping an ‘inclusive’ sticker on the company’s description, but what does this mean without evidence it’s a practiced ethos? The answer may be… not a lot.

If they do have a strategy, is it only for the lowest-paid workers? If the bottom tier of a company is merrily diverse yet their senior suite is reserved only for the privileged few, the value of inclusivity may not run as deeply in the company as claimed.


Perks galore

Arguably the most fun aspect of a job ad is browsing the position’s perks and falling into a delicious daydream about the many luxurious possibilities… until you realise something is a little off.

Sometimes, these “perks” are just a list of basic workers’ rights repackaged to look like additional features. The spec may boast of generous holiday allowances yet offer the legal minimum of 28 days. While you’re at it, perhaps also be wary of ‘unlimited holidays’; this may sound like a treat, but the employer could just be banking on you taking less holiday by removing the target!

Equally as unglamorous are those “perks” that are simple by-products of performing the role. If the position requires communicating and meeting new people, the long list of perks may be ‘networking opportunities’ phrased in eight different ways.

Of course, not every position comes with glamour and glitz, and that’s fine! This could have zero impact on your enjoyment of the role. But, if perks are highly important to you, perhaps approach the benefits list with a sceptical eye.

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Proceed with care

It's not all doom and gloom – job ads aren’t necessarily trying to catch you out.

But remember, it’s an advert by nature; it seeks the attention of candidates. Just as you also might be doing with yourself and your CV, the company is putting their best foot forward.

The more practice you have, the more accustomed you will become to reading between the lines. If you’re unsure of anything, you can always find a way to clarify it during the interview! Remember, your needs are important too and there’s no shame in asking.

Best of luck, jobhunters!

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