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How to Read Between the Lines of Job Descriptions

What terms like 'Excellent Salary' and 'Team Player' really mean

By Jill Jacinto and AOL Jobs

(This article appeared previously on

When you are applying for a job, keep in mind that you aren't the only one who is sprucing up your resumé and cover letter lingo to help sell yourself. Job descriptions are written with the same type of intent. You never know what kind of environment you'll be stepping into, but carefully decoding job descriptions can help pull back the uncertain layers. Here are five terms you may run into and what they mean:


1. “Self-Motivated Team Player”

You need to expect that this work environment will not give you a lot of direction, hence the “self-starter” request. Creating work for yourself without an agenda from a supervisor is expected. When you do “play with the team,” you'll be expected to contribute ideas and work with different types of personalities. It also means that you'll do as the boss says and work on projects across the company as needed.

(MORE: Why So Many Job Postings Are So Ridiculous)


2. “Excellent Salary”

This is an advertising tactic to get potential hires to apply. “Excellent salary” means different things to different people. Some people think 70K is excellent, while others believe 150K is excellent. Traditionally, salary is discussed after an offer is made. The employer believes they've sold you on a great job, even if the true salary might come up short on your end.


3. “Good sense of humor required” 

This office resembles a fraternity which includes an environment where foul language, eating contests and practical jokes are welcome. It is also code that they don't take the work that they're doing too seriously, which might mean that they won't take you seriously. You need to be comfortable working in a very relaxed environment where people might be playing flip cup while you're working on a deadline. In order to be accepted you'll need to be a team player and participate in an a pizza-eating contest or two.


(MORE: 12 Ways to Get Your Resume Seen)


4. “Must have a 'no job is too small' attitude” 

In my first job, this meant that I spent Saturday nights lugging heavy metal objects to company events. Other times, this will mean you'll be expected to pull an all-nighter to finish a PowerPoint deck, or maybe come in a half-hour early a few times a month to prep for a meeting. It also means that you can virtually never utter the phrase “that's not my job,” because it's been spelled out in the job description that you are up for every task (unless it is illegal or immoral, of course). Otherwise, this boss will expect you to shut your mouth and do the job.


5. “Extremely organized” 

Jill Jacinto is an AOL Jobs contributor and Associate Director of Editorial & Communications for WORKS by Nicole Williams, a career website for professional women.

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