Common Job Description Buzzwords and What They Really Mean

If you read through a few job descriptions, for varying roles or industries, chances are you’ll come across a handful of the same terms and phrases. That’s because, just like their resumé counterparts, job descriptions often rely on buzzwords. Phrases like “detail-oriented,” “team player,” and “results-oriented” are common job description buzzwords you will come across, regardless of which job the listing is for.

So how do you know what the employer is looking for? How do you match your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile to that specific employer? Let’s take a look at five of the most common job description buzzwords and discuss what they really mean.


Although it’s the king of the hill when it comes to job description buzzwords, the term “results-oriented” actually has a real meaning. For most companies, it means “We aren’t the kind of organization that talks about how many hours we put in. We care about performance and expect results.”

To demonstrate you are results-oriented, without simply adding those words to your resume, demonstrate performance through quantified impact statements like, “Exceeded quota by 132 percent in 2014 and 2015.”

Team Player

“Team player” is a throwaway job description buzzword from the 1970s. And yet, in today’s global economy, the phrase has many meanings depending on the culture of the company. In smaller firms and startups, it could mean “We want an all-hands-on-deck mindset” versus “Sorry, that’s not my job.” In more established organizations, it typically means “We want someone who is willing to collaborate.”

So while it may vary depending on the type of job you are applying for, you can demonstrate that you’re a team player with examples of your ability to work within a team or take on additional responsibilities. This could include major projects you worked on with others, ways you improved efficiency or process for your team, or examples of responsibilities you took on outside of your job description.

RELATED: How Subpar Job Postings are Sabotaging Your Recruiting

Before the job description buzzwords comes the job title. Understanding what makes a strong job title, and how it relates to candidate experience, is an important aspect of the recruitment process.

Detail Oriented

In the Industrial Age, “detail-oriented” became code for “do your job the same way every time … exactly as I showed you how.” Now that we’re in the Social Age, it’s a job description buzzword that—in many organizations—often means something much different. Perhaps the employer is looking for someone who can cite an important data point everyone might have missed. Or it could mean we want that rare active listener; someone who might catch a nuance that could change how we handle a customer issue or approach a campaign.

To emphasize your ability to pay attention to details, no matter how insignificant they might seem, point to a time when your laser focus gave your team and company a competitive advantage.

Good Communication Skills

When a company throws this job description buzzword at you, it’s best to skip to the “responsibilities” section of the job description. True: every employer wants someone who can read and write well. But a warehouse worker is going to need a much different set of communication skills than a customer-facing account manager.

For most companies today, “good communication skills” means something much more relevant in the business world. Specifically, will you speak in a meeting for seven minutes straight without taking a breath? Or, will you write a 1,000-word essay when three sentences would do? In the corporate world, speaking and writing concisely is king.

One more note on this cliché: the recruiter or hiring manager, from the first email they open from you and the first conversation they have with you, will know if you have good communication skills or not. Make a great first impression—in your resume, cover letter and online presence—by communicating clearly and concisely (and without using buzzwords and clichés).

Works Independently

This job description buzzword used to mean, “We will not hold your hand … here’s the technical manual … good luck!” In our post-recession workplace, however, organizations try to do more with less. Fewer managers. Fewer rules. Less process. Besides the cost-cutting benefits of this approach, there are other positives such as more autonomy, fewer layers of approval required to move an idea forward, and being recognized for coming up with that next great idea.

To show you work independently (“self-starter” is another job description buzzword that describes this), demonstrate you work well without supervision, micromanagers and control freaks (okay, maybe you shouldn’t mention those last two management types). Show you have a history of taking initiative. Most importantly, show how your ideas directly benefited your company, its employees or customers.

As you can see, these job description buzzwords and clichés really do have meaning, and it’s up to you to know enough about the role and the culture of the company to do a bit of decoding. By providing concrete examples taken from your past experiences, you can demonstrate you fill the needs of the company without simply stating the buzzwords on your resumé or in your cover letter.

Get this right, and you’ll quickly be seen as a results-driven team player with an eye for detail who can communicate with all levels of management without the need for constant supervision.

Ready for a demo of PandoLogic’s programmatic recruitment software?

Mark Babbitt is the CEO and Founder of YouTern, a blogger, a “Top 100 Leadership Speaker” (Inc.) and co-author of A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.

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