Truth in IT job postings: What those want ads really mean

Make no mistake about it: There's a massive difference between what employers say and what they actually mean

Ben Barbante

Truth in IT job postings: What those want ads really mean

Job postings are kind of like online dating profiles: They give you broad overviews, sure, but much of what they say should be taken with a grain of salt. Just like daters who describe themselves as "curvy" or "young at heart," employers love using euphemisms to make reality seem a bit rosier than it actually is.

IT companies in particular are notorious for playing word games in their many job postings. Not to fear, though: The code is easy to crack. And we've done the dirty work for you.

Click through the following translations to see some of our favorite euphemisms from IT job postings -- and what those phrases really mean.

Ben Barbante

"Team player"

What they say: "Team player wanted"

What they mean: "Looking for a warm body willing to shut up and listen to the ideas of people who like to talk more than think."

If this has never occurred to you, you're either (a) in the rare workplace where every employee is brilliant or (b) the one whose ideas are making everyone else groan.

Think about it.

Ben Barbante

"Energetic applicants"

What they say: "Excited and energetic applicants"

What they mean: "No one over 30 need apply."

See also "Work hard, play hard" and "Ready to rock out on the company ping-pong table between projects."

Ben Barbante

"Innovative environment"

What they say: "Innovative environment"

What they mean: "A dimly lit cubicle" -- or "We create half-baked solutions on a shoestring and expect you to be the one who sweats the small stuff."

But hey, you should see the ping-pong table! Now quit yer complainin' and start innovatin', would ya?

Ben Barbante

"Identify strategic opportunities"

What they say: "Identify strategic opportunities"

What they mean: "Show us how to make additional profits (which will we not pass along to you)" -- or "We're out of ideas here. Got any?"

If you're lucky, you might get a company mug at the annual holiday party -- but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Ben Barbante


What they say: "On-your-feet problem-solving skills required"

What they mean: "You'd better know what to do when everything crashes (which will happen at least once a week)."

Did they mention how rarely they replace sorely dated hardware?

Ben Barbante

"On time and on budget"

What they say: "Be able to achieve project objectives on time and on budget"

What they mean: "Be able to make stuff happen immediately with little to no budget."

Just wait till you see the list of requests for PC upgrades and new mobile devices. You can get all of that accomplished with a closet full of old spare parts, can't you?

Ben Barbante

"Long-term opportunity"

What they say: "Long-term, career-making opportunity"

What they mean: "If you kiss the right rears, you might get a minor promotion in 10 years."

And boy howdy, will it include one sweet incremental pay raise.

Ben Barbante

"Dynamic 24/7 environment"

What they say: "Dynamic 24/7 environment"

What they mean: "You will be expected to work nights and weekends with little to no extra incentive."

The same goes for "Can’t sleep until a problem is solved" and "Overtime and after-hours support as needed." Oh, and hope you don't value your free time too much: You'll be expected to answer support calls and test new technologies from home, too (that's what it means to be "passionate" about your profession, you know).

Ben Barbante

"Ability to communicate"

What they say: "Ability to communicate technical issues to nontechnical people"

What they mean: "You're going to get endless requests from rude ignorami -- and you'd better know how to handle them with a smile on your face."

Seriously -- have you heard the kinds of things the help desk has to put up with?

Ben Barbante

"Detailed reports"

What they say: "Experience preparing and writing detailed reports based on analysis"

What they mean: "You will waste hours upon hours preparing long, pointless documents that we will shelve because we believe only our own gut instincts."

Speaking of which, did you get the memo? We're now putting cover sheets on all of our TPS reports.

Ben Barbante

"Very little supervision"

What they say: "With very little supervision"

What they mean: "You will never see your superiors except when they need something from you" -- or "You will be our entire IT department."

It is an open-door policy; just don't expect the open door to result in much more than a blank stare and fresh pile of busywork.

Ben Barbante

"Understand your role"

What they say: "Understand the role that IT support plays in the organization"

What they mean: "Understand that your job is to make the impossible happen on a daily basis."

But at the end of the day, you'll feel good about what you've accomplished. One can only hope, right?

Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or tales from the trenches. Send your story to If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.