Decoding HR talk: Things employers say and what they really mean

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Decoding HR talk: Things employers say and what they really mean

There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up and then having those dreams dashed when it turns out you had completely misread the signals. It’s a difficult line to draw for the recruiters and employers: being honest without being discouraging. Breaking bad news is never a pleasant thing to do, which is why most of us prefer to stay positive as much as possible.  

That said, how does one manage one’s expectations so as to avoid unnecessary disappointments? For starters, you can learn to decode the HR talk and read between the lines so you can better prepare yourself for what’s coming. 

Here are a few common things employers say and what they really mean: 

1.What does it mean when an employer says, ‘You’re the perfect candidate for the job, but we have yet to complete our interview process.’?

What it means: 

Simply put, you’re not their top choice for the job, but they’re keeping you on the shortlist in case their first pick doesn’t pan out. It’s the employer’s way of buying time and keeping the door open so you won’t commit to another job offer in the hopes that they will ultimately offer you the job. 

What you should do: 

Take it with a pinch of salt. Nothing’s a done deal until you’ve signed on the dotted line. Keep up the job hunt. If you do get a promising job offer in the meantime, you can update the first employer and give them a chance to make a counteroffer.  

2.What does it mean when an employer says, ‘We’ll be in touch soon.’?

What it means: 

The employer is telling you what you want to hear. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. If they do get in touch within a few days, great, but if not, don’t lose sleep over it. Easier said than done, but people say a lot of things they don’t mean just to be nice. 

What you should do: 

Give them a week to get back to you. If you haven’t heard by then, take the initiative to follow up. The best way to cope with the wait is to keep yourself busy and to keep applying for other jobs and attending interviews until you get an official offer. 

3.What does it mean when an employer says, ‘You’re overqualified for the job.’

What it means: 

You might be perceived by the employer as being unfocused and lacking in direction or passion. This could be due to an erratic work history, having qualifications in varied fields and a generally unfocused resume. 

What you should do: 

The rule of thumb when applying for jobs is to always ensure that your resume is crafted to reflect your experience and skills in relation to the job in question. Contrary to the misconception that ‘more is better,’ it’s imperative that every bit of information on your resume conveys a clear passion, enthusiasm, and commitment towards that particular profession. Everything else is irrelevant and will only be a distraction. 

4.What does it mean when an employer says, ‘We’re in the midst offinalising the details of the position.’?

What it means: 

There are a few ways to interpret this. It could be a simple statement of fact: that the employer is in the midst of ironing out the full job scope. Alternatively, it could mean that there have been changes to the role, or a change in budgetary allocation. Whatever it is, it would be wiser to err on the side of caution.  

What you should do: 

Prepare yourself for the eventuality that the position is no longer available. However well your interview went, things can change at a moment’s notice. If you get a heads-up that there is uncertainty pertaining to the role, it’s best to carry on with your job hunt until you hear otherwise. It’s always best to prepare yourself for the worst case scenario to save yourself the disappointment. 

Until and unless you have signed an employment contract or formally accepted a job offer, nothing is set in stone. Even after then, things can still change. We can’t foresee what the future brings, but we can prepare for unforeseen circumstances by managing our expectations. 

image source:123RF


Further reading:

Looking for CV sample? Find here !

The 6 resume writing tips you need to hear now

Be careful where you apply to. Here are some online job hunting tips for you

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