The 20 Most Misunderstood Keywords in Job Hunting

resume wiz resume tips

One of the biggest challenges we see with our candidates is not their lack of experience, or not knowing how to write a resume, but how they misunderstand some of the keywords used by recruiters, hiring managers, and job postings.
Like with every industry, the recruiting world has a list of buzz words that candidates MUST familiarise themselves with in order to write a better resume and to perform better during a job interview.
So here in alphabetical order, are the 20 of some of the most common buzzwords job candidates must learn.


resume wiz resume tips

These are the achievements you have had in your career.  These key points really help sell you to an employer.  In your cover letters, resumes, and job interviews, focus on key career accomplishments — especially ones that you can quantify.

Action Verbs:

These are the foundational words of an effective cover letter and resume. These concrete, descriptive verbs express your skills, assets, experience, and accomplishments.  Unlike non-descriptive verbs such as “do,” “work,” and forms of the verb “to be.” Instead, begin each descriptive section with an action verb.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS):

resume wiz resume tips

If you read any of our blogs or articles you know we use this term A LOT. Used by major employers to collect, store job candidate data, and screen resumes from potential job candidates. Job-seekers, to be successful (and get invited to job interviews), must learn how to develop resumes that are ATS-friendly. Developing an ATS-friendly resume is essential for job-seekers.

Career Activist:

Not enough candidates have this word in their vocabulary or use it during a job interview, but you should! It’s someone proactive in planning, evaluating, directing, and controlling his or her career rather than simply reacting as situations arise.  A career activist has an enduring interest in understanding and achieving his or her full career potential while maximizing career marketability.

Career Change:

Changing your occupation by devising a strategy to find new career choices. Most experts now predict that the average person will change careers three to five times throughout his or her work life. Change may occur because you don’t enjoy the work as much as you used to. Or maybe you can’t progress further in your career.

Career Coach:

Also called career consultant, career adviser, work-life coach, personal career trainer, and life management facilitator. These professionals have been likened to personal trainers for your life/career, serving the role as your champion, cheerleader, advocate, mentor, partner, and sounding board on all issues related to your job or career search.

Career Objective (Job Objective):

This is not as common as it used to be a decade ago. An optional part of your resume, but something you should contemplate whether you place it on your resume or not.  A recent trend has focused on “resume focal point”.

Career Vision Statement:

This is something you should prepare for when interviewing for a professional career.  It is a set of career goals that job-seeker sets for the long-term, typically five years or more. The purpose of a career vision statement is to give you a clear direction for the future.

Chronological Resume:

By far, the most popular resume format,  this lists your work history in order of date, with the most recent position at the top.

Compensation Package:

The combination of salary and fringe benefits an employer provides to an employee. When evaluating competing job offers, a job-seeker should consider the total package and not just salary.

Cover Letter:

Not as common as a few years ago. A good cover letter opens a window to your personality (and describes specific strengths and skills you offer the employer). It should entice the employer to read your resume

Curriculum Vitae (CV):

Not as common in North America, a CV presents a full history of your career or academic credentials, so the length of the document can be as long as 4-5 pages. Although a lot of candidates do this, the terms CV and resume should not be used interchangeably.

Degrees & Certifications:

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Recognition bestowed on students upon completion of a unified program of study, including high school, trade schools, colleges and universities, and other agencies.

Employment Gaps:

Are those periods between jobs when job-seekers are unemployed, either by choice or circumstances. Employers do not like seeing unexplained gaps on resumes, and there are numerous strategies for reducing the impact of these gaps on your future job-hunting.

Freelancer or Contractor:

Where you work for yourself and bid for temporary jobs and projects with one or more employers. Freelancing is not an alternative to hard work, but many people enjoy the freedom, flexibility, and satisfaction of working for themselves.

Informational Interviewing:

Not as common as they once were, but a great way to get your foot in the door with your dream companies. It’s the process of spending time with one of your network contacts in a highly focused conversation that provides you with key information you need to launch or boost your career. There is no obligation for either side to hire or be hired by the company.

Job-Hunting Etiquette:

Some certain rules or protocols should guide job-seekers conduct while job-hunting. Some people call these rules good manners but more refer to them as business etiquette.

Job Skills Portfolio:

Also referred to as a Career Portfolio, a job-hunting tool a job-seeker develops to give employers a complete picture of who you are, including samples of your work, your experience, your education, your accomplishments, your skill sets.

Target Company List:

A list of companies, for which a job seeker is interested in working, which he or she compiles. This is often done for bigger companies that may have frequent job openings and this target list allows the job seeker to stay on top of the activities of that company.

Personal Reference:

Unlike a professional reference that may include your current or previous employers, a personal reference is someone (ideally with a professional designation) that can “vouch” for a job candidate. Personal references are often used by those new to the workforce as a way to supplement (or in absence) of a professional reference.

If you have come across a term you are not familiar with we would LOVE to know what it is — simply email it to us and we can add it to subsequent articles.