The definitive source for learning about career, job-hunting, and employment terms — from your team at Quintessential Careers.
This glossary of job, career, and employment terms is designed to give job-seekers a quick definition — and then provide links where you can find more details, samples, and much more information. If you’re looking for a a job-hunting, employment-related, or career term that is not listed in the Job-Seeker’s Glossary, please contact us.
Have questions about college lingo or other terminology? Check out our High School College-Bound and College Planning Glossary of Terms.
Accomplishments — These are the achievements you have had in your career — including work, job, and life successes. These key points really help sell you to an employer — much more so than everyday job duties or responsibilities. In your cover letters, resumes, and job interviews, focus on key career accomplishments — especially ones that you can quantify.
Action Verbs — The building blocks of effective cover letters and resumes. These concrete, descriptive verbs express your skills, assets, experience, and accomplishments. Avoid nondescriptive verbs such as “do,” “work,” and forms of the verb “to be.” Instead, begin each descriptive section with an action verb. Almost every resume book has a list of great action verbs to choose from. Read more.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) — Used by major employers to collect, store job candidate data — and screen resumes from potential job candidates. Job-seekers, in order to be successful (and get invited to job interviews), must learn how to develop resumes that are ATS-friendly. While employers embrace the benefits of ATS, many job-seekers feel as though their resumes get submitted into a “ATS black hole” from which their resume is never seen again. Developing an ATS-friendly resume is essential for job-seekers.
Assessments — These tests ask you a series of questions and try to provide you with some sense of your personality and career interests. You shouldn’t rely on the results of these tests by themselves, but the results can be a good starting point for discovering more about yourself and your interests and considering careers you may not have thought of.
Baby Boomer Job-Seeker/Worker — The generation of people born between 1946 and 1964 — and about 78 million strong. The group of workers and job-seekers are now nearing the peak of employment and earning potential, with many attempting major career changes — referred to as recareering — or retiring from a stressful (or despised) corporate job and moving finally rediscover their career passion. Also referred to as Third Agers.
Background Check — Used by employers to verify the accuracy of the information you provide on your resume or job application — and beyond. On the rise as prices fall on these services. Items checked include: employment verification, educational background/degrees, references, credit history, medical records, driving record, court records, criminal records, and more.
Behavioral Interview — See Job Interviewing.
Benefits — An important part of your compensation package, and part of the salary negotiation process. Note that every employer offers a different mix of benefits. These benefits may include paid vacations, company holidays, personal days, sick leave, life insurance, medical insurance, retirement and pension plans, tuition assistance, child care, stock options, and more. Can be worth anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of your salary. See also Compensation Package and Salary. Read more.
Birkman Method — A 298-question personality assessment and a series of related report sets that facilitate team building, executive coaching leadership development, career counseling and interpersonal conflict resolution. The Birkman Method™ combines motivational, behavioral and interest evaluation into one single assessment, which provides a multi-dimensional and comprehensive analysis, thus reducing the need for multiple assessments. See also Assessments. Find assessments using this method.
Branding — See Career Branding.
Branding Statement — A punchy “ad-like” statement placed at the top of a job-seeker’s resume that tells immediately what he/she can bring to an employer. Your branding statement should sum up your value proposition, encapsulate your reputation, showcase what sets you apart from other job-seekers, and describe the added value you bring to a situation. Think of it as a one-sentence sales pitch that entices the hiring manager to read more of your resume. Read more. See also, Career Branding.
Business Plan — A complete overview for a busines, from development of a vision and mission of the business to the setting of business goals to the reasons why organization (or person) is in business to the detailed plan for reaching those goals. A business plan may also contain background information about the organization and management team attempting to start and run the business. Detailed analysis and information about the product or service, marketing and branding strategies, and key competiton should all be included. Business planning should include both short-term (1-year) and long-term (3-5 years) goals and plans.
Career Activist — Someone who is proactive in planning, evaluating, directing, and controlling his or her career rather than simply reacting as situations arise. (Some call this approach career mapping.) A career activist has an enduring interest in understanding and achieving his or her full career potential, while maximizing career marketability.
Career Assessment — See Assessments.
Career Branding — Helps define who you are, how you are great, and why you should be sought out. Branding is your reputation; branding is a promise of your value to an employer. Branding is about building a name for yourself, showcasing what sets you apart from other job-seekers, and describing the added value you bring to an employer.
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 over the course of 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 Exploration — The process of finding a rewarding career path, as well as specific jobs within a particular career path. Think of career exploration and planning as building bridges from your current job/career to your next job/career. People of all ages — from teens trying to explore careers for the first time to mature workers seeking to find a new career for recareering — use various methods of career exploration to help uncover careers that offer fulfillment.
Career Fair — There are many types of job and career fairs — from those scheduled during Spring Break for college students to industry-specific fairs for professionals — but they all have a common theme: a chance for a company to meet and screen a large volume of potential job candidates while simultaneously an opportunity for job-seekers to meet and screen a large number of employers. Read more.
Career Objective/Job Objective — An optional part of your resume, but something you should contemplate whether you place it on your resume or not. While once very common, it has now fallen from favor. While it can help sharpen the focus of your resume, most job-seekers never did so, using vague language. Objectives have been replaced by other resume devices — see Resume Focal Point.
Career Passion — One of the most important elements of personal happiness is being passionate about your career and your job. If you no longer have — or never have had — personal and professional fulfillment from your job, there is always time to discover a career for which you do have passion.
Career Planning — The continuous process of evaluating your current lifestyle, likes/dislikes, passions, skills, personality, dream job, and current job and career path and making corrections and improvements to better prepare for future steps in your career, as needed, or to make a career change. Or, here for Career Planning Tips.
Career Portfolio — See Job Skills Portfolio.
Career Research — See Career Exploration.
Career Vision Statement — A set of career goals that a 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; it is a vision that has been committed to paper to guide you in making future choices. Read more.
Case Interview — See Job Interviewing.
Chronological Resume — See Resume.
Cold Call — When a job-seeker approaches an employer (usually through an uninvited cover letter) who has not publicly announced any job openings. See hidden job market and cover letters. See also cover letters.
Company Research — See Researching Companies.
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. See also Salary and Benefits. Read more.
Contract Employee — Where you work for one organization (and its salary and benefit structure) that sells your services to another company on a project or time basis. Compare to freelancer.
Corporate Culture — The collection of beliefs, expectations, and values shared by an organization’s members and transmitted from one generation of employees to another. The culture sets norms (rules of conduct) that define acceptable behavior of employees of the organization. It’s important for job-seekers to understand the culture of an organization before accepting a job.
Counter Offer/Counter Proposal — A salary negotiation technique used by job-seekers when a job offer is not at an acceptable level. Almost all elements of a job offer are negotiable, including the salary, non-salary compensation, moving expenses, benefits, and job-specific issues. Read more.
Cover Letter — Should always accompany your resume when you contact a potential employer. 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. Read more. See also:
- uninvited (cold contact) cover letter — The most common type of cover letter, since such a large percentage (80-95 percent) of the job market is “closed,” meaning the job openings are not advertised. Usually part of a direct mail campaign in which the job-seeker is trying to uncover hidden jobs. See a sample letter.
- invited cover letter — Written in response to an advertised opening, whether in a newspaper, trade publication, on the Internet, or even on the company’s bulletin board. Employer expects — and even welcomes the cover letters.
- referral cover letter — An extremely effective type of cover letter that springs from networking efforts. The referral letter uses a name-dropping tactic as early as possible in the letter to attract the reader’s attention and prompt an interview. See a sample letter.
Curriculum Vitae (CV) — See Resume.
Declining Letter — A letter sent to an employer to turn down a job offer. The writer should keep the door open in case he or she would like to approach the employer again someday. See a sample letter.
Degrees & Certifications — Recognition bestowed on students upon completion of a unified program of study, including high school, trade schools, colleges and universities, and other agencies.
Diversity Job-Seekers — Numerous disadvantaged groups — women and minorities — often face extra challenges in the job-search.
Dress for Success — First coined by author John Malloy in the 1970s, the term Dress for Success signifies tailoring one’s attire, grooming, and overall appearance toward making a great first impression in a job interview — as well as maintaining a professional look while on the job to aid career advancement. Will dressing properly get you the job? Not by itself, but it will give you a competitive edge and help you make a positive first impression.
Electronic Resume (or E-Resume) — A resume (see resume) that is sent to the employer electronically, either via email, by submitting to Internet job boards, or residing on their on Web page. Includes numerous formats of resumes linked by their mode of delivery. Read more.
Elevator Speech — A a 15- to 30-second commercial that job-seekers use in a variety of situations (career fairs, networking events, job interviews, cold calling) that succinctly tells the person you are giving it to who you are, what makes you unique, and the benefits you can provide.
Email Cover Letter — A cover letter (see Cover Letter) that is sent to the employer electronically via email. There are different rules that apply to writing these kind of cover letters, though the fundamental principles remain the same. See a sample letter.
Employment Gaps — Are those periods of time 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.
Entrepreneur — Someone who starts and runs his or her own business — who organizes, operates, and assumes both the rewards and the risks from running the enterprise. It takes specific traits to operate a business, including accounting and financial skills, sales and marketing skills, time management and organizational skills, planning and implementation skills, and the ability to have a vision to fulfill an unmet (or poorly met) need better than competitors.
Follow-Up — An often overlooked and critical part of job-hunting. In the early phases of searching for a job, job-seekers must be proactive in showing continued interest in all job leads — contacting employers after you’ve submitted your resume. Follow-up is also important after the job interview, first with a thank-you letter, but then also with contact expressing your interest and fit for the position. Read more.
Freelancer/Consultant/Independent 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.
Franchising — A legal and commercial relationship between the owner of a trademark, service mark, brand name, or advertising symbol (the franchisor) and an individual or organization (the franchisee) wishing to use that identification in a business.
Functional Resume — See Resume.
Gen Y Job-Seeker/Worker — The generation of people — roughly those born between the late 1970’s and the late 1990’s — 72 million or so strong. As job-seekers and workers, this cohort has very different views on hiring, perks, promotions, and managing — and are expected to transform all aspects of employment as they age and move up the corporate ladder. Also referred to as The Millennials. The Tech/Net/Digital Generation. Boomlets. Echo Boomers. Read more.
Green Jobs/Green-Collar Jobs — Jobs — moving from both white-collar (professional) and blue-collar (trade) — to positions in renewable-energy and energy-efficiency industries are on the rise. U.S. green-collar jobs could grow to as many as 40 million by 2030, according to a commissioned report by the American Solar Energy Society.
Hidden Job Market — Only about 5-20 percent of all job openings are ever publicly known, which results in about four-fifths of the job market being “closed,” meaning you can’t find out about any new openings unless you do some digging. Strategies for uncovering the hidden job market include networking and cold calling. See networking and cold calling.
Holland Codes — Personality types developed by psychologist John L. Holland as part of his theory of career choice. Holland mapped these types into a hexagon which he then broke down into the RIASEC job environments (see RIASEC).See also Assessments. Find assessments using this method.
Home-Based (Work-at-Home) Careers — Numerous opportunities exist for job-seekers who want more control over time and work, who want job flexibility to spend more time with family — by working from home. Unfortunately, this area is also one that has the most potential for scams and other fraudulent activities.
Informational Interviewing — Just what it sounds like — interviewing designed to produce information. What kind of information? The information you need to choose or refine a career path, learn how to break in and find out if you have what it takes to succeed. 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. Read more.
Internships — One of the best types of work experiences for entry-level job-seekers because a majority of employers say experience is the most important factor in whether you’re hired. Internships involve working in your expected career field, either during a semester or over the summer. Besides gaining valuable experience, you get exposed to the business environment and gain valuable references and network contacts.
Interview — See Job Interviewing.
Job Application — Sometimes also referred to as an Application for Employment. Many organizations require you to complete an application (either to get an interview or prior to an interview). Even though many of the questions duplicate information from your resume, it is extremely important to complete the application neatly, completely, and accurately. Read more.
Job Boards — Also referred to as Job Sites. There are five levels or types of job boards: general job boards and job-search engines (such as Monster.com and Indeed.com), industry-specific job boards (such as TeachingJobs.com), geographic-specific job boards (such as AtlantaJobs.com), job-seeker specific “niche” boards (such as MBAJobs.com), and company career centers (such as HomeDepot.com).
Job Clubs — Sometimes known as networking clubs or job-finding clubs, enables you to expand your network of contacts — and also serves as a key support group when the job-hunt is longer or harder than you expected. A great tool for job-hunting, and job-seekers can either join an existing club or start your own!
Job Fair — See Career Fair.
Job-Hunting Etiquette — There are certain rules or protocols that should guide a job-seeker’s conduct while job-hunting. Some people call these rules good manners, but more refer to them as business etiquette.
Job-Hunting Online — Not a magic elixir that will guarantee that you find a job, but still a door to opportunities and techniques not available before the advent of the Net. Most job-seekers should spend no more than about 20 percent of their time and effort looking for a job online, though job-seekers in the technology/computer industry might be wise to spend up to 50 percent of their time looking for a job online. Find the most current trends in online job-hunting by reading the Quintessential Careers Reports on the State of Internet Job-Hunting.
Job Interviewing — All about making the best matches. Both the employer and the job-seeker want to determine if the fit is right between them. First impressions are key (see “dress for success”), and preparation is critical to interviewing success. Read more. See also:
- screening interviews — usually conducted by a member of the human resources department, the screening interview is designed to weed out unqualified candidates. Providing facts about your skills is more important than establishing rapport.
- traditional interviews — uses broad-based questions such as, “why do you want to work for this company,” and “tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.” Interviewing success or failure is more often based on the job-seeker’s ability to communicate and establish rapport than on the authenticity or content of their answers.
- behavioral interviews — based on the premise that past performance is the best indicator of future behavior and uses questions that probe specific past behaviors, such as “tell me about a time where you confronted an unexpected problem” and “tell me about an experience when you failed to achieve a goal.”
- panel/group interviews — uses a committee of people, usually around a table, asking questions. The key to this type of interview is to balance eye contact with both the person who asked the question and the remainder of the group.
- case interviews — used primarily by management-consulting firms to determine how well suited you are to the consulting field. Case interviews measure problem-solving ability, tolerance for ambiguity, and communication skills along several dimensions. The idea is to find out how well you identify, structure, and think through problems.
- situational interviews — sometimes also referred to as a scenario-based (problem-solving) interview, where the job-seeker is placed in a hypothetical situation (such as dealing with an irate customer), and is judged by how well s/he reacts to complex information and ability to resolve problem and arrive at solutions.
- stress interviews — usually are a deliberate attempt to see how you handle yourself under pressure. The interviewer may be sarcastic or argumentative, or may keep you waiting. Expect these things to happen, and when it does, don’t take it personally. Calmly answer each question as it comes. Also called intimidation interviews.
- phone interviews — have only one purpose: to decide if there is a good enough match to justify a site visit. Make sure to set a specific time for your telephone interview — not just “sometime this week.” .
Job Offer — See Offer of Employment.
Job Satisfaction — A term to describe how content an individual is with his or her job. It includes many factors, including the work itself, value to the organization, impact on organization, compensation, and more. When workers are very unhappy with their jobs, they suffer both mentally and physically.
Job Scams — job offers and work-at-home businesses designed to deceive and defraud innocent job-seekers. These all too often “get rich quick” scams are designed to take your identity or your money — or both. Job-seekers can protect themselves by never releasing confidential information about themselves or their finances to any recruiter, headhunter, or business. Also be wary of any unsolicited emails — even when the email appears to be legitimate.
Job Search Agent — A program offered by many job boards that allows job-seekers to passively search for jobs by selecting criteria for new job postings. At some time interval, the program emails the job-seeker a list of new job postings that fit the criteria, allowing the job-seeker to decide whether to take any action.
Job-Search Domino Effect — States that five key phases comprise any good job search, and if you ignore any one of them or conduct one poorly, the likelihood of a successful job search decreases dramatically — just as if you pulled a domino out of a row of dominos.
Job-Seeker SEO — A strategy in which passive (or active) job-seekers use proven search engine optimization strategies to increase the ranking and popularity of personal, branded career Websites. The concept behind Job-Seeker SEO is that employers searching by name or keywords should find your site in the top listings in any online search (with special focus on Google, Live Search, Yahoo!). Platforms such as HARO allow you to get featured on top publications as an expert, increasing your chances of getting found.
Job Shadowing — One of the most popular work-based learning activities because it provides job-seekers with opportunities to gather information on a wide variety of career possibilities before deciding where they want to focus their attention. Job shadows involve brief visits to a variety of workplaces, during which time you “shadow,” observe, and ask questions of individual workers.
Job Skills — The skills you need to do a particular job. For example, an accountant needs to have good math and accounting skills; a doctor needs to have good medical, scientific, and personal skills. Read more.
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 — and what you have the potential to become — much more than just a cover letter and resume can provide.