Helping you into work

Job hunting jargon buster

Below are some words and phrases that you may see when you are searching for and applying for jobs. This is only a guide but it may help your understanding of what the jargon means and help you with finding a job that you want, complete the application form and make sure your CV is right for the job:

Full time – this is normally used to describe a job that works 5 days each week, typically 39 or 40 hours per week Monday to Friday but may include weekends

Part-time – a job that works less hours than a full-time job, typically 15 hours each week perhaps 3 hours per day Monday to Friday but may include weekends. Hours and days worked can vary greatly job to job but will always be less than full-time. Make sure you understand what will be required before you accept the job.

Shift working –shift work (link opens in new window) enables an employer to operate longer than the normal eight hours each day. You may work a shift that is fixed such as permanent nights or rotating shifts when your start and finish times will vary over a schedule. Shifts can involve early morning, evening or night shifts, all of which you could work, rotating each week or month. A three-shift system will typically be 6am to 2pm for the early shift, 2pm to 10pm for the last shift and 10pm to 6am for the night shift. Make sure you understand what will be required before you accept the job.

Zero hours – a zero-hours contract is generally a contract between an employer and a worker where: the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours and the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered.

National minimum wage – the National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour almost all workers are entitled to. It doesn't matter how small an employer is, they still have to pay the correct minimum wage.

NationalLiving Wage – this is slightly higher than the National Minimum Wage and you should get this if you are over 25. It doesn't matter how small an employer is, they still have to pay the correct minimum wage.

P.A / Per annum – When used against a salary this means the money you could earn each year. i.e. £12,500pa or per annum, before tax and other stoppages

Pro rata – In proportion to. Employers use this when suggesting the salary a job offers when it is not full-time. You may find this in an advert comparing the full-time salary, where the job is part-time. i.e. ‘£12,000pa pro rata 20 hours’ means the full-time job pays £12,000 pa but this job is for 20 hours and therefore pays half that, so only £6,000pa

OTE – means ‘Our Top Earner’ earns this much and only suggests what could be earned in this job and is not typically a guaranteed salary. Normally used when describing a job that earns a commission, i.e. sales for instance.

Job description – a list of duties and responsibilities relevant to that particular job. Basically what is required of the job holder and the type of things they will be expected to do. Your performance when doing the job will be judged against the Job Description.

Person specification – a list of the Skills, Knowledge and Experience the job holder is expected to have. Identified as either Essential (must have them) or Desirable (good if you have them)

Essential – when used in a job description or person specification, to do the job well you MUST have this skill, knowledge or experience. These can be from your previous jobs, voluntary work, home experience, college, school or another non workplace. i.e. organising a family party or event may show a lot of work-related skills.

Desirable – when used in a job description or person specification, the employer would LIKE you to possess these skills, but don't be put off if you do not meet all the desirable criteria. i.e. in the unlikely event that two candidates have exactly the same Essentials and score the same at the interview, then the desirables could be used to decide who gets the job.

Criteria – the standards or measures that will be used to assess your application and during the interview. Typically your interview answers will be scored against a pre-set criteria to help the employer judge one candidate against the others more fairly, particularly when the interviews take place over several days. You will not be told which criteria are being measured but they will be based on the Job Description and Person Specification.

CV / Curriculum vitae – your document, outlining your main skills, experience, educational and work history. It must include your contact information and is normally the first information the employer sees about you. Update your CV for each new job you apply for so that you clearly show how you meet the essential criteria

Competence – the quality of being able to do or accomplish something. i.e. many people can drive a car but someone who is said to be competent would be a good driver and typically have more experience. Incompetence does not mean that a person cannot do something, but rather that they cannot do it to the desired standard.

Shortlisting – the first thing the employer does with the job applications. They will sort through the applications and only shortlist for an interview the ones that are closest to the person specification. They may also shortlist those interviewed to take a second interview. Those not shortlisted are typically rejected from the recruitment process.

Assessment – this would indicate that the interview will include a practical test, exercise or assessment that may be required prior to or during the interview. i.e. preparing a letter or doing some other practical test that proves you have an essential skill as required in the Person Specification.

Presentation – A brief (10 minutes possibly) formal talk to be given by you on a particular work-related subject as part of the interview process. The employer will typically send you a title and ask you to prepare a presentation on that subject to be delivered as part of the interview.

Panel – this would mean that at the interview you will probably meet, be asked questions by or present to a number of people at the same time rather than just meet one person.

Work-basedinterview – the interview will likely be based on an assessment of how well you do the actual job rather than a formal interview question and answer session. Normally used for practical hands-on type jobs or for people who have expressed a difficulty with the normal interview process. i.e. those with special needs.

Probation or Probationary period – this is a period of time set by the employer that begins when you start in the job and typically lasts for between 3 and 12 months, during which time you may not get all the employee benefits, pension or holidays etc. During this period you should have regular meetings with your immediate manager / team leader to discuss how you are getting on in the new job and be offered training. If your employer feels that you are unable to do the work to the required standard, they may choose to extend your probationary period.

Contract of employment – a formal contract between the employer and yourself where you agree to do tasks defined in the job description and they agree to provide benefits i.e. pay you. The contract will specify what hours and where you will work and how much pay you will receive. You would be required to sign a contract of employment and you would receive any company benefits and normally have more job security. If the company operates a pension scheme you would typically qualify to join this after the probationary period.

Permanent – a permanent job is one where you have signed a contract of employment which does not include an end date. The job will remain yours until you decide to leave it or the job is no longer available in which case the post is made redundant. If you fail to meet your responsibilities in the contract you may be dismissed from the job. If you're looking for opportunities to advance your career, a permanent position will be more suited to you.

Temporary temporary workers do not benefit from all the permanent employment benefits and these roles are typically for a short time only. Some companies use a lot of temporary staff and some people prefer this way of working. This type of work is a good way of gaining work experience and for people unable to commit to a permanent job. i.e. student summer work.

Contracting like temporary but for longer periods of time. Training is likely to be given and there are other benefits such as the opportunity to develop new skills. Often better paid than temping.

Internships – an unpaid post that allows you to gain practical experience in a profession or organisation. This work usually lasts for 8 - 12 weeks, during student’s holidays. These posts are sometimes offered to students studying a relevant subject i.e. accounts, software development or a science discipline.

Apprenticeship (link opens in new window) – an apprentice will get paid while learning a craft or trade, gaining hands-on experience and will attend college or take formal study part-time over a number of years. Historically often used within the building trade to train new professionals, many employers from wide-ranging work environments operate apprenticeship schemes. An apprenticeship typically lasts for 2 to 6 years and provides a recognized qualification. 

Work experience  this can be paid or unpaid and means any time you have spent working with an employer in a work environment. Often included as part of government-funded training schemes, as a way of developing your work, hands-on and vocational skills. It shows your ability to turn up for work on time, work for an employer, take directions and do work.

Graduate Schemes (link opens in new window) - Some companies choose to employ a large number of graduates following graduation. These schemes are usually for a permanent paid job that often includes a structured training program for the first 18 months to three years.

Volunteering (link opens in new window) – as well as the feel-good factor you receive from giving your time to a worthy cause, the benefits of volunteering include learning new skills and gaining useful experience which will help you find your next job and career. Voluntary work is a good way of improving your CV and obtaining additional skills.

Termination – either you or your employer may decide to terminate your employment, in which case the correct period of notice must be given. This period will be stated on the contract of employment and will typically be either 1 week or 1 month. Senior or management roles may require 3 or sometimes up to 12 months. Notice must be given in writing and the employer normally retains the right to ask you to leave immediately, in which case they will pay salary in lieu of notice i.e. without you having to work.

Redundancy – occasionally companies decide that some jobs are no longer required. In this case, the post is made redundant and the job holder may have to leave the company or change jobs in the same company. An amount of redundancy money dependant on your age and how long you have been employed will normally be paid if you are forced to leave the company. There are many rules and legal requirements for people being faced with the risk of redundancy and expert advice should be sought if you are affected.