Career Glossary

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.



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. Read more.

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.


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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

Behavioral Interview

See Job Interviewing.


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.


See 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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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 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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more. 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. Read more. 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. Read more.

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. See a sample letter.

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. Read more.

Diversity Job-Seekers

Numerous disadvantaged groups — women and minorities — often face extra challenges in the job-search. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more. 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. Read more.


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. Read more.


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. Read more. 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. Read more.


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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more. 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. Read more.

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.


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. Read more.


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 and, industry-specific job boards (such as, geographic-specific job boards (such as, job-seeker specific “niche” boards (such as, and company career centers (such as Read more.

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! Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more. 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. Read more.

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.” Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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.” Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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!). Read more.

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. Read more.

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. Read more.

Key Accomplishments

An optional part of your resume, but one that is growing in use — especially with scannable (text-based) resumes. This section should summarize (using nouns as keywords and descriptors) your major career accomplishments. Sometimes also referred to as “Summary of Accomplishments,” “Qualifications Summary,” or simply “Accomplishments.” For more details, see resume.

Keyword Resume

See Resume.


Nouns and noun phrases that relate to the skills and experience that employers use to recall resumes scanned into a database. Keywords can be precise “hard” skills — job-specific/profession-specific/industry-specific skills, technological terms and descriptions of technical expertise, job titles, certifications, names of products and services, industry buzzwords, etc. Read more.

Letter of Acceptance

Used to confirm the offer of employment and the conditions of the offer; i.e., salary, benefits, starting employment date, etc. It is always a good idea to get the entire offer in writing. See a sample letter.

Letter of Agreement

A brief letter outlining the conditions of employment. Whether initiated by the employer or the candidate, it is always a good idea to get your entire offer in writing. Sometimes is form-based or may even be an employment contract. See also salary and salary negotiation.

Letter of Interest

See Cover Letter.

Letter of Recommendation

A letter of support for your skills, ability, and work ethic, usually written by a former boss or co-worker, but could also be from a teacher or personal reference. Good for applying to graduate school, but seen as fairly worthless in job-hunting because no one who would write you a recommendation letter would say anything negative about you. See reference list.

Lifestyle Design

coined by Timothy Ferriss (in his books, 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich), its premise is that people must determine what is most important to their lives and design a (sometimes uncoventional) worklife around those values rather than working 40+ hours for 40-50 years — waiting until retirement to finally beging persuing career passions and a better quality of living. A key element of a Patchwork Career.

Low-Wage Worker/Low-Wage Job

Call them low-wage workers employed in low-paying, minimal or no-benefit jobs. Call them exploited or the working poor. Call them living (barely) from paycheck to paycheck with no job security. Call them under-educated, under-trained, and under-respected. Call them job-seekers stuck in dead-end jobs. But, whatever you do, do not call them low-skilled or lazy. Read more.

MBA Internship

An opportunity for full-time MBA students, generally the summer between the first and second year, to gain critical work experience. Many employers use MBA internships as a critical recruiting tool — as a three-month trial in which MBA candidates have a chance to participate on key project teams, network with numerous executives, and make a name for themselves within the organization. Read more.


A person at a higher level within a company or within your profession who counsels you and helps guide your career. Some organizations have formal mentoring systems, while most informal mentoring relationships develop over time. A mentor relationship is one where the outcome of the relationship is expected to benefit all parties in the relationship for personal growth, career development, lifestyle enhancement, spiritual fulfillment, goal achievement, and other areas mutually designated by the mentor and partner. Read more.


The experience of working multiple jobs (also referred to as dual or multiple jobholding). People working multiple jobs come from just about every demographic group. Appears to be on the rise. Read more.


Based on typological theories originated by Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. The original developers of the personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. The 16 different types are usually referred to by an abbreviation of four letters. One of each of the following pairs constitutes one’s four-letter type: Extraversion or Introversion, Sensing or iNtuition, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or Perceiving. See also Assessments. Find assessments using this method.


Involves developing a broad list of contacts — people you’ve met through various social, professional, and business functions — and encouraging them assist you in looking for a job. People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network. See also social networking. Read more.

Non-Traditional Careers

Careers in which fewer than 25 percent of the workforce is of one gender. There are many pros and cons for job-seekers considering working in a non-traditional career path. Read more.

Non-Verbal Communications (Nonverbals)

What you don’t say in a job interview may be just as important as the content of what you do say. Non-verbal communications are about how you present yourself — what you say to the interviewer through activities such as handshake, eye contact, facial expressions (including smiling), body posture, and hand gestures. Read more.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, this guide provides detailed information on more than 250 occupations. The Handbook discusses the nature of the work and the typical working conditions for persons in each occupation. In addition, it details the requirements for entry and the opportunities for advancement. Read more.

Offer of Employment

An offer by an employer to a prospective employee that usually specifies the terms of an employment arrangement, including starting date, salary, benefits, working conditions. Also called a job offer. Read more.

Older (Mature) Workers

Job-seekers who are older than 45 face more challenges in the job-search than other types of job-seekers. See also Baby-Boomers and Third-Age. Read more


A label employers often use on mid-career job-seekers who appear to have one of three flaws: too many years of experience, too much education, too highly paid in current or previous job. Read more.

Passive Job-Search

A strategy where employed workers stay prepared for new job and career opportunities by maintaining a current resume, continuing to network, staying registered with one or more job-search agents. You are not openly on the job market, but keep an interest in new possibilities.

Patchwork Career, Patchworker

a freelance career strategy coined by Dr. Kristin Cardinale (in The 9-to-5 Cure: Work on Your Own Terms and Reinvent Your Life), in which a person runs own business, selectively choosing and completing work projects for multiple employers — with its core centered around certain values and lifestyle factors that you deem most important (using Lifestyle Design) — based on the idea that working for a number of employers simultaneously presents unique business opportunities and insulates the Patchworker from sudden and total job loss. See also Portfolio Career. Read more.

Personal Mission Statement

Helps job-seekers identify their core values and beliefs. Writing a personal mission statement offers the opportunity to establish what’s important and perhaps make a decision to stick to it before we even start a career. Or it enables us to chart a new course when we’re at a career crossroads. Read more.

Phone Interview

See Job Interviewing.

Portfolio Career

A situation where instead of working a traditional full-time job, job-seekers work multiple part-time jobs (including part-time employment, temporary jobs, freelancing, and self-employment) with different employers that when combined are the equivalent of a full-time position. Portfolio careers offer more flexibility, variety, and freedom, but also require organizational skills as well as risk tolerance. Read more.

Quarterlife Crisis

A period in your twenties marked by high anxiety about your career — and finding a “true” career, multiple job and/or career changes, fears and self-doubt about achieving career and personal goals, depression, and feeling lost or adrift. Experts say that the crisis hits folks in their twenties, because after years of learning the system of how to succeed in school, college grads are thrown into the world of work with no real understanding of how to succeed in it. Read more.


Toward the end of most job interviews, the interviewer will give the job-seeker an opportunity to ask questions. Doing so shows your interest in the position and employer. The key is to ask at least a few questions — and not easily answered questions (such as, “what are your major product lines?”) that you should know from your research, but thoughtfully prepared questions. Read more.


A trendy term for career-change, especially as it applies to Baby Boomers who when facing retirement age and tired of a long career performing one kind of work decide to change careers. (Sometimes also referred to as Career 2.0, yet another trendy term.) For more details, see Career Change, Baby-Boomers, and Third Age.

Recession Job-Hunting

While certainly not the best time to seek new employment, job-seekers with solid experience and a well-developed job-search plan can obtain job offers. The key to job-hunting in a recession is the amount of time that must be put into preparation and the actual job-search. Furthermore, because the hiring process is typically stretched to extremely lengthy periods, successful job-seekers must have both patience and persistence. Read more.

Recruiters/Headhunters/Executive Search Firms

Professionals who are paid by employers to find candidates for specific positions. They often recruit candidates, but job-seekers can also approach them. Often specialize by industry or geographic region. Avoid any firms that require you to pay for their services. Read more.

Reference List

Sometimes also referred to as a Reference Sheet. Simply a listing — with key contact information — of your references. Never include references on your resume or cover letter; they should be listed on a separate references sheet that matches the look of your resume. Never provide a list of references to an employer unless you are requested to do so. Read more. See these sample reference lists.


A group of people who will say good things about you and who know specifics strengths that you offer. Can include work references (current and past supervisors), educational references (former teachers or school administrators), and personal references (who can speak of your character). Always ask people before including them as a reference for you. Read more.

Researching Companies

The process of gathering information about a company, its products, its locations, its corporate culture, its financial successes. This information is extremely valuable in a job interview where you can show off your knowledge of the company, and can also help you in writing your cover letter. Read more.


When you decide it’s time to quit your job (also referred to as giving notice), it’s always better to submit your official resignation — with your industry’s customary amount of notice. Whenever possible, do not leave on bad terms with your employer. Read more.


A key job-hunting tool used to get an interview, it summarizes your accomplishments, your education, as well as your work experience, and should reflect your special mix of skills and strengths. Read more. See also:

chronological resumes

the most common type of job-seeker resume, it’s a resume organized by your employment history in reverse chronological order, with company/job titles/accomplishments/dates of employment. Read more.

electronic resumes

see electronic resume above.

functional resumes

a resume organized by skills and functions; bare-bones employment history often listed as a separate section. Read more.

keyword resumes

an e-resume typically identified by a keyword summary (and heavy usage of keywords throughout resume) that emphasizes key nouns and phrases. See keywords above. Read more.

scannable resumes

a resume that has been prepared to maximize the job seeker’s visibility in an electronic resume database or electronic resume tracking system. Becoming somewhat less important as more and more companies simply request electronic versions of resumes. Read more.

text resumes

also referred to as text-based or ASCII resumes, a resume that has been prepared to maximize the job seeker’s visibility in an electronic resume database or electronic resume tracking system. Read more.

video resumes

a video resume is a short video of the job-seeker essentially selling himself or herself to potential employers. Contrary to its name, a video resume is not your resume on video but actually a short promo enticing the employer to take a look at your “real” resume. Read more.

Web-based resume

a resume that resides on the Web. A Web-based resume can range from quite ordinary to very elaborate. Fundamental principles of good resume writing, content, and design apply. Read more.

Curriculum Vitae

also called a CV or vita and similar to a resume, but more formal, and includes a detailed listing of items beyond the typical resume items, such as publications, presentations, professional activities, honors, and additional information. Tends to be used by international job-seekers, and those seeking a faculty, research, clinical, or scientific position. Read more. Review some Sample CVs.

Resume Focal Point

a device (or set of devices) that instantly tells a hiring decision-maker what job or type of job the candidate seeks and what his or her top selling points are. Read more.


Acronym for the career-related personality types developed by psychologist John L. Holland. The letters in RIASEC stand for: Realistic (practical, physical, hands-on, tool-oriented); Investigative (analytical, intellectual, scientific, explorative); Artistic (creative, original, independent, chaotic); Social (cooperative, supporting, helping, healing/nurturing); Enterprising (competitive environments, leadership, persuading); Conventional (detail-oriented, organizing, clerical). See also Assessments. Find assessments using this method.


Financial compensation an employee receives for performing the job, and part of your compensation package. Can be determined by hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Also can include overtime pay, bonuses, and commissions. See also Benefits and Compensation Package. Read more.

Salary History

Some employers will request that you submit a salary history. A salary history tells them the level and frequency of your promotions. It should be separate page from your resume or cover letter. Be sure to include the full compensation you received in each job, not just salary information. By providing a salary history, you sometimes place yourself in a precarious position of either pricing yourself out of the position or appearing to be at a lower level than the company seeks. Read more.

Salary Negotiation

An extremely important process in which job-seekers attempt to obtain the best compensation package possible, based on skills and experience, the industry salary range, and the company’s guidelines. See also Benefits, Compensation Package, and Salary. Read more.

Salary Requirements

Some employers may ask you to state the salary you require for a specific job opening. You’ve got to be careful here. If your salary requirement is too high, you won’t get an offer. If it’s too low, you won’t get what you’re worth. The best strategy is to state that you’re open to any fair offer and are willing to negotiate. Read more.

Scannable Resume

See Resume.

Situational Interview

See Job Interviewing.

Social Networking

A process for helping make connections with other people, developing a personal career “brand” identity, and maintaining a good online reputation. While social networking has traditionally involved meeting people in person, social networking now also includes networking through Websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. The key success of any social network is not just the people you know — or whom you are friends with — but also with all the other people they know. See also networking. Read more.


An organizational method used by job-seekers to help develop stories needed to answer behaviorally-based interview questions. STAR stands for situation, task, action, result. Job-seekers should first describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. Next, describe the action you took to deal with the situation and accomplish the tasks. Finally, describe the outcome(s) of your actions — and anything you learned from the entire process. Read more.

**Stress Interview**

See Job Interviewing.

**Summer Jobs/Part-Time Jobs for Teens**

Whether it’s to gain experience, earn some spending money, or save for college, getting a summer or part-time job is almost a rite of passage for most teens. Teens are often limited to certain types of jobs and hours worked per week. Read more.

**Survival Job**

Typically a low-end, low-paying job that a displaced job-seeker takes on a temporary basis (often as a last resort) to cover basic living costs, in order to survive and avoid bankruptcy — or worse. Read more.


Also referred to as Teleworking, is a employment arrangement where the employee works one or more days from a remote location, often an office in the employee’s home. For job-seekers seeking increased job flexibility and reduced commuting times and costs and for employers seeking a better balance of morale and work efficiency. Read more.


Working short employment stints with a variety of clients, usually through a temping agency or staffing firm. Previously temps were mostly administrative, but job-seekers can now find temping agencies covering most professions. Temping is great for building resume, learning skills, networking — and job flexibility and variety. See also Temporary Agency. Read more.

**Temporary (Temp) Agency/Staffing Firms**

Companies that place workers in jobs on a contract or temporary basis. Some provide training. Many are specialized (professional, clerical, computing, accounting, etc.). See also Temping. Read more.


An increasing number of employers are using a variety of career and skill-based tests to screen job applicants. Thus, you may be asked to take any number of tests during your job search, from aptitude and personality tests to honesty and drug tests.

**Text Resume**

See Resume.

**Thank You Letters

After every interview, you should send a letter thanking each person who interviewed you. It’s just common courtesy, and only a small percentage of job-seekers actually perform this crucial ritual, so you’ll stand out from the crowd. Read more.

**Third Age**

A time in life, generally from the early 40s to late 60s, often characterized by renewal and personal growth, newfound freedom, discovery, and enrichment. Inspired by the French phrase “Troisieme Age,” this term currently also refers to Baby Boomers and mid-lifers, as well as mature workers. Read more.

**Transferable Skills**

Skills you have acquired during any activity in your life — jobs, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports, virtually anything — that are transferable and applicable to what you want to do in your next job. Read more


A person who is not working full-time at a level that matches his or her education, experience, and other qualifications. Someone who is working part-time, but seeks full-time employment; or, someone who is working in a lower-level position that requires less experience or skills (thus making the person overqualified for the position).


The underqualified or just plain unqualified label most often plagues new graduates with limited experience, as well as career-changers whose experience is outside the area they now wish to pursue. Read more.


An advertising term — unique selling proposition — that refers to the one thing about a product that makes it distinct from all others. In job-hunting, job-seekers need to find the one thing that makes you more qualified for this job than anyone else. What can you offer that no other applicant can? Read more.

**Video Resume**

See Resume.


See Resume.


Offering your services free of charge, typically to a not-for-profit organization. Some college graduates volunteer right after college before starting their careers, which job-seekers considering a career change can use volunteering work as a great tool to gain experience in a new career field, as well as establish new networking contacts. Read more.

**Work Abroad**

More and more job-seekers are realizing the many benefits of gaining international work experience — both personally and professionally. You can gain global work at any stage of your career, though it is often easier to find full-time employment once you have at least several years of experience domestically. College students and recent grads, however, can also find a variety of international experiences. Read more.


A condition where work becomes all-consuming, becoming more important than personal or family obligations. The person lives for his or her work, has only work friends, rarely takes time off, and is always in communication with the office. Does not function well outside work. Read more.

**Workplace Values**

Concepts and ideas that define a job-seeker and influence your satisfaction — not only with your job, but with your life. Job-seekers should perform a values check every few years to make sure your career is on track. Read more.

**Workplace Wellness Programs**

Encourages employees to take steps to prevent the onset or worsening of a health condition, eliminate unhealthy behaviors and habits, and promote the adoption of healthy lifestyles. There are two types of wellness programs. First, there are insurance-based programs (that lower premiums if employees agree to certain lifestyle changes). Second, there are employer-based programs (in which the employer is truly trying to change the lives of its employees for the better).


Source: Quintessential Careers

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