HR Speak Decoded: The Real Meaning Behind 7 Common Phrases That Can Fool You


dv518019Sometimes, navigating office politics—and speak—can feel a bit like trying to decipher the meaning behind smoke rings.

Case in point: While in the interview seat, you’re told that you are a “competitive candidate”—but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got the job.

Rather, you could just be one in a sea of overqualified people vying for the position.

Or maybe earning a “title promotion” may sound like you’ve scored a career coup … or have you?

This type of office speak exists for a reason: There are often protocols that employers must follow when hiring, firing or providing feedback.

But how the messages are conveyed can leave workers scratching their heads, trying to read between the lines.

To decipher it all, you need insight from those who’ve spoken the language—people like the HR and career experts we’ve rounded up.

They’re helping us decode some of the most common “carefully crafted” phrases you may hear—whether you’re on the job hunt or a ten-year company veteran.

RELATED: The Job-Hunting Iron Curtain: What You Need to Know to Make It Past the Recruiter

  • IBikeNYC

    Now: Why, again, is it that they can’t just TELL YOU THE TRUTH?

    • Betty

      Legal department.

      • IBikeNYC

        Telling candidates and employees exactly what’s expected of them and how much they’ll be paid to do it presents a LEGAL issue?!

  • annierose


  • annierose

    Great ideas….however, in the heat of the job battles it seems counterproductive to make up words and use phrases that are misleading…it’s maddening. I recently heard we are changing direction…another phrase for not be truthful!