While I may be late to the party here, somebody finally exposed me last night to the crazy “Do you hear the word Yanni or do you hear the word Laurel?” experiment that has been making the rounds all over the web — as well as the major media outlets.  Honestly, I think it might be the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever encountered.  And despite the explanations that have been given by linguists and audio experts for the phenomenon, I’ll confess, I still can’t seem to get my head — or ears — around the concept in question.

(and for those out there who don’t have any idea of what I’m talking about, click here)

Now to shamelessly capitalize on this whole affair, since it’s temporarily gone viral, I thought I’d share a few quick thoughts about some phrases one commonly hears expressed by candidates in the job search process — and the way in which (I believe) most employers, recruiters, or other networking contacts tend to hear them.  Admittedly, were not talking about the same bizarre multi-frequency issue taking place in these cases, as in with the Laurel/Yanni debate.  But still, there are definitely some common phrases expressed by job hunters that I believe trigger a somewhat different connotation/interpretation among seasoned recruiters and hiring managers.

Here are a few that come quickly to mind:

Job Hunter Says: “I’m open to anything; I just want a good job with a good company.”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “This person doesn’t really know what they want and is hoping somebody else will figure it out for them.”

Job Hunter Says: “I’m on the market for a new job due to a round of layoffs at my last company.”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “I either don’t want to talk about some negative/nasty stuff that happened in my last job — or I was laid off due to poor performance and may not even realize it.”

Job Hunter Says: “I keep sending resumes out but I never hear anything back — it’s like a black hole.”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “I’m behind the times and haven’t yet realized that most jobs these days aren’t published — and that applying to online want ads rarely works anymore due to the competition level and demand for extremely specialized qualifications.”

Job Hunter Says: “My greatest weakness?  I’m a perfectionist.”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “I either think the interviewer is dumb, and that I can trick them by pretending one of my strengths is truly a weakness, or I’m simply not self-aware enough to share something more authentic and meaningful.”

Job Hunter Says: “I have excellent written and oral communication skills.”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “I actually DON’T have very strong skills in this area, otherwise I’d find a much more creative, specific, or engaging way to make this point aside from using the most common cliche in existence.”

Job Hunter Says: “Why are there some gaps on my resume?  I was, uh, doing some consulting work…”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “Most likely the person either couldn’t find another job for a while — or had some health issues to contend with — and unless they provides more specific details about the clients/projects they handled, I should assume they were unemployed.”

Job Hunter Says: “I’m a jack-of-all-trades / generalist / big picture thinker.”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “This person is likely either a job hopper, has a short attention span, or has never developed the specialized skills needed to carve out a successful professional niche for themselves.”

Job Hunter Says: “How much money do I want to make?  I’d prefer not to address that issue until later.”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “This person doesn’t trust me, thinks I’m going to screw them over, and probably read some fringe article suggesting they should refuse to answer any and all questions about salary.”

Job Hunter Says: “How much money do I want to make?  I’m pretty open.  What range did you have in mind?”
Employers/Recruiters Hear: “I’m deathly afraid to name a number first, since I either don’t think I’m worth what I’d be asking — or again, came across some loony article suggesting job hunters should never talk money first under any circumstances.”

So there you have it — just a few statements I hear a lot of job hunters make that they may not realize will often get “translated” into a different meaning by the folks across the desk from them.  And while sure, the sentiment behind some of these expressions might be genuine, savvy job hunters need to think hard about alternate ways they can express some of these concepts to avoid triggering a knee-jerk assumption on behalf of the listener.  In each of the above examples, I assure you, there are some far better and more creative ways in which a job hunter could phrase or explain things.  So if you need any further ideas on that score, feel free to post a comment, or spend some time poking around some of my other blog articles which touch on these individual issues!

P.S.  And while we’re at it, feel free to post whether you’re in the “laurel” or “yanni” camp, too!