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5 Confusing Job Terms & What They Mean

Let’s say you find an amazing job online. It pays well, you have the experience and it’s close by. You click on the page to read more. Suddenly you’re hit with things like, “payment is commensurate with experience” and “compensation TBA.” This is the fifth job you’ve seen with terms like that. No one told you this would be an English exam. What do they even mean? It’s time to find out! While some of these may seem obvious, a real explanation may come in handy. You’ll know what to expect and what’s expected of you, helping you to prepare for the interview when (not if) it comes.

1. “Payment is commensurate with experience.”

From what I can gather, this phrase, in its simplest form, means that the pay you are awarded can range from a set low to high value based on your qualifications. For example, if you have two years under your belt as an executive assistant, you’re more likely to be awarded a higher salary than someone who has less experience in the same field. If you’re new to the working world, I wouldn’t expect much beyond the minimum salary, especially if you’re entering a new field. I worked at a hotel over the summer that required administrative skills. Despite the fact that I had two years of experience under my belt, I still started at the lowest rate because I was new to the type of work they were giving me.

2. “Payment is competitive.”

A friend of mine explained this to me. Basically, “competitive” means “at or above minimum wage,” and from what I hear, it usually means about a dollar over. If minimum wage is considered “market price,” your employer will either match that or do better. I’d do some research before you commit, though. Oftentimes job listings aren’t upfront with their rates, and this could mean that their competitors have better opportunities.

3. “__ years of relevant job experience.”

Experience is easy to grasp, but what’s all this about “relevancy?” As far as I can tell, “relevant job experience” refers to hard and soft skills that are marketable and can apply to the position. How much “relevant” experience you have in your arsenal is variable, and since the terminology is vague, I’m in favor of throwing whatever you can think of on paper and paring it down from there.

4. “Salary is TBA/TBD”

I don’t trust “To Be Announced” or “To Be Discussed” job ops. It’s too easy for them to lowball you and walk away if you ask for higher. That said, I’ve never worked a job where the compensation wasn’t hourly, and for the right person this is a chance for earnings to be negotiable. In this weird world where we place monetary values on our life spans, it’s nice to have a say in what your time is worth, especially

if you’re a writer or an artist. If you can make it work, go for it, but prepare to be open to discussion: communication is key for opportunities like this.

5. “Salary is commission” or “Salary is __ plus commission.”

Plenty of companies, especially sales companies, offer their employees commission or a regular salary plus commission as an incentive for them to do well. Commission, according to TheBalance.com, is generally either “paid as a percentage of the sale or as a flat dollar amount based on sales volume.”

This is risky territory. Sales is difficult and depends solely on personality and skill set. Certain  people can do well in it, though, and the reward can be high despite the risk. Even if you’re the worst salesperson of the bunch, you’re still getting something extra, though. If you apply for this type of job, confirm with them what kind of commission package they’re offering before you start to work. You can learn more about the types of commission here: https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-commission-pay-2061954.

Molly is a senior at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. When she's not pursuing an English degree she's either writing or thinking about writing. Passionate about the craft since she could hold a pencil, Molly gravitates toward prose and poetry. She's got a lot to say about a lot of things, and her need to create carries over to several other platforms. She's a sucker for books, video games, YouTube and nonprofits, and wants to be able to work in them all. Her dream is use her voice to make a living, though it's unknown what she'll attempt first.
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