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5 things Malaysian job ads say… and what they really mean

So the day finally came when amma/appa decided they weren’t giving you pocket money as you’ve been bumming around for four months after college graduation already. Or maybe boss caught you watching YouTube videos during work hours (cat videos are an evil thing). You need a new job.

But looking for a job is not easy. Before even the thrill of filling long application forms; squirming uncomfortably in interview room seats and negotiating RM20 extra on your salary; you need to understand job ads. As we’ve found out through years of applying for jobs and also hiring applicants – job ad requirements can sometimes be as clear as the Klang River.


1. “Fresh Graduates Welcome to Apply”

fresh grad

What you think it means: We’re happy to train and nurture young talent.

What it really means: We’ve got no budget so we need someone who’ll do the job for half the pay. And we’ll make you Photostat.

Ok, so that may sound harsh and after all, it’s great news that fresh graduates have somewhere to start but the bottom line truth is this: when a company advertises with a term like that – you can bet your minimum wage that the salary scale is er… minimal.


For what it’s worth, Changkat is still open for you; Fresh Graduates (and the not so fresh) in KL.

Companies put up terms like these so those with many years of experience (and obviously a higher asking salary) will be less likely to apply. Of course, they understand that with offering less pay; they’re going to get less experienced or trained staff but they’re willing to accept this trade-off.

It’s not all doom – it does work out for fresh graduates looking to start somewhere and some fresh graduates are paid well as our writer Jonathan Freeman found out (he also found out he wasn’t one of them. Befrienders are still trying to undo the damage of that discovery). Pharmacists top the list with starting salaries of RM3,460, closely followed by Corporate Strategy Executives (I don’t know what it is either) at RM3,200, so university students – now you know what to study.

With that said, if you’re like the Gordon Ramsay of your work field and are looking to earn more money – do what you should do when passing an accident on the Federal Highway – don’t stop to look.

gordon ramsay

What you will NOT be doing by applying for this job.

2. “Able to Work Independently”

independent worker

What you think it means: You need to work independently and make decisions like a boss.

What it really means: You can ‘independently’ decide which font to use when writing your daily report to the boss.

For many job advertisers, this term is just part of the job template they found online and many times, really doesn’t mean anything. It appeals to people who like to be in control, and makes the company look good (ie; we’re not petty enough to need to micro-manage you).

How different was it for Malaysians studying in a UK university 40 years ago?

But don’t worry lah. You can change the font. Just don’t use comic sans. Not professional lah ok?


This company had a case of too much ‘working independently’ that they started hurting small woodland animals. Image from

3. “Opportunity for Career Growth”

career growth

What you think it means: Promotions! Reserved parking! Company car! Yay!

What it really means: You’ll get more work every year for the same pay. You’re welcome.

So true story; some candidates spoke about actually experiencing jobs where this happened. More work; bigger portfolio but no pay rise. Their careers were growing sideways but they couldn’t afford to do the same on their salary.


4. “Remuneration Will Commensurate with Experience”

salary commensurate

It would appear this company needs a proper proofreader too. Or Perhaps their salary package didn’t commensurate with a person in possession of good spelling abilities.

What you think it means: I dunno. What the heck is commensurate?

What it really means: Your salary will be based on how little the company can get away with paying you and whether the interviewer had a good day.

Many job ads don’t state salary ranges. Sometimes, this is good as it gives you more room to negotiate. But if you’re already paid peanuts; don’t expect pistachios. Here is where an employer has the upper hand to offer you as low a salary as you will accept.

santa will work

Everyone has a price. Some admittedly lower than others. Picture taken from Political Humor.

5. “Management Trainee” (aka Paid Intern) and Other Fictional Job Titles


So many specialists. So little meaning (?)

What you think it means: What it says.

What it really means: There real job is only 0.05% related to the title. If at all.

Let us explain this one a little more. Have you come across some really snazzy position title that is both impressive and vague at the same time? From titles like Product Order Specialist (glorified merchandiser/purchasing clerk), Business Development Management Trainee (administrative intern) or even Talent Acquisition Specialist (HR clerk); you saunter in on your first day thinking what a cool job you’re going to do only to find yourself with a mountain of data entry or worse, making Milo for the partners. Here are some true stories from friends and readers.

“I applied for the job of Business Development Executive. On my first day, I was given a basket of layer cakes and asked to sell it door-to-door. I of course seethed with anger and later asked how this was in any way a ‘business development executive’. The response was: we are a company selling layer cakes. If you can widen our customer base, you are developing our business. Needless to say; I quit that day.” – Naresh, 31.

entry level management

“I was fresh out of college and applied for a job as a temporary accounts executive which was supposed to last a month. When I got in, they told me they were moving office and needed someone to help pack the accounts files in shipper boxes. I spent two weeks packing hundreds of files for the movers and dusting each one. I was young and naïve and stuck it out until the end of the month but it was honestly the most misleading job title I’ve ever encountered!” Angie, 26


What Angie may have thought of doing whilst packing those files for her temp employers. Photo from Deviantart by omnibladea7.

Once you’ve figured out what job ads really mean; and if you’ve successfully scored an interview – congratulations! Now you have this to look forward to.

But if you’re still clueless, maybe these guys can help.


“Don’t worry; we’ll find out what those job advertisers really mean!”

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