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In my job search, I've seen several companies saying that they are "a fast paced company". However, I'm not exactly sure what this means. Could someone please explain it? I'd ideally like an answer from someone who has used that term to describe the company and could explain what it means (or if there is no meaning to it).

Also, I've never seen a company say that they are "a slow paced company". Why is that? Again, I'd ideally like someone who has used this term or considered using this term to describe it, or explain if it has no meaning.

EDIT: I've changed the question to better match the site guidelines in order to make it "less opinion-based".

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    Only the company itself really knows what that means to them, if they even know. – jcmeloni Aug 13 '13 at 15:57
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    Sounds like a meaningless buzzword to me. – Philipp Aug 13 '13 at 21:37
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    "Fast paced" = "we expect lots of unpaid overtime". You need to read job ads like real estate ads. – Carson63000 Aug 13 '13 at 22:23
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    This was a term I'd seen from several companies, so I had assumed it meant something standard. Pity I got downvoted for not knowing this :-/ – Thunderforge Aug 14 '13 at 0:53
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    It means that the deadlines are unreasonably short and the teams are too small to accomplish them--count on 12 hour days! – Amy Blankenship Aug 15 '13 at 16:52
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"Fast Paced Company" is one of those lovely and ambiguous terms that get used widely enough that I'd expect highly variable meetings. It's vague at best, and you can't assume a specific definition that applies to every case.

If I were applying to a "Fast Paced Company", I'd expect that:

  • People strive hard to accomplish ambitious deadlines
  • There's a drive and an energy to get the work done
  • People don't push deadlines back easily
  • ... or at least that's the vision that the person who wrote this description has...

What's not necessarily implied from such a description is:

  • exactly how these deadlines get met - "Fast Paced" may not mean "efficient" or "equal distribution of work among all parts of the organization"
  • any relative comparison across the industry or region. My "fast" will be entirely based on my experience. Your "fast" may be much slower or faster than my expectation.
  • any limiting factors to getting work done - there's always logistical hurdles to be over come to keep work going quickly. "Fast Paced" does not equal "obstacle free" or even "management is engaged in eliminating obstacles".
  • what exactly is "fast" - there's all sorts of ways to define efficiency, and when you optimize for one area, you are likely to slow down something else. This varies highly by industry - but one usually hopes that there is some connection between the most fast and efficient work products and the profit generating aspect of the organization.

To be utterly negative, there's also (in any job description) a certain disconnect between how the person who wrote it envisions the company and the job, and how the people doing the job might describe the company and their own work.

Slow Paced

From a big picture perspective, I would not be surprised to see similar companies all advertising themselves with similar jargon - if one hot new start-up is "fast paced", I'd bet they become "fast paced" in a few months. Speed is a big deal, and time to market is a competitive advantage - no one wants to advertise "slow and careful" even when that might be a really valuable aspect of the work.

There's always a way to say something positive... companies or businesses that benefit by being less "fast paced" will not likely say "slow paced" as it implies either a lack of profitable business, or a lack of efficiency/energy - either way, it's not a great prospect if you're looking for a job. Instead, I'd expect to see companies advertise other aspects of the work besides the speed, for example:

  • High quality craftsmanship
  • Diligent and dedicated
  • Great reputation, leader in the field, etc.
  • Innovative, knowledgeable, creative

In just about any of these cases, you can't assume that a lack of the description means "not fast paced" - there's no solid criteria, and it's hugely subjective.

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    I actively avoid job postings that say "fast-paced," because I accepted one once :) – Amy Blankenship Aug 15 '13 at 16:54
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    @Amy, could you explain a bit more about that. What did you think the term meant and what did it wind up being? – Thunderforge Aug 15 '13 at 23:56
  • I worked in a "fast-paced" software company for many years, too much managers (1 developer for 5+ managers), deadlines were put top-down, an ideal "engaged" employee was expected to had unpaid overtime, and objectives changed so often that I barely finished implementing a feature. That environment reflected in software code and then in product, further I was often accused by my manager of being disorganized despite all my claims. In reality "fast-paced" is a fancy word for "disorganized" management and "miscalculations" of manpower vs. productivity vs. profitability. – Andre Figueiredo Aug 6 '18 at 18:58
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When I see "Fast Paced Environment" in a job post, I think of a sweat shop. I recently worked at a place which claimed to be a "Fast paced environment", and basically this is what it amounted to: Poor requirements, poor resource management, and poor project planning. You will never reach the goal post, because it keeps being moved. So when it hits the fan, it is the developers fault.

  • Lunch breaks are discouraged. Instead lunch breaks should be taken at your desk. If you do take lunchbreaks away from your desk, it had better be under 20 minutes.

  • You are expected to be in the office by 7:30 am, and should not leave until 6pm, even if you skipped your lunch break.

  • Expect your blood pressure to spike. And if you do not have high blood pressure, you will be on your way to getting it.

In my opinion, a 'fast paced environment' sounds more like working at McDonalds where employeers are scrambling in the back to put together lunch orders.

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The first has a couple of other notes. There can be a lot of work where priorities may change at any given moment that isn't something you mention. Thus, it can be important to know what is the top priority task as it may change at any moment. The "little room for error" is only one of a few things that could be taken there. If you think task A is really the top priority but really it is task D, there is something to be known for changing what you're doing and handling multiple tasks at once.

A "Slow Paced Company" wouldn't sound that exciting though I could imagine government jobs and other bureaucratic situations possibly being where one could have this kind of work that is slow and intentionally that way.

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This is often code word for 'your going to work a lot of hours and you are salaried so you don't make any more money'.

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