Between the Lines: This is How to Read a Job Description

Read-Between-the-LinesHow you read and interpret a job posting has a huge impact on your perception of how qualified you are, how you’ll customize your resume and, ultimately, your ability to get the interview.

Often job seekers read a job description, hoping it’s the right job for them. So, they only look for what might match their experience and qualifications rather than understanding what the company is really seeking. As a result, they are often surprised they didn’t get chosen for an interview… because the the description seemed to be a close fit.

“I was perfect for that job!”

How should you read a job description? And what are employers really looking for? Here are some observations that may help…

Don’t Get Bogged Down by the Fluff

The vast majority of job descriptions are not written by a hiring manager – the person  who has specific skills in mind as they look for a new employee. Instead, descriptions are generally written by someone in Human Resources. They often use a template for their open positions, then add some additional information based on their discussion with the hiring manager or their own understanding of the role.

The template contains standard language used in all of the company’s job descriptions. Verbiage describing the company, their culture, the kind of people they generally like to hire (self-starters, strong communicators, people that work hard and play hard, strong written communication skills, etc.) are commonly copied into all job descriptions. All good points to keep in mind; however, they are virtually never what is actually at when reviewing resumes.

It’s not unusual for a job seeker to read that first part of the description, and believe the job is a great fit for them; they have those skills and traits! They may even customize their resume when applying to emphasize those keywords and attributes.

Unfortunately, they find that fluff has no bearing on their overall fit for the specific position.

Look at multiple job postings from that company in various roles. You’re likely to find that each of those job descriptions has identical or similar wording. These generic “keywords” are generally the fluff you should ignore.

Don’t Dwell on the Job Duties

Job duties listed in job description are commonly created once… and used every time that role is open again.

They are rarely updated, and sometimes turn out to be very different from the actual expectations of the job. They are also often written very broadly and in general terms, making it difficult to determine what the actual tasks of the role might be… and how you’ll be judged.

The job responsibilities listed in the description are important reference points to consider. However, job duties should not be your determining factor of whether a particular position is a great fit or not.

Winners Focus on Requirements

A hiring manager will communicate the critical aspects of the position they want in the job description… under requirements.

Requirements is the area that provides the most relevant insight to the role …and exactly what they are looking for from you. It’s unusual for a hiring manager to take the time to write a fully detailed description of an entire position. However, they will communicate the 3 or 4 requirements they want to see from top candidates.

The requirements section is your primary focus point!

Order Matters!

Not only is the Requirements section the most important part of the job description, the first few items listed are the most important requirements.

Consequently, emphasizing your skills and experience in those first few requirements, in the exact order presented is the most likely way to get noticed and considered for the role. While you may have great experience in many of the requirements further down the list, they are far less likely to have an impact when they are considering all the resumes to select who to interview!

Be smart about how to best present yourself by concentrating on the things that will be most highly valued!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at The Wise Job Search!




HarryAbout the Author: Harry Urschel has over 25 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, and writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search. Contact Harry by email and follow him on Twitter!



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